On His 93rd Birthday, Zimbabwe President Has No Plans of Stepping Down

Scrolling through current events as I do most mornings, I was intrigued by this story surrounding the Zimbabwean president. As an American under the newly elected President Trump, I do not see universal pride in our leader. The majority of Zimbabwe has reelected President Robert Mugabe for nearly 37 years, even after controversial decisions and management skills.

Today marks the 93rd birthday of President Robert Mugabe and he shows no signs of stepping down any time soon. For many Zimbabweans, he is the only leader they have ever known. He came into office in April of 1980 after independence from Britain.

Though he is often critiqued for his management of the economy, leading economic decline after years of prosperity, he is highly supported. His supporters in and outside of Zimbabwe see him as an African nationalist who helped fight apartheid in South Africa.

Mugabe has been endorsed by the Zanu-PF party and will represent them as the their candidate for next year’s election, when he will be 94. At a political rally last Friday, his wife Grace Mugabe, 51, told a crowd of thousands of supporters that even if her husband dies before the vote, he would still win the election.

She also took a pass at older party members who fought Zimbabwe’s war of independence. She believes they are trying to seize power from her husband. Many feel that he is too old to be in office. She says that if Mugabe were to leave, they should leave with him.

Grace says that the younger generation should take over if her husband were to step down.This angered many who believe she is positioning herself politically within the part to try to take over after her husband.

The succession issue has been an item of high interest as President Mugabe gets older. Political analysts note his age and health problems and say Zimbabweans can’t help but think about what’s around the corner.

In his traditional birthday interview, Mugabe said he wasn’t ready to step down and declared that he wants to live until he’s 100 and rule for the remainder of his life. He said that he is not preparing anyone to take over after him. He believes a successor will be groomed by the people and the people do not feel there is an acceptable replacement.

Supporters prepare to celebrate his birthday with an official party planned for thousands of people on Saturday in southern Zimbabwe in Matabeleland. In 1983, Matabeleland was the scene of the Gukarahundi massacres of the Ndebele people, occurring shortly after independence, when Mugabe’s troops cracked down on alleged dissidence from a minority tribe.

Mugabe struggles with the Gukurahundi legacy, a collapsing economy and controversial land reform policy.