FORMER President Robert Mugabe’s association with the newly formed National Patriotic Front (NPF) led by Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri has infuriated President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the government and Zanu PF, setting the stage for a political showdown between the deposed veteran leader and his erstwhile confidante.
By Owen Gagare/Bernard Mpofu
Following a meeting between Mugabe and Mutinhiri at the former president’s “Blue Roof” mansion in Borrowdale on Sunday, the official announcement of the formation of NPF and its registration with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the country drifted into uncharted political territory in which Mnangagwa and his former boss are fighting on unfamiliar territory.
As the gloves come off, some military personnel rounded up “Blue Roof” staff on Wednesday morning including the mansion’s comptroller Funny Mpofu, who is basically the chief security guard, to quiz them on the visitors Mugabe has been receiving and the agenda of their meetings.
The staff were rounded up in the morning and questioned throughout the day. They were released in the evening. This happened after Mugabe had left for South Africa to visit his sons. Grace had also left the residence when the raid occurred,
“There is a dangerous situation developing at President Mugabe’s residence. Soldiers took workers from there in the morning for apparent interrogation at some barracks and the workers have not returned. The former first lady is very anxious and not sure whether to remain there. It’s a dangerous developing situation,” a security officer close to the developments told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday.
“Retribution continues, everyone who worked here is just being harassed.”
The quizzing of staff came after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) withdrew the last three remaining high-ranking bodyguards who were providing security to Mugabe’s residence, a move government officials said was in response to the former president’s political manoeuvres.
According to a memo written by the police chief, Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, several officers including Mugabe’s aides Martin Kwainona (Senior Assistant Commissioner Police Protection Unit) and Vincent Mariga (Assistant Commissioner Police Protection Unit) have been reassigned to the Economic Surveillance Unit and Depot as Assistant Commissioner in charge of administration respectively. The memo, which resulted in the redeployment of 29 other senior officers, was dated March 3, 2018.
Grace’s aide, Olga Bungu, who was also working for the Police Protection Unit, was reassigned to the Economic Surveillance Unit.
Mnangagwa also reduced security personnel and whittled down his allowances following a recent meeting between the former president and ex-vice-president and National People’s Party (NPP) leader Joice Mujuru at his “Blue Roof” palatial home in Borrowdale.
Addressing the Zanu PF youth league assembly on Wednesday, Mnangagwa confirmed that the fallout with Mugabe had deepened, saying his administration was closely monitoring his moves. He said government would take appropriate action if it is proven that Mugabe’s actions undermine the cohesion of the State.
“The former president paita nyaya (there is an issue). Currently we see in the media speculations about his activities. I have no doubt that in no time the facts and reality will be made known and we will only take a position when the reality and the issues are known and it is factual,” Mnangagwa said.
Zanu PF youths also shouted Pasi naMugabe (Down with Mugabe) at the meeting, where youth league secretary Pupurai Togarepi said Mugabe was now Zanu PF’s enemy.
Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s relationship deteriorated as a result of the protracted succession battles in Zanu PF which culminated in Mugabe being toppled after a military intervention in November last year. The military action is widely seen as a coup.
Prior to the military intervention, Mugabe had on November 6 dismissed Mnangagwa from Zanu PF and expelled him from the party. Mugabe was however forced to resign after the military took over strategic places countrywide, detained him at his house and violently raided the houses of his backers, detaining scores of people in the process.
His resignation came after a march by thousands of people in support of the military action, his expulsion from Zanu PF by the central committee and the commencement of impeachment proceedings by parliament.
Mugabe last month told African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat that he was pressured by the army to resign and obliged in order to avoid conflict and bloodshed. He said Mnangagwa was illegally in power. He also accused him of denying him his benefits and harassing his wife.
Mnangagwa was sworn-in as president on November 24 after returning from exile in South Africa, where he had fled following his sacking.
Officials in NPF told the Independent that the party had its roots in the G40 faction which was fronted by Grace and had the support of Mugabe behind the scenes. Through NPF Mugabe is hoping to ring fence the Mashonaland provinces from Mnangagwa, whom he believes will fair badly in urban areas and the Matabeleland provinces because of his association with Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980s.
They revealed that after a series of negotiations during the military operation, Mugabe and his G40 supporters initially thought a resolution could be found, possibly with regional intervention.
They said there was strong belief that the situation could be reversed and when Mugabe made his “asante sana” speech, the G40 group thought of forming an anti-coup resistance movement.
But when Mugabe was forced to resign, key G40 personnel who were scattered in several countries including Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Kenya decided to abandon the resistance movement partly because consultations had become difficult due to distance between them.
After Cabinet was sworn in on December 4, a 15-member team then met on December 7 to discuss how to respond.
“The team got in touch with Mugabe to share ideas. One of the principles agreed was that Mugabe will not be involved directly in the party. It was also agreed that Grace will not be directly involved as an active leader and that the leader of the party must be within the country,” an NPF official said.
“It was agreed that the movement will operate underground although at some point its leader and those close to him must come out. The others were to remain in the background.
“There were some misunderstandings within the group as some people in exile including former political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere wanted to lead the party. He however faced resistance because there were questions over how he would lead while in exile. There was also concern that he was negotiating with Mnangagwa and the military to return, and could therefore not effectively lead.”
Officials said Kasukuwere then withdrew from the project.
Kasukuwere has been negotiating with Mnangagwa and the military through emissaries. His wife and children, who fled the country after their home was raided by soldiers twice in November, have since returned to Zimbabwe.
Some people associated with G40, including former ministers Walter Mzembi and Makhosini Hlongwane, have informed Mugabe they will not join the project as they are negotiating with Mnangagwa and the military.
Before settling for Mujuru, the group considered approaching former defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi to lead the movement but he was turned down as he was considered weak. Mujuru was also asked to consider leading the party when she met Mugabe at the end of January.
She did not give a response, resulting in Mutinhiri assuming the task. Mutinhiri was considered because he was a prominent war veteran and former Zipra chief of staff. He served in the military after independence and has been a minister.
In the resignation letters dated March 2 and addressed to Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda, the former Zipra commander said he was now joining people who were working to restore democracy in Zimbabwe.
“I leave Zanu PF because of my principled stance that I cannot be part of an institution that harbours power usurpers bent on subjugating our people,” part of the letter to Mpofu reads.
Giving up his Marondera West seat, Mutinhiri said he took the decision after thorough consideration of the events of the past four months after the “unconstitutional overthrow of Mugabe.”
He said Mugabe was illegally replaced by Mnangagwa after a military coup on November 15.
“It is a matter of profound national concern to me that, subsequent to the military coup, Zanu PF as well as government and state institutions have been captured by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in blatant and unprecedented violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” he said.
The former minister, once touted as a potential vice-president, said as a trained soldier, a former freedom fighter, a former Zipra commander during the war, a former diplomat and ex-cabinet minister, he was alive to the values and ethos of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle.
“The fundamental values and tenets of both Zimbabwe’s heroic liberation struggle and the constitution of Zimbabwe dictate that executive authority is derived from the people and not from the gun,” reads part of the letter to Mudenda.
“In other words, the enduring principle of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle and constitutional democracy is that politics must always lead the gun.
“The ZDF coup of November 15 2017 violated a cherished heritage of our armed liberation struggle and of our hard-won constitutional democracy.”
He accused the security forces of abusing their positions “to turn the guns they were entrusted with by the people of Zimbabwe to defend their sovereignty, into weapons to shoot their way into national politics.”