ZANU-PF wants to make Mugabe president for life

A recent central committee meeting of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party called for President Robert Mugabe to be installed as president for life, and the creation of ideological schools targeting preschool children.

The minutes of the party's central committee and politburo meeting on 30 March - the two most powerful ZANU-PF organs, both chaired by Mugabe in his capacity as president and first secretary of the ruling party - were adopted on 4 May and subsequently leaked to an IRIN correspondent.

Amid an economic meltdown characterised by an inflation rate of more than 4,000 percent, South African President Thabo Mbeki, charged by the Southern Africa Development Community with negotiating an end to Zimbabwe's political impasse, acknowledged at the weekend that free and fair elections would be the best route out of the crisis.

''The president should be president for life. There are no vacancies within the presidency''

Mugabe, 83, has been in power since Zimbabwe achieved independence from Britain in 1980, and has already declared his candidature in the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for March 2008.

The ZANU-PF Women's League, composed of all female members of the party and among Mugabe's most loyal followers, is leading the charge to have him declared president for life. Zimbabwe's vice-president, Joseph Msika, appeared to be the only one at the meeting opposed to awarding life presidency to Mugabe.

"The president should be president for life. There are no vacancies within the presidency," said Oppah Muchinguri, leader of the Women's League and minister of gender and women's affairs, according to the minutes.

"We resolve that we will mobilise all young women to be in the Young Women's League to strengthen the party," Muchinguri told the central committee meeting, and suggested that instead of awarding presidential scholarships to promising students from poor backgrounds, the children of party stalwarts should be the recipients of the scholarships.

The scholarships are awarded for studies at Fort Hare University, in South Africa, where Mugabe was a student before going into a life of politics.

Absalom Sikhosana, leader of the ZANU-PF Youth League, said drastic measures were required if the ruling party was to remain in power.

"The youth have resolved that the plans for the Party Ideological School be expedited to ensure consistence in inculcating the ideology of the party, instilling values and norms across all levels of leadership, and to institutionalise these norms and values from preschool levels."

A ZANU-PF central committee member told IRIN: "It was very obvious that the presentations by the women and the youth were carefully choreographed, and that Mugabe was aware of or behind the proposals to have him declared life president."

It is thought that the likelihood of the central committee resolutions being implemented was high, as the meeting began with a pledge of loyalty to the ruling party and its president.

John Nkomo, national chairman of ZANU-PF, refused to comment on whether Mugabe would be installed as life president.

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