|ROBERT Mugabe has claimed that he never wanted to be President, despite clinging onto the job for more than three decades and brutally hounding out of Zanu PF any lieutenants who showed too keen an interest in replacing him.
Opponents from outside his Zanu PF party who try to challenge him through elections are often subjected to violent putdowns while his government is accused of carrying out vote fraud to ensure he stays in power.
Mugabe has led the country since independence in 1980.
And even as he turned 91 at the weekend, he refuses to retire, having indicated thatinshallah (God willing) he will represent Zanu PF at the next general elections scheduled for 2018.
Despite reportedly struggling with health and physical challenges that come with old age, Mugabe insists that no one can do a better job of running the country than him.
The startling claim that he was a reluctant leader was made Monday at a birthday party – the first of many – hosted by civil servants at his Harare office.
“I was just one of the leaders,” he said.
“I never joined the struggle because I wanted one day to be Prime Minister, no, but I joined the struggle to play my part as prescribed by the party, first publicity secretary and as we moved from NDP, ZAPU, I was still publicity secretary right through.
“I was secretary general of the party and I remained that even as the rest of people believed that the leader of the party had become traitor, being Ndabaningi Sithole, when we still had some of our people in the prisons, (Edgar) Tekere, (Maurice) Nyagumbo, we had remained just a number and myself and these three wanted me to be declared the leader of the party and I refused.
“I refused right up to the end even after getting out (of prison) we negotiated for those who had been arrested to be released and released before the Geneva Conference and I was still that.
“And when they were released I was still secretary general. My argument was, well the President can only be appointed by the people, but in 1977 we had that meeting in Chimoio, I accepted on one condition that we will get a verdict from the people as soon as we get back home. But I was just playing my part.”
Mugabe’s claim that he was a reluctant president comes after Joice Mujuru, his deputy for a decade, was fired from the government and reduced to an ordinary Zanu PF member for allegedly plotting to topple the veteran leader.
Mugabe does not brook talk of succession in his party with former spokesman Rugare Gumbo fired on the spot during a politburo meeting after suggesting that the December 2014 congress should clarify the issue.
Gumbo told NewZimbabwe.com this week: “I suggested that the forthcoming congress had to deal with the succession issue and define the chain of succession.
“I said we should know whether we have a plan regarding the number of terms a leader could be in office. Now, he (Mugabe) didn’t want that and that was really the main thing.
“He was very, very angry with me. He then said I was suggesting he should go away right now and yet that is not what I was saying.”
To Mugabe, anyone within Zanu PF who suggests he should step down, can only be working with imperialists to recolonize Zimbabwe.
In apparent reference to Mujuru and other officials sacked with her, Mugabe said Monday: “I never thought that anyone could abandon beliefs that we were fighting for independence and that was our right to do so.
“Zimbabwe was our country, it had been seized from us by force, we must get it back by force, but force rightly directed and not force to kill anyone, no.”
The veteran leader made it clear that he expects absolute loyalty from party members.
“This is the leadership and that leadership demands that you belong to it,” he said.