Zimbabwe has been stuck with the disastrous rule of Robert Mugabe because four years ago the dictator now 87 years old was trying to beat former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda’s record of 27 years in power. Mugabe even rejected pleas from close aides and his personal physician to leave office in 2007.
The latest batch of US diplomatic cables leaked by whistle-blowing website Wiki Leaks quotes a meeting between Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono and US embassy officials held on September 5, 2007. Gono said Mugabe was obsessed with beating Kaunda’s record of 27 years in power.
US foreign affairs official Katherine Dhanani who worked at the embassy in Harare said in her report; “Gono told us he had broached Mugabe’s retirement with him by suggesting the country needed his memoirs. Mugabe responded with a litany of reasons as to why he did not wish to step down now”.
Mugabe gave several excuses for not wanting to step down including the health of his then Vice President Joseph Msika and the “significant infighting within Zanu PF”. “(Mugabe) agreed with Tony Blair on one thing — the time to step down was after leading one’s party to victory, thereafter giving it time to consolidate before the next election,” Dhanani wrote.
“He did not want to have led the party for much of his life and then see it get defeated after his departure … There had been questions about his legitimacy, and he wanted to put those to rest through an election victory next year.” Gono also suggested Mugabe nursed a long-standing grudge against Kaunda.
“Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda had left office after 27 years. (Mugabe) wanted to exceed this, which meant staying on until next year. (Note: Gono thought Mugabe felt a personal rivalry with Kaunda since Kaunda had supported ZAPU).”
Gono also spoke about Mugabe’s health. Said Dhanani: “In a hushed voice, Gono then told us Mugabe’s personal physician from Malaysia was now living in Harare, close to Mugabe. He said he (Gono) alone was part of health discussions with Mugabe and the physician.
“The physician had urged Mugabe to step down immediately; continuing as President would be dangerous to his health. Mugabe had resisted and asked him to keep him going until next year’s elections. The physician agreed on condition that Mugabe leaves office right after the election. Mugabe agreed.”