Mugabe rejects UN step down appeal, says to rule till God calls

Staff Reporter

UNITED nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged African leaders not to cling onto power while addressing the African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia over the weekend.

The appeal was however given short shrift by outgoing AU chairman and Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.

Several African leaders have been in power for decades, some have changed constitutions so they can stay on and others are accused of seeking to remove limits.

Debate about term limits has gained momentum after triggering unrest in places such as Burundi and the DRC.

"Leaders should never use undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes to cling to power. We have all seen the tragic consequences when they do," Ban told the gathered presidents.

"Leaders must protect their people, not themselves. I commend those leaders who committed to stepping aside and respect constitutional term limits.”

When he took to the podium however, Mugabe made it clear he would be staying at State House as long as he lives.

“I will be there until God says come, but as long as am alive I will head the country, forward ever, backward never,” he said.

The veteran leader, who turns 92 next month, said calls for leaders to step down came from the West not Africa.

"Do we allow that group to continue ... to harass us even in our independent countries," the Zanu PF leader asked after Ban’s address.

The ruling party has already endorsed him as its presidential candidate for elections due in 2018 when he will be 94 years old.

But bitter divisions continue over his succession regardless.

Presidential spokesman, George Charamba, last week hit out at a party faction reportedly led by higher education minister, Jonathan Moyo, which allegedly backs Mugabe’s wife Grace to take over from her husband.

Charamba is thought to be aligned to a rival group rallying behind vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe returned home from Ethiopia on Sunday.

He did not directly refer to the public row between Moyo and Charamba when he addressed supporters at Harare International Airport.

The veteran leader warned against divisions in the party, lamenting that there was no “respect for the leadership anymore.”

“ … some are fighting in newspapers,” he said.

“There is no respect anymore; we just insult each other. Even the leaders aren’t shown respect.

“What have we done? We don’t want that!”

The succession fight saw the ouster in 2014 of then vice president Joice Mujuru and several ministers and senior party officials said to have backed her.

Mujuru was accused of plotting a coup against Mugabe, allegations she has denied and challenged the ruling party to prove in court.

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