Mugabe's age a liability, say rivals

By Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

Robert Mugabe's campaign is using old pictures of him. Photo / AP
Robert Mugabe's campaign is using old pictures of him. Photo / AP

President Robert Mugabe's party is using images of its leader from 1980 on posters for Zimbabwe's election because it is concerned his age has made him a liability, rivals claim.

Opposition politicians have raised concerns that, at 89, Mugabe's age is an issue of national security. If he were to die in office, Zimbabweans fear that a power struggle could destabilise the country.

Nelson Chamisa, organising secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change, said Zanu-PF's use of the 33-year-old pictures from when Mugabe first took office showed a "loss of confidence" in the ageing leader.

"Even if you go to get an identification card they won't ask for your picture of years ago, they want the current picture," Chamisa told party supporters at a rally in Gweru, central Zimbabwe. "If one uses his picture of 1980 ... this is fraud and a show of loss of confidence."

He said Zanu-PF was also wary of Mugabe's recent record in power and preferred to remind voters of his time as a freedom fighter.

His comments come just a week before Zimbabwe goes to the polls to decide which party and president will rule the country for the next five years, and amid claims of skulduggery and vote-rigging.

Mugabe turns 90 in February, making him the world's oldest political leader. He is known to have suffered from prostate cancer and there have been frequent trips to Singapore, reportedly for medical treatment.

Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe's coalition Government since 2008, recently said at a party rally: "We can't trust our future in the hands of a 90-year-old president. His age is a national security issue."

Mugabe recently allowed his deputy, Joyce Mujuru, to chair the Cabinet several times, prompting speculation he was looking for an heir and had chosen the more moderate of two front-runners. The other is Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Defence Minister, nicknamed the Crocodile.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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