Zanu PF endorses Mugabe as poll flag bearer

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe put to rest any doubts about his grip on his faction-torn party after winning endorsement to become the flag bearer of Zanu PF in the forthcoming presidential election.

Mugabe won full endorsement to enter the race as Zanu PF presidential candidate at provincial inter-district conferences that wrapped up countrywide yesterday.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the liberation war hero got a ringing endorsement from all provinces and from both the youth and women leagues.

Mugabe now has the required signatures from district and other elected provincials officials to stand in the forthcoming vote after putting his party’s grassroots first with generous social welfare programmes.

The resolution from the provinces will be tabled at the December 4 politburo meeting that precedes the party’s 13th national conference scheduled for the Midlands capital of Gweru.

After conference endorsement, the 88-year-old leader will head into a bitterly contested race against youthful rivals who have galvanised Zimbabwe’s opposition.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round 2008 presidential vote, has accused the veteran incumbent of unfairly leveraging to his advantage Zimbabwe’s diamond wealth to bankroll his campaign, scuttling democratic reforms as well as flaunting his near total control of state institutions.

The Daily News heard the party’s provincial officials were in obsequious boot-licking as they endorsed once again Mugabe’s stated aim of extending his 32-year rule, with his party’s well-oiled political machine rallying supporters to endorse the leader.

The other parties said he unfairly ploughed millions in state funds into the effort.

Mugabe is spending heavily in the months before the vote, doling out farming inputs and bankrolling expanded social programmes.

Dewa Mavhinga, a civil rights campaigner and analyst said the veteran ruler has cranked up the patronage machine and unleashed a spending orgy.

“It appears no cost has been spared to ensure a carefully managed endorsement of 88-year-old Mugabe,” Mavhinga said.

“Ironically, this may have come out of realisation that only Mugabe can hold the numerous feuding and restless Zanu PF groups together. It is difficult to see how an unreformed Zanu PF can survive without Mugabe.”

There is an affinity and gratefulness for Mugabe in Zanu PF.

Analyst Mathula Lusinga said despite his illness, he still thinks Mugabe retains a strong emotional connection with a lot of Zimbabweans and “that serves to consolidate his power.”

“Where people are driven to extreme desperation, Mugabe is coming as the saviour in their times of need,” he said referring to the recent $20 million inputs scheme.

They still think that he is trying hard even if he is not delivering what he promised, that he still has their best interests at heart, he said.

Mugabe is speaking little during the campaign about his fight with a life-threatening illness, which has included trips to the Far East reportedly for treatment.

He has said he is “as fit as a fiddle” and showed little signs of illness on the campaign trail.

Despite winning a 2008 presidential vote that eventually created the inclusive government, Tsvangirai was unable to sufficiently erode Mugabe’s firm base of loyal support.

One pro-Mugabe supporter, security guard Charlton Moyo, said whatever his faults, Mugabe deserved another term in the forthcoming election for spreading the nation’s wealth, especially land, to the poor and the myriad of other empowerment programmes.

The country has some of the world’s largest proven diamond and platinum reserves.

“There is corruption, there’s plenty of bureaucracy, but the people have never had a leader who cared about this country (like Mugabe),” Moyo gushed.

Mugabe’s critics accuse him of ruining the economy and inflaming divisions by labelling his opponents “puppets,” ‘’sell-outs” and “neo-imperialists,” and it is likely hard for many of his opponents to stomach another five years of the loquacious and conflictive leader.

Critics say Mugabe is power-hungry and out of touch with problems such as rising unemployment, poverty and crime. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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