Tags: Analysis: Zimbabwe's Chief Seeks Another Term

Analysis: Zimbabwe's Chief Seeks Another Term

Thursday, 09 June 2011 01:09 PM

Continuing turmoil faces Zimbabwe as its vicious octogenarian dictator clings to power without a succession plan. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe announced last month that he will run for President again this year, according to the New York Times. Mugabe, who is 87 years old, also discounted rumors of ill health. Elections are not yet scheduled but officials say they are likely for October or November this year.


Mugabe has no interest in moving Zimbabwe toward democracy or in sharing power, and appears intent on extending his 31-year reign until his death. To protect against the public protests that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Mugabe has shut down the free press and readily arrests anti-government activists. Without an unforeseen public uprising against Mugabe, which appears unlikely at this point, he almost certainly will again “win” the Presidency through any means necessary and continue is unilateral rule of the country.

Officials say that the country already is quietly preparing for elections and that Mugabe will call them late this year. The Irish Times last Friday quoted a senior army officer as saying military personnel have already been deployed to some provinces to prepare for elections. Regional mediators say this electoral timetable is too soon to ensure free and fair elections, according to AP, and would not allow the government to prepare a new constitution or succession plans.


Mugabe successfully retained power in 2008 by using violence and intimidation against the opposition, a tactic he likely will again employ to ensure victory this year. Regional players have already rebuked Mugabe for continued repression, which prompted outrage from Mugabe. He almost certainly will increase violence ahead of the elections, and with no independent media in Zimbabwe, there will be little international awareness of his actions.

South African mediators involved with Zimbabwe reportedly are now concerned about Mugabe dying in power with no successor, no valid order of succession, and no constitution in place. The Zimbabwe Standard reports that officials in Mugabe’s party say party leaders already are starting maneuvering to take over after Mugabe dies, but none has a clear leadership position.


If Mugabe dies in office, there likely would be at least short-term chaos as individual power-brokers vie for control of the country. To quiet the probable unrest, the military would be tempted to step in and restore order, possibly retaining political control without a democratic mandate. Although Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, it has large reserves of diamonds, gold and platinum, which would enrich whoever rules the country.

Mugabe also reportedly is preoccupied over the Egyptian and Tunisian public overthrow of long-standing dictators. He recently called those actions undemocratic revolts against legitimate governments. He stated, “Revolts are not democratic, and they must be opposed.” He ordered the arrest of 46 individuals on charges of treason for watching videos concerning the uprisings, but later freed them due to lack of evidence.


Most opponents of Mugabe are in jail or in hiding, and his swift action against dissent discourages public protests. However, the success of public protests in Tunisia and Egypt could embolden opponents to rise against the dictator. Mugabe’s strict control of the country, including a stranglehold on information, lack of any political opening, and complete loyalty of the military, however, may persuade opposition leaders to build support in private and wait for Mugabe’s death before they take to the streets.

(Lisa M. Ruth is a former CIA analyst and officer. She is currently Managing Partner of C2 Research, a boutique research and analysis firm in West Palm Beach, Florida and is Vice President at CTC International Group, Inc., a private intelligence firm.)

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Analysis: Zimbabwe's Chief Seeks Another Term
Thursday, 09 June 2011 01:09 PM
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