New Zimbabwe (London)

18 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Cheeky Guebuza Teases Cling-On Mugabe

OUTGOING Mozambican president light-heartedly teased President Robert Mugabe at the just-ended SADC meeting in Victoria Falls saying the Zimbabwean leader was the only one to have attended all of the organisation's 34 summits.

Mozambique will have a new leader following elections scheduled for October as Guebuza, 71, steps down after serving the maximum two terms allowed under the country's constitution.

Said Guebuza, Mozambique's third president since independence: "We are coming to the end of our tenure as the president of Mozambique and will hand over the baton to a new leader on October 15.

"We are grateful to President Robert Mugabe who is the only leader who has attended all 34 Sadc summits since April 1st 1980 in Zambia when the then Southern African Development Coordinating Committee (Sadcc) which was founded in Kafue."

It may not have been a compliment and the Zimbabwean leader, looking forlorn among counterparts young enough to be his children, did not look best pleased either.

And as if to placate him, Guebuza added: "You (Mugabe) reminded us so eloquently (on Sunday) at the opening ceremony that we needed to honour our forefathers and I urge other African countries to pay tribute to Hashim Mbita as shown by Zimbabwe."

Namibia's Hifikepunye Pohamba also told fellow regional leaders that Victoria Falls would be his last summit.

"I have led my country for nine years and will be stepping down as required by the Namibia constitution following two consecutive terms. This is the last time I am addressing this summit as president," said Pohamba.

While Zimbabwe's neighbours have seen leadership changes in the 34 years since the formation of the regional grouping, Mugabe has refused to let go of power.

Aged 90 this year, the veteran leader has over the years ruled out stepping down, claiming the country and his Zanu PF party could not do without him.

He says the fact other countries in the region have changed leaders is no guide for Zimbabwe since each nation has its own peculiarities.

Mugabe was re-elected last July and has vowed to serve out the new five-year term with eager sycophants in Zanu PF already pleading with him to run again in 2018 when he will be 94.

But factional fights in the party have worsened as Zanu PF prepares for its elective congress in December, suggesting frustrated top lieutenants may be losing patience even as they publicly back Mugabe to stay on.

Public attacks have become sharper between the rival factions backing vice president Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa who are vying to take over from Mugabe.

Meanwhile, the formal entry into active politics of Mugabe's young wife Grace, who turned 49 this year, has also added another dimension to the succession saga.

Grace will take over as head of the powerful Women's League in December a position that gives her a seat on the politburo, potentially making her the second most powerful member of that body after her husband.

The Mujuru faction is said to be seething at the possibility their leader could be overshadowed, and her prospects likely undermined, by the ambitious Grace.

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