BRIDGET MANANAVIRE/TINASHE KAIRIZA
FORMER first lady Grace Mugabe this week poured her heart out to visiting South Africa’s opposition leader Julius Malema, chronicling the ordeal the late president Robert Mugabe reportedly endured from the time he was toppled from power through a millitary coup until his death in Singapore.
Malema, who leads the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, jetted into the country aboard a chartered plane this week and was whisked to the expansive Mugabe home in Borrowdale, Harare, where he paid his condolences to the family of the late former president.
Sources said after concluding viewing the body inside the Mugabe mansion, commonly known as the Blue Roof on Monday, Malema and his EFF delegation held a lengthy meeting with Grace, her children Bona, Robert Junior and Chatunga, as well as other close family relatives and a few trusted family friends who are still keeping the family company.
Grace, sources said, keenly narrated to Malema and his team how President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration had persecuted Mugabe since he was dethroned in a military coup in 2017.
Malema later addressed a press conference, castigating those who “tormented Mugabe to his death”, appearing to pluck a leaf from the briefing.
Sources close to the Mugabe family vividly narrated how Grace walked Malema through the journey from the time Mugabe was toppled from power, right to his last days in Singapore.
“Malema paid his condolences to Grace, offering his sympathy. After that she (Grace) then told him that Mugabe had travelled to Singapore not necessarily on medical grounds as government earlier thought. She said he was only admitted to hospital five days before he passed away,” a source who attended the meeting briefed the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday.
Another source said Grace indicated that Mugabe may have died from stress-related illnesses, contrary to Mnangagwa’s disclosures at a gathering in New York on Sunday that the fallen former political stalwart had died from cancer.
Although Mugabe had cancer, they believe his demise was accelerated by the persecution he endured.“She clearly stated that the former president was in good health when he went to Singapore and was only admitted to hospital nearly two months or so after his arrival there,” a source said.
“Grace also said Mugabe never had peace since he left office and always complained about the state of affairs in the country and felt his family was insecure.”
Government is in the process of constructing a giant mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre where it plans to have the remains of Mugabe interred.
Malema however came out guns blazing urging the government not to force the Mugabe family to bury the former president at the Heroes Acre against his dying wish and the family’s wishes.
Grace’s averments dovetail with the narrative of Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao who has said Mugabe travelled