FORMER president Robert Mugabe (pictured) has accused several of his former Zanu PF lieutenants of betraying him in his hour of need and launched a fresh attack on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga for his role in his removal from power, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
Mugabe, who is still bitter about his overthrow in November last year, met with former Mashonaland East governor and Zanu PF regional chairman Ray Kaukonde at his “Blue Roof” mansion in Harare’s leafy Borrowdale suburb last week on Wednesday, where he poured his heart out once more. He singled out Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, Zanu PF’s secretary of finance Patrick Chinamasa, and Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda as sellouts and did not seem keen on forgiving the trio.
According to reliable sources, during the meeting, Mugabe apologised to Kaukonde for hounding him out of the party in 2014 at the same time and attacked Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, accusing them of sedition. Chiwenga was at the forefront of the November 2017 coup that dethroned Mugabe when he was commander of the armed forces, to Mnangagwa’s benefit.
A strangely repentant Mugabe, sources said, requested to meet with Kaukonde where he told him he regretted axing him from the party at the height of the purges of former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s allies in the run-up to the 2014 Zanu PF congress. However, typical of Mugabe, he did not accept responsibility for the purges as he claimed to have been influenced by unnamed senior Zanu PF officials who were fighting a terminal factional and succession war at the time, chaperoned by Mnangagwa, then justice minister.
In February, Mugabe also met with Mujuru and apologised for her ouster in Zanu PF. Sources say Mugabe also wanted Kaukonde to mediate between him and Mujuru so that he could render support to his former deputy who is one of the 23 presidential candidates eyeing the presidency.
Mujuru, who leads her own National People’s Party (NPP), is representing the Rainbow Coalition — a cocktail of parties challenging Zanu PF in the elections. According to sources, Mugabe said he felt the need to apologise to Kaukonde, who was booted out of Zanu PF in humiliating fashion after Mugabe’s wife Grace led a crusade against Mujuru and her backers, seen as the stumbling block to her rise to power.
“During the meeting, Mugabe apologised for removing him from the party for siding with Mujuru. He said he felt he needed to do so after having apologised to Mujuru. He said his decisions were influenced by ED (Mnangagwa’s initials) and Chiwenga. He actually said Chiwenga came in his military fatigues and sat in the chair behind him with a long military-style dagger and insisted that Mujuru and her allies should be removed from the party. He said he feared the long knife, something which Kaukonde appeared to disbelieve,” a source said.
The source said Kaukonde later confided in his friends that he had no problem forgiving Mugabe, but it would take a lot more for him to forgive Grace. According to the source, Mugabe then went on to outline the personal sense of betrayal that clearly still pre-occupies him while also devoting a generous amount of time to narrate his enduring sense of victimhood.
Mugabe is said to have branded Mnangagwa and Chiwenga as the two biggest traitors and his arch-enemies who conspired to wrest the presidency away from him after he had kept firm claws on power for a staggering 37 years.
“He had no kind words for those two. He blamed them for everything that has happened to him and kept referring to them as traitors,” the source said.
Early this year, Mugabe described Mnangagwa as an “illegal and illegitimate president” who rose to power through the barrel of the gun and yearned for assistance from the African Union to restore his presidency. Mugabe apparently does not attach much value to his resignation on November 21 last year, which he tendered under immense pressure from the army and following demonstrations that rocked the country.
His party, Zanu PF, had also recalled him while parliament had initiated the process of impeaching him. In addition to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, Mugabe also told Kaukonde that he felt betrayed by Mpofu, Chinamasa and Mudenda.
“He felt that Mudenda had sold him out when he agreed to preside over the process to impeach him on November 21 last year. Mpofu led the process of recalling him as the Zanu PF president and first secretary while Chinamasa’s sin was that he provided the legal perspectives which the party took in dealing with him. He has not forgiven all of them,” the source further said.
Mugabe also took a swipe at former defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, describing him as “a spineless lame duck that could not stand for what he believed in”. During the vicious factional war between Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste faction and the Generation 40 faction led by Grace, Sekeramayi had been touted as the potential successor to Mugabe. However, when his former master was being toppled, he opted for safety and found himself participating in events that led to his political demise. Mugabe told Kaukonde, who comes from the same Mashonaland East province as Sekeramayi, that he was disappointed that Sekeramayi had never bothered to reach out to him since the November coup.
Sekeramayi is currently campaigning heavily for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF in his home province despite having been sidelined for cabinet and politburo appointments by Mnangagwa.
Mugabe then turned his attention to former foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi, describing him as a very loyal and respectful man who stood by him throughout the coup period.
“He (Mugabe) said Mzembi was loyal and trustworthy. Apparently, Mzembi was hiding somewhere and kept Mugabe well-informed about what was happening during the Operation (Restore Legacy) and so he earned Mugabe’s respect,” the source said.
On the advent of the coup, Mzembi also apparently wrote a letter to Southern African Development Community (Sadc) executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax in his capacity as foreign affairs minister, appealing for the regional bloc’s urgent intervention to stop the coup, but to no avail. Mugabe told Kaukonde that he felt betrayed by Sadc regional leaders who did not even attempt to save him. He, however, singled out Zambian President Edgar Lungu, whom he said had expressed willingness to intervene, but feared he had no capacity to confront the Zimbabwean military alone. Mugabe also said that the only Sadc country which had the capacity to avert the coup was South Africa, but its president at the time, Jacob Zuma, was not interested in helping.
Throughout the conversation, the source said, Grace sat on the armrest of Mugabe’s chair, making frequent interjections.
Kaukonde is said to have agreed to forgive Mugabe given the former president’s advanced age, but remained sceptical whether the ex-Zanu PF leader meant his words. Contacted for comment Kaukonde said: “I took a sabbatical from politics and you are hounding me. I am at the farm and not involved in politics. Who was there when that happened? Where do you people get such kind of things? I do not want to be involved in politics now. I made a decision to walk away, so please leave me alone,” he said.
Mzembi was also not reachable as he was said to be currently outside the country.