Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has for the first time hinted at his retirement after having always maintained that he would die in office.
Speaking to a group of war veterans at the weekend, Mugabe admitted that the country’s economy is crumbling and said he would retire.
“We are in a critical time… for regime change”, Mugabe was quoted as saying.
However, the ruling party, Zanu PF said Mugabe will still be contesting in the country’s next election in 2018 and if he is re-elected, he will only retire in 2023, when he turns 99.
The 92-year-old Mugabe is the only President Zimbabwe has had in 36 years of independence.
Mugabe told “war collaborators” that he believes he has used his time in office to “fend off the West’s spirited machinations to destroy Zanu-PF and the ideals the party stands for.”
He said he believed he had now “defeated… the British and Americans…”, adding that he understood times were difficult in Zimbabwe, a report said.
Mugabe had dismissed demands by war veterans to quit, saying he was in power by popular vote and accused critics of plotting his ouster by collaborating with longtime Western opponents.
“As long as the party says continue, I continue…If I still have the energy, I still have the life, the blessings of God, I will continue,” he said.
Mugabe also acknowledged that there were factions within his party, Zanu PF, but that they would come together ahead of the next elections.
Veteran Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Raftopoulos says chances that the fractured opposition could win the next elections are “bleak.”
Zimbabwe is currently facing severe cash crunch.
Africa news/Zainab Sa’id