ROBERT MUGABE has been nominated for a sixth term as President of Zimbabwe – a post he has already held for 24 years – despite reports that the leader is unwell.
Mugabe, who has been president since 1987 and was the country’s first post-independence Prime Minister before that – has been elected at each of five subsequent polls, amid regular suspicions of voter intimidation and fraud.
Mugabe’s nomination came at the end of the Zanu-PF party’s annual conference in Harare, where the 87-year-old leader encouraged party loyalists to waste no time in attacking other parties.
The president include his coalition partner, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change party in his attacks.
“What ideas do they have for the people? They spend time looking for girlfriends and cannot even come up with a choice and cannot spend time with the people,” the president accused, according to The Zimbabwe Mail.
“They do not think about the people – it’s money, pleasure.”
Reuters says that while a large number of party members want Mugabe to hand over the reins to a younger candidate, but that few were willing to openly challenge him because of the now-ingrained system of political patronage.
The Zimbabwe Metro added that Mugabe told the conference he would not retire until “illegal sanctions” – trade embargoes placed against his country as a result of Mugabe’s tenure – were lifted.
If he wins, he will be 93 by the time his next term expires – while his likely rival Tsvangirai, who will probably be fighting Mugabe for the third time in succession – is a comparatively sprightly 59-year-old.
Tsvangirai came closest to ousting Mugabe in 2008, when he topped the poll after the first round of ballots, but later withdrew from the run-off poll over the violence that had followed the first round results.
The next election is not due to be held in 2013, but is likely to take place next year – reportedly as a result of Mugabe’s declining health. A WikiLeaks cable indicated that the president has prostate cancer, though Mubage himself denies this.