Jason Burke “He’s 93 and frail, but Mugabe pledges to carry on ruling” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/25/robert-mugabe-zimbabwe-93-birthday-grace-opposition-mdc-emmerson-mnangagwa
There are two main contenders for succession, both on the stage on Saturday. One is Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who has a reputation for extravagance and fierce verbal attacks on rivals. Earlier this month Grace, 51, promised that she would push Mugabe in a wheelchair if needed, so he could campaign in the coming presidential polls, and suggested that Mugabe could be elected even if “nature claimed him” before the polls.
The president last week described his wife as “a very strong character” who was “very much accepted by the people”. On Saturday she told the crowd that Zimbabwe was “blessed to have Comrade Robert Mugabe as the leader of our country and the leader of our revolutionary party”.
Her rival is the vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Earlier this year Mnangagwa, 70, posted a picture of himself with a mug bearing the slogan “I’m the Boss”, prompting speculation that he was preparing a bid to oust the president or had already been tipped for the top post. However, opponents of Mnangagwa, a veteran of the bush war which brought Mugabe to power, say he would not have sufficient legitimacy to either quell dissent or rehabilitate the nation on the world stage.
A series of controversial measures over the past 20 years have caused massive disruption. In 2009 hyperinflation forced Zimbabwe to adopt foreign currencies – largely the US dollar – after its own collapsed. A controversial bond note backed by loaned money has staved off total economic disintegration, but clinics are now without drugs, banks short of cash, roads go unmaintained, there are few jobs, police systematically extort cash from travellers, and hunger threatens millions.
One result is a wave of unrest. Local observers said there were more demonstrations across the country in 2016 than in any other year since Zimbabwe won independence.
The protests brought together different interest groups. Some were middle-class officials once loyal to the government but angered by repeatedly delayed salary payments. Others were young demonstrators organised largely through social media and led by a new generation of activists. Officials have described the protesters as “terrorists” and blame foreign powers for sabotaging the economy and stirring unrest.
Groups monitoring human rights abuses documented more than 700 incidents of political violence in 2016, and another 50 so far this year.
These included abductions by the military and police, who broke into the homes of opposition activists. Many were then held and tortured. Spouses and children were assaulted if the targeted victims could not be found.