British Columbia

B.C. man takes on Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's presidential race

Richard Kanyangu, a Kamloops pastor and psychiatric nurse, says he'll try to unseat long-serving Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the country's 2018 presidential election.

Mugabe, 93, is the world's oldest leader and has been president of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years

Richard Kanyangu, a Kamloops pastor and psychiatric nurse, says he'll try to unseat long-serving Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the country's 2018 presidential election. (Richard Kanyangu)

A B.C. man says he has what it takes to unseat 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, the long-serving president of Zimbabwe and the oldest ruler in the world.

Richard Kanyangu, a Kamloops pastor and psychiatric nurse, left Zimbabwe in 1995, but he says he's spent too much time waiting for change in his country and has "no option" but to run for election himself in the country's 2018 presidential election.

"We've stood on the sidelines for too long and watched the situation hoping it would change by itself," he explained.

"But after 20 years of doing that, I've come to the realization that that is going to take someone like me to get involved in the process if we're going to see anything good come out of the country."

Mugabe has been the leader of the southern African nation since it was first recognized in 1980, first serving as prime minister, then president.

President Robert Mugabe speaks to supporters gathered to celebrate his 93rd birthday on February 25, 2017. Mugabe is the world's oldest leader. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

Critics of the president say his policies have led the once-promising country of 14 million into turmoil.

In 2009, failed economic policies and shocking hyperinflation —230 million per cent — forced the country to abandon its national currency. Today, Zimbabweans use a combination of U.S. dollars, South African rands and Chinese yuan, although the government introduced special Zimbabwean bond notes in 2016 due to a dollar shortage.

Critics say Mugabe's authoritarian policies of seizing white-owned land, violently repressing the opposition and allegedly targeting his rivals and rigging elections have led to a fractured political climate.

The ruler, who will be 94 during the 2018 presidential race, has also faced questions of whether he is still of sound mind at his advanced age.

A man shows new bond notes introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in 2016. Zimbabwe rolled out a new currency for the first time since 2009 in hopes of easing shortages of the U.S. dollar. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press)

"At this point as a country, Zimbabwe has come to that place where we don't have any other options. We are right at the bottom of the bottom," Kanyangu said.

He said the only way forward is to present a "third" way and introduce a new party into the fray which can offer a new vision to Zimbabweans who he says have grown more apathetic under Mugabe's rule.

"Most of the people who are in the country have normalized the situation because they've had to live with it day in and day out," he said.

"It requires somebody who has a fresh set of eyes, who has a different perspective on what is happening and who believes in the possibility of change to actually come in and challenge the status quo."

As for whether he's worried about his own safety given Mugabe's past inclinations, Kanyangu said he has no fear.

"I like to think that fear exists where you have an option ... but the reality is what else can we do? We've got to be willing to take the risk in order to bring about the change that is so much needed in the country."

Kanyangu will run as part of the Unity Party, a party he helped create and has registered to participate in the election. He says he plans to return to Zimbabwe to campaign this spring.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled B.C. man takes on Mugabe in Zimbabwe's presidential race