Mugabe cuts down rallies

HARARE - Zimbabwe's main presidential rivals have kicked off the final weeks of an election campaign, with President Robert Mugabe dramatically scaling down major rallies in all the key battlegrounds. 

Mugabe, whose Zanu PF party lost the 2008 elections after addressing dozens of star rallies countrywide, is expected to address only 10 star rallies while his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe’s strongest challenger in 33 years of power, is addressing over 10 rallies in just one province.

On Tuesday, Tsvangirai addressed a rally in Rushinga, made an appearance in Mt Darwin, Madziwa, Bindura, Mushumbi, Mvurwi, Glendale, Neuso,  Zimplats, Chegutu East and Murombedzi.

Zanu PF announced that they will hold 10 star rallies for Mugabe scheduled only for provincial capitals where the Zanu PF leader plans a populist pre-election spending push.

Villagers in the provinces will be waiting for the usual bombastic speeches by Mugabe, appealing for re-election.

The socialist leader, who recently returned from medical check up in Singapore, is facing uncomfortable questions whether he will be strong enough to traverse the country.

Mugabe has been in campaign mode for most of his 33-year rule, and his signature style of personally meeting the beneficiaries of his welfare and empowerment programmes has in the past helped him win re-election and extend his power in the south African nation.

Now the once-inexhaustible Mugabe, 89, is being forced to slow down just as he goes into what could be his toughest election yet.

While Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was still tied up in the Politburo meeting at the time of going to press yesterday, he had earlier confirmed that the party was going to have only 10 star rallies.

“They would be held at provincial capitals,” he said.

Mugabe’s spin-doctors have denied rumours that he is plagued with illness associated with old age.

Nobody, though, is writing off a man who has overcome so much in the past — Western opposition, targeted sanctions, massive protests, and an attempted Zanu PF 2004 coup meant to topple him from power.

With savvy and monopolistic use of State media and drawing on his unique emotional connection with the poor, Mugabe, still can make a surprise and pull it off.

That might mean running a “low-key” campaign largely and making the most of any personal appearances he is able to make in slums and rural areas.

Ibbo Mandaza, a Southern Africa Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust executive director, publisher and intellectual, said Mugabe will not be in the proper physical shape to visit every corner of the country and said 10 star rallies could be devastating to the political veteran’s health.

“He is not well, he is old,” Mandaza told the Daily News. “10 is too much in weeks before the election. There is a problem, they are pushing the old man too far, and I dare say there is a big price to pay.”

The health saga appears to have tightened the bond with Mugabe’s most militant backers. One pollster gave Mugabe a popularity bump among hard-core supporters, while another put him in a statistical dead-heat with his main rival Tsvangirai.

Formal surveys and interviews on the street show no clear trend yet, although in past elections they have tended to back Tsvangirai.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, director for Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the scaling down of Mugabe’s star rallies was a dramatic change.

“It is a change that is realistic that is acknowledging the frail nature of their presidential candidate, they are afraid of parading a physically weak candidate,” Ruhanya told the Daily News.

“They are limiting Mugabe’s interaction with voters, limiting the damage associated with his physical appearance.

“The president is now an old man. How many times has he gone to the Far East? He is old and tired and needs rest. Mugabe’s physical appearance is not good for voters, he is no longer electable. His physical appearance is no longer appealing to voters, especially for presidential purpose.”

Comments (20)

Please let the old man rest

Gracia - 11 July 2013

at the president's age a creative campaign would just make him a figure of ridicule along the lines of Dr Zvobgo's madman of Ngomahuru analogy. Come on Chamisa....

gomba - 11 July 2013

may zanu pf guys let the old man rest. inga vakashanda basa guru wani isu tichiri kuyamwa

d.chikanga - 11 July 2013

Kakoma musoro kachembere ikaka. Kari ku-terrorizer Zanu yacho, havangambokatauriri kuti kabve vkasadzingwa mu party yacho. Robert's ambition is to die in office, whether Zim dies or not. very cruel kamunhu ikaka

Herbert wiltshire - 11 July 2013

Kasiyeyi kamudhara aka kakadaro karohwe ne earthquake musi wa 31 july. it's a zanu and country liability. museve kana woda nyama unoenda wega musango

EARTHQUAKE31JULY - 11 July 2013

Zvisinei hazvo kuti handisupport Zanu Pf asi please respect the old man not kuvati kamudhara, kachembere. Icho!

