Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has asked successors in the ruling party to wait at least until he completes his term in office, putting to rest speculation he may step down before his term expires due to advanced age, Xinhua News Agency has reported.
The veteran leader, who turned 92, was speaking in a traditional birthday interview by the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, televised on Thursday.
He said those jostling to succeed him should wait until the ruling Zanu-PF’s next elective congress due in 2019.
“Some are talking of successor. Why? I am still there. I did not go into the presidential election for someone to complete my five-year term, which ends in 2018,” Mugabe said.
He also ruled out the possibility that his wife Grace Mugabe would succeed him, saying the claims were wild exaggerations.
“Even in the African culture, leaders left behind chose the successor. A leader is elected properly by the congress, it is only the congress that chooses the next leader,” he said.
He said the person to lead Zimbabwe must be ideologically clear and untainted by corruption and scandals.
Mugabe also dismissed threats of a grand coalition of opposition parties, saying “you can not come together just for the sake of regime change, if that is what they are up to, they are lost”.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe uninterrupted since 1980 but his ruling party has been rocked by intense infighting in recent years by factions vying to succeed him.
Last year, the veteran president fired his deputy of 10 years Joice Mujuru from the party and government on allegations of trying to overthrow him.
Mujuru on Tuesday launched her new political party to challenge Mugabe in the 2018 elections.
But after firing Mujuru, fresh infighting has erupted in the party among factions jostling to succeed him. One of the factions is reportedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and another by a generation of young leaders known by the name G40.
Mugabe recently told the warring factions to “shut up” and appealed to them to unite for the sake of progress in the party and the country.
A lavish public birthday party was held in Masvingo Province last Saturday to celebrate his 92nd birthday.