ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe accused his political rivals — who he said were barking like “dogs” — of trying to use constitutional reforms to get rid of him, the state-owned Sunday Mail reported.
Mr Mugabe, who turns 88 tomorrow and was forced into a coalition government after disputed elections in 2008, is seeking to extend his 32 years in power in an early poll he wants to be held this year, a year ahead of schedule.
Mr Mugabe charged that lawyers hired to draft a new constitution, and rivals from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had “erred” by including issues not gathered from a public survey.
Mr Mugabe mocked Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC as impotent, for protesting at his recent reappointment of security commanders, accused by the opposition of blocking democratic reforms.
“We don’t pay attention to that because they are like barking dogs with no bite, and every village has such dogs,” he said in Shona.
Mr Mugabe also attacked Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a senior MDC figure, for slowing Zimbabwe’s economic recovery by starving the farming sector of funds.
In the past Mr Biti has denied accusations that the MDC is deliberately withholding state loans to farmers from Mr Mugabe’s party who had seized white-owned commercial farms. Mr Biti maintains Zimbabwe’s slow recovery from a decade of severe economic recession caused by Mr Mugabe’s policies is largely due to delays by Zanu (PF) in adopting reforms.
Asked about clauses in the first draft of the constitution that could bar him from running for another term of office, Mr Mugabe said although he had not yet read the document, such a proposal — and the inclusion of gay rights — would not be accepted by his party.
“Such a constitution would be thrown out by Zanu (PF). We would not accept that. They erred if it is like that,” he said.
A draft constitution published early this month trims presidential powers and limits terms to a maximum of 10 years, barring Mr Mugabe, who has been in office since 1980. Mr Mugabe has been nominated as his party’s candidate. Under the power-sharing deal with Mr Tsvangirai, elections must be held by next year with a new constitution drawn up before the poll.
Meanwhile, a Valentine’s Day march was crushed by police, who beat protesters calling for peace in Zimbabwe.