Like everyone else, I’d waited with bated breath for President Mugabe’s reaction to Simba Makoni’s announcement that he would challenge his octogenarian former boss in the March presidential elections. It is in keeping with Mugabe’s Machiavellian approach to keep mum on pertinent national developments for what always seems an eternity. After allowing national speculation to fester, and having capitalised on the wisdom of hindsight, he emerges with a response so categorical and poignant as to reinforce his image as a sage among his cultic following. State funerals are usually Mugabe’s occasion of choice to heap opprobrium upon perceived enemies of both party and state (which, in the Zanu PF view, are one and the same).
But Mugabe’s comparison of Makoni to a ‘prostitute’ during his televised birthday interview on Thursday marked a new low, even by his own dubious standards.
"I did not think Makoni, after all his experience, could behave in the way he behaved, and in a naive way too. Standing proudly and saying 'I am Simba Makoni'. He does not even have a party. He says: 'The people will come to me. I am like a magnet, come to me and I will lead you…So I have compared him to a prostitute,” Mugabe said on national television on his 84th birthday.
The coarseness of Mugabe’s language betrays deep panic from the tremors set off within the ruling party by Makoni’s defection. The current fiasco in Zanu PF over dual candidacies in many constituencies country-wide and the prospect of parallel campaigns all fought under the party’s banner represents irrevocable evidence of serious fractures in Mugabe’s electoral machine. Makoni has claimed consistently that he enjoys the backing of power barons inside the ruling party. The prospect of a subterranean campaign for Makoni by these elements inside Zanu PF must be driving Mugabe up the wall! He’s not sure who to trust and finds himself increasingly isolated as election day draws nearer.