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Vol 43 No 1

Published 11th January 2002

Leaders who retire, leaders who don't

As President Mugabe tightens his grip on power, other African heads of state announce they intend to retire gracefully

Zimbabwe nyderopa! The Chimurenga song title means 'Zimbabwe was won through bloodshed'. The presidential election due on 10 March looks set to follow the pattern. In late 2001, six members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were murdered in as many weeks by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Mugabe turns 78 in February and his health is deteriorating. He is favourite to win, mixing violence and poll rigging. 'Mugabe will lose the election and win the count,' said one Harare analyst. Skullduggery may not be enough. Even in ZANU-PF strongholds including rural constituencies in the north and north-east there are reports that the poor will turn against Mugabe on polling day. Elsewhere, ZANU just wants to stop people from voting. In Matebeleland, Mugabe has no chance; in Masvingo and Manicaland, he will battle to get half of the vote. In the towns, trades unionist and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will sweep the board. He would win if the election were free. Mugabe cannot afford to lose. If Tsvangirai wins, Mugabe, many cabinet ministers, senior police officers, soldiers, party officials and civil servants risk being held responsible for offences ranging from murder to corruption. Perhaps thousands in the police, public service and state media would lose their jobs. Some beneficiaries of the land handouts would lose their farms.

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