HARARE – The country’s sulking former leader, Robert Mugabe — together with his restless wife, Grace — is said to be stepping up his efforts to get back at his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, despite last week’s reports that a number of people and organisations are working hard behind the scenes to try and reconcile the two men.
At the same time, analysts have savaged Mugabe for being a shameless hypocrite after more of his skeletons were revealed by State media at the weekend — showing that far from being a principled and caring leader, the former president was mostly working for his personal benefit in his nearly four decades in power.
“He (Mugabe) is a very bitter man. Contrary to what you have been told that he is open to reconciling with ED, Mugabe and Grace are working tirelessly to derail the new dispensation.
“This is why, as strange as it seems, he is even reaching out to elements within the MDC, as well as to some businesspeople, all in the vain hope that his silly plans will work.
“But to be honest, and despite enlisting the services of many soldiers of fortune in politics and communications, ari kungovukura zvake sembwa (his is a hopeless mission),” a senior Zanu PF official who claims to be privy to Mugabe’s political manoeuvring told the Daily News yesterday.
Mugabe resigned from the top office on November 21 last year, a few hours after Parliament had initiated proceedings to impeach him.
This happened after he had refused to leave office during eight tense days that began with the military intervening in the governance of the country.
But the 94-year-old has stunned both the authorities and ordinary Zimbabweans alike in recent weeks by re-entering the political arena and holding several meetings with opposition leaders and some former Zanu PF bigwigs — including openly lending his support to the newly-formed National Patriotic Front (NPF) led by retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri who quit the ruling party a fortnight ago.
The NPF has since revealed that Mugabe had endorsed the party after he met Mutinhiri at his “Blue Roof” mansion in Harare.
Apart from hosting former Cabinet ministers, Mugabe has also held meetings with former vice president Joice Mujuru, whom he sacked in 2014 over untested allegations that she and a host of other senior Zanu PF figures wanted to topple him from power.
It has now also been claimed that when Mugabe went to South Africa last week under the pretext of flying there to see his son Robert Junior — who is said to have impregnated a South African woman — he had in fact gone there to hold high level talks with some Generation 40 (G40) members and other potential allies in his mission to destroy Mnangagwa.
Meanwhile, both analysts and prominent political figures told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe was “playing a dangerous game” with his latest foray into politics — saying this also had the potential to destabilise the country.
“It’s now clear that the Mugabes would rather have anyone else in charge of the country after the forthcoming elections than leave Ngwena (Mnangagwa) at the helm.
“It is an interesting time for Zimbabwe. But the danger is that the current goings on put Zimbabwe on the edge and carry the potential for strife that can destabilise the country,” analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
Businessman-cum-politician Energy Mutodi also warned that Mugabe was “taking matters too faf” by dabbling in politics — when Mnangagwa’s government had “treated him with respect”.
“Mugabe has so many skeletons in his cupboard … and can therefore be tried for various crimes, including crimes against humanity.
“If he keeps trying to re-launch himself in politics and to fight against President Emmerson Mnangagwa this may end badly for him,” Mutodi told the Daily News.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said while Mnangagwa had tried to assist Mugabe, the former president was seemingly not reciprocating this goodwill.
“However, he (Mnangagwa) has to tread carefully. He has to manoeuvre his way in such a way that will not only appease his supporters, but also appease Mugabe’s.
“There is also a need not to alienate the Zezurus … and he (Mnangagwa) must appear to be taking care not only of Mugabe, but also his legacy.
“But these things require reciprocity. If the ED government is taking care of Mugabe, he should also likewise reciprocate,” Masunungure said.
“He (Mugabe) has not been acting in good faith thus far … and now we have revelations of Mugabe demanding money in cash. That is a warning sign,” he added.
Academic Stephen Chan, who is a professor of world politics in London, also said Mnangagwa should not be drawn into a war with someone “who has nothing to lose”.
“I think Mnangagwa can safely allow Mugabe to vent his spleen. It is the sounding off of a disappointed man. But even those people who still admire Mugabe understand that he allowed the country to decline economically, to a depth still being uncovered.
“Mnangagwa should concentrate on these economic issues and show a respectful disdain towards the former president,” Chan said.
During his appearance at the African Union’s annual meeting in Ethiopia in January, Mnangagwa told the continental leaders that there was no need to worry about Mugabe and his family’s security, as they were well-looked after.
The government has since gone on to give Mugabe an eye-watering exit package which includes benefits commensurate with those of a sitting head of State.
Details of the frail nonagenarian’s massive handshake were announced in the Government Gazette at the end of last year under Presidential Pension and Retirement Packages Notice 2017.
Still, Mugabe has been moaning about being ill-treated by the government, to the extent of telling an AU mission that met with him at his palatial Borrowdale mansion last month that he was being denied his benefits.
Over the weekend, more of Mugabe’s dirty linen tumbled out. After State media accused him of externalising millions of dollars and owning a staggering 21 farms last week, government newspapers revealed yesterday that the nonagenarian was getting his salary and benefits in cash all along.
Mugabe’s critics said this was hardly surprising given that at one time, when he was still president, he had revealed that he kept his money under his bed.