Million Man Meh

Robert Mugabe at the African Union Summit in Ethiopia earlier this year (Wikimedia | Jeremy Lock/USAF)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party spent a cool half-million dollars (for reference, Zimbabwe’s per-capita GDP is less than $1000) organizing what was to be a “Million Man March” through the capital city of Harare in support of Mugabe’s continued rule over the country. They missed their target slightly:

Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have marched through the capital Harare in support of veteran President Robert Mugabe, but their number fell short of the ruling party’s goal of attracting a million people.

Demonstrators were shipped in from all over Zimbabwe for Wednesday’s march, organised by the Zanu-PF’s youth wing.

They sang pro-Mugabe songs as they spilled out of buses in downtown Harare, a show of force to counter demonstration by the opposition last month calling for the president’s resignation.

Speaking at the rally, the 92-year-old Mugabe denounced as “treasonous” factions in his party feuding over who should succeed him.

Tens of thousands is still pretty good, though, for a guy who’s been in power for at least two decades past his “sell by” date, though it’s possible that some people weren’t there voluntarily. The nonagenarian dictator authoritarian, who was practicing some aspects of Putinism long before Vladimir Putin (though to be fair to Vlad, he hasn’t rigged any elections to the degree Mugabe has), is perhaps the best living embodiment of the proverb that “only the good die young.” And he’s planning to stand again for election in 2018, despite the fact that at this point he’s better qualified to be the Crypt Keeper if HBO decides to revive Tales from the Crypt (kids ask your parents) than he is to run a country.

Mugabe is now fighting an internal political battle on two fronts: first with his opposition, and second with a growing element within the ZANU-PF that is preparing for the inevitable transition, as one does when one’s party is being run by a 92 year old guy. I mean, he can’t live forever. Right?

Last month, thousands of people gathered in Harare to protest Mugabe’s rule, the first anti-government protest in Zimbabwe in almost 10 years, and it was to that protest that today’s rally was directly responding. But as the blockquote up there says, Mugabe spent part of his speech attacking not the opposition, but the people in his own party preparing for life without him. Obviously there are plenty of opposition politicians who would like to succeed him, but within the ZANU-PF factions have formed around Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and his current VP/former defense minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Grace is probably more connected to the day-to-day running of the country (as, again, her husband is 92 years old and who knows what kind of workload he’s able to take on these days), but Mnangagwa has allies in the country’s military and intelligence communities, so he may be the safer bet to wind up in charge.



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