In remarks that are certain to provoke a strong reaction from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has come to the defence of the country’s ousted former president, Robert Mugabe, saying those persecuting him should leave him alone, the Daily News can report.
This comes as the increasingly frail 95-year-old — who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for nearly four decades before he was ousted from power through a stunning military coup in November 2017 — has recently renewed his scathing criticism of Mnangagwa, to the anger of many of the Zanu PF leader’s followers.
It also comes after Mugabe, as well as the National Patriotic Front (NPF) — a fledgling political outfit that is linked to him and his erratic wife Grace — openly rooted for Chamisa in last July’s presidential poll, which Mnangagwa won by an unexpectedly small margin.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) this week, Chamisa robustly leapt to the defence of Mugabe, who many Zanu PF supporters want hauled over the coals for “disrespecting” Mnangagwa.
“He (Mugabe) is our old man … it is African to always acknowledge an elder, even if you differ with him … you cannot have a future without the past.
“In order for us to have a durable foundation for the future, we need to locate the broken debris of the past so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of yester-year.
“It’s actually unAfrican to humiliate an elderly African Statesman. He (Mugabe) is a Statesman … we have issues … but you can’t repair your past by mourning over it. You can’t restore the losses of yester-year on account of vindictiveness,” Chamisa said.
“Yes, there were issues that were done wrongly and what we want is a reparative and restorative path so that we are able to repair and restore things where there were some challenges.
“Mugabe is a factor … he is our former president and going forward we need a discourse that is above him and beyond him,” the MDC leader added.
Chamisa’s deliberate defence of Mugabe comes after Mnangagwa’s allies recently expressed extreme anger with the nonagenarian’s withering attacks on his successor, especially last month, following the ugly fuel riots which broke out around the country in January.
In his latest assault on Mnangagwa, Mugabe chose his 95th birthday celebrations at his palatial Borrowdale home — which is commonly referred to as the Blue Roof — to savage Mnangagwa.
“You want to shower yourself with praises despite being at the top? You are not God ED. Today you are at the top, tomorrow you will be at the bottom. Keep that in mind.
“God has his own way of punishing rogues and cruel people.
“He who is obsessed with seeing corpses every day will soon realise that people would clamour too to see his corpse one day. I say to soldiers ‘stop killing people’.
“What you are doing (killing people) is going to catch up with you very, very soon. Just tomorrow, it would have caught up with you,” the bitter Mugabe warned Mnangagwa in reports that were relayed to the outside world with relish by his ecstatic associates.
The nonagenarian was, in his rant, referring to the recent riots in which up to 20 people were killed when angry protesters clashed with security forces during a stay-away called by labour unions.
Pro-democracy and rights groups alleged that some rogue soldiers had also raped women during night raids, although the military has denied the allegations saying this had supposedly been done by armed robbers and former members who had deserted the security forces.
The January riots were sparked by steep fuel price hikes which were announced by Mnangagwa himself ahead of his trip to Eastern Europe.
Mugabe’s recent attacks against Mnangagwa caught many by surprise as he was lately seen to be tolerant of the country’s ‘‘new dispensation’’ — even going to the extent, at some point, of praising his successor for “helping” his family.
Reacting to the nonagenarian’s latest attacks on Mnangagwa and his government, senior Zanu PF officials called for tough action against him, while also bemoaning the fact that he was being treated like a “little god” by his successor.
The officials from the ruling party’s youth and women’s leagues said as Mugabe was “unrepentant”, he did not deserve “the respect” that he was being accorded by Mnangagwa and the government.
Defence deputy minister and war veterans secretary-general Victor Matemadanda even went further and warned Mugabe that he risked a backlash over the many “crimes” he had committed while he was in high office.
This included facing questions on the highly emotive Gukurahundi massacres which had seen an estimated 20 000 innocent people — mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands — being killed by the army in the early to mid 1980s.