Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday claimed President Robert Mugabe last week told him he now wants to retire, but was being forced to stay by Zanu PF elements fearing his departure will quicken the party’s demise.
Tsvangirai’s remarks at a rally in Binga have brought a new dimension into speculation surrounding the 87-year-old leader’s health status.
Mugabe last week reportedly flew to Singapore for the seventh time this year to seek medical treatment. He reportedly suffers from prostate cancer that is spreading to other organs and creating tumors.
“On Monday during our meeting, Mugabe said he is now tired and wants to quit and rest but he said elements in Zanu PF do not want him to step down,” Tsvangirai told hundreds of villagers.
“He said further, there are divisions (in Zanu PF) and if he goes now the party will collapse.” Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara meet every Monday to review work of their coalition government.
Efforts to get a comment from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba yesterday were fruitless as his mobile phone was unreachable.
Zanu PF is expected to endorse Mugabe as its candidate for elections expected next year.
But the veteran ruler has not received the ringing endorsement he usually gets against such Zanu PF gatherings where provincial structures stampede to give him a public backing.
There is speculation that Zanu PF structures are undecided about Mugabe’s candidature given his mounting health problems. Reports that Mugabe wants to retire after ruling Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 are not new but he has often dismissed them as wishful thinking by his detractors.
Tsvangirai also warned his supporters against engaging in political violence ahead of next year’s elections.
He said perpetrators of political violence must learn from the case of Moses Chokuda, an MDC-T activist killed by Zanu PF chairman Jason Machaya’s son and other Zanu PF activists.
Chokuda’s family refused to bury his remains for almost three years until Machaya was forced to give them 25 head of cattle and US$15 000 in cash to appease his avenging spirit.
“Be warned against committing acts of violence in the name of MDC or Zanu PF,” Tsvangirai said. “People should learn from the Chokuda case. You cannot just kill people and expect to get away with it. We politicians will be at our homes and vengeful spirits will be haunting you alone.”