James - 11 July 2013

Poor old man, why does he allow himself to be dragged into all this political mess. His cronies really want to exhaust him to death so they can take over. It is also his problem because he is so power-hungry he does not trust anyone else except himself with power. Poor man, he wants to die on the throne as some kind of king. But he does not realize that kings are not elected, they are born there.

Chenjerai Hove - 11 July 2013

The state of an organisation or institution is reflected in its leader.

Chenge - 11 July 2013

WHY CONDUCT more than ten rallies in less than a month. regai varikuruza vamhanye mhanye vachizvipriringisha sama pete. If at all there was a threat from mdc he would have called for elections next year. ZANU PF has always been campaigning, vamwe vahirwira mahotera ku Maputo summit. Mabasa ako munhu ndiwo anotaura. michato iri kunze kwemitemo. ma maintenance, kuramba ma elections, kuponda mukadzi using yr aid. ahh kana nemiwo.

reason - 11 July 2013

WHY CONDUCT more than ten rallies in less than a month. regai varikuruza vamhanye mhanye vachizvipriringisha sama pete. If at all there was a threat from mdc he would have called for elections next year. ZANU PF has always been campaigning, vamwe vahirwira mahotera ku Maputo summit. Mabasa ako munhu ndiwo anotaura. michato iri kunze kwemitemo. ma maintenance, kuramba ma elections, kuponda mukadzi using yr aid. ahh kana nemiwo.

reason - 11 July 2013

Old man my arse let that old bastard suffer as he did to millions of Zimbos he must not rest,but drop down dead. May the devil have his sole.

Zuze - 11 July 2013

What is up the sleeve yemusangano? the inaction is too uncharacteristic

chibatamoto - 11 July 2013

poor old bob,let him rest in piece

gandanga - 12 July 2013

The late Dr JM Nkomo was labelled by Joyce Mujuru as 'SENILE' for standing for justice when he (Nkomo) was younger that Mugabe's current age and I wonder why the latter is not described as such by Mujuru and others. Food for Thought!

DUMISANI SIBANDA - 12 July 2013

Even at his advanced age he has more to offer than his opponents. What is the point of voting for an idiot who will reverse our gains kufadza varungu just because ane makore mashoma? People vote wisely, especialy Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe who actually have things at stake e.g. tumabhizinesi twedu twatakavhura after we were empowered nemusangano! An MDC govt will reverse all this and see us going to be vashandi tichiti "yes boss" kuvarungu. Ndatenda vana veZimbabwe ngati ngwarei.

ZPF - 12 July 2013

Even at his advanced age he has more to offer than his opponents. What is the point of voting for an idiot who will reverse our gains kufadza varungu just because ane makore mashoma? People vote wisely, especialy Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe who actually have things at stake e.g. tumabhizinesi twedu twatakavhura after we were empowered nemusangano! An MDC govt will reverse all this and see us going to be vashandi tichiti "yes boss" kuvarungu. Ndatenda vana veZimbabwe ngati ngwarei.

ZPF - 12 July 2013

Why can't he just go away, would be happy if he came from Singapore in a coffin. He messed up our country and MUST not be forgiven.

Dictator Bob - 12 July 2013

if GOD wants to put any leader HE can easly do that without anyones help.wishing anyones death is evil and against GOD(proverbs 24;17,18)where do you stand and some of you are christians .you want to fight on BEHALF on GOD because you love your political party more than GOD.

dembeza - 12 July 2013

please live the old man alone even if i am from the opposition. David from the bible did not even wanted to lay his hands on pple appointed by God.

chasura - 13 July 2013

earnestly speaking sekuru vachakudoherai pamberi pevanhu .... hamheno .... isu tinoseka

mdc - 13 July 2013

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