Zimbabwe's long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe, 87, was endorsed last weekend by his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), as their candidate for the presidential elections expected next year.
Mugabe has been in power since 1980. He has rejected local and international calls for him to quit. Many Zimbabweans hoped that his ill health and age would force him to leave power. The ZANU-PF congress quashed all those hopes. If elections are held next year, Mugabe will be 88 years old and Africa’s second oldest person to stand in a presidential election after the late Kamuzu Hastings Banda of Malawi who was 98 years old when he stood in Malawi’s 1994 elections.
Twitter and Facebook, the two online alternative public spheres that have become the favored platform for Zimbabweans, became the sites of expression of outrage and disbelief.
Facebook user Wise Chokuda wrote:
the President Cde Robert Mugabe will not retire anytime soon as he was anonimasly [sic] endorsed by all provinces as their next year candidate. This was announced at the close of the 12th ZANU PF People’s Congress in Bulawayo yesterday.
Masamha Tulisticated posted on his wall:
no retirement plans for the Zimbabwean president. More white farms to be designated for rural resettlement. #Zanu PF congress.
On Twitter, @BrendahNyakudya tweeted a Mugabe quote:
I am lucky that God has given me longer years than others to be with you (Zimbabweans). I will not let you down,” he (Mugabe) added. #FML
Mugabe says it would be wrong to step down” *Brendah pours ashes on head, dons sack-cloth and spends night wailing at city gates*
@masamhat: Robert Mugabe says no plans to retire. He thanks God for living long because he can now rule longer##Zanu PF congress in Byo [Bulawayo]
@mashanubian: “No surprise! ZANU PF congress endorses #Mugabe as presidential candidate for elections to be held in 2012 or early 2013 #zimbabwe
@clivembayimbayi posted an angry tweet:
Guys tel me, whn is the bastard goind 2 step dwn, I mean Mugabe from Zimbabwe, gyz lets do somthng
@nqabamatshazi added a bit of humour noting something different in a country where citizens have learnt to curse the dark because of the perennial power cuts:
Bulawayo city centre dwellers are having the time of their lives. Since the Zanu PF conference began [December], they have not experienced a power cut.
Later, a day after the Zanu PF conference ended, @nqabamatshazi followed up with:
After an uncharacteristic break, power cuts are back with a vengeance in Bulawayo I bet some people wish the Zanu PF conference was still on.
Hahahaaha NANDO’S Changed their advert from last DIDACTOR standing to LAST STICKTATOR standing! :’ -To Protect Mugabe assassination”
The controversial advert shows Robert Mugabe dining alone at Christmas in a large mansion while he reminisces about “happier times” with former dictators, such as playing water tag with Muammar Gaddafi, making snow angels in the sand with Saddam Hussein, singing Karaoke with Mao Zedong, pushing P. W. Botha on a swing set, and riding a tank with Idi Amin.