Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has declared President Robert Mugabe as its candidate for the next presidential election in 2018. By then he will be aged 94.
His supporters broke into thunderous applause and chanted “tongai, tongai baba” [rule, rule father] as the Zanu-PF annual conference nominated Mugabe on Saturday in the south-eastern town of Masvingo .
Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
The show of party support is in sharp contrast to the discontent in the country which has seen unprecedented protests over Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economy. Mugabe blames Western economic sabotage for the situation.
Last month, Zimbabwe introduced a new currency, a “bond note”, redeemable against US dollars, which has been the country’s official currency since 2009, as a result of a shortage of cash.
The Zanu-PF has also suffered serious infighting as factions battle it out to succeed Mugabe once he eventually leaves. Some members of the party have been calling on the 92-year-old leader to step down though. That probably explains his plea to party members on Saturday for tolerance. In his acceptance speech, Mugabe called for an end to party infighting.
“We agreed that conflicts should end. Infighting should end. The party ideology should be followed,” he said.
Observers say it remains to be seen how a 94-year-old will fare at the 2018 elections. He is already struggling to walk and makes frequent trips to Malaysia for medical attention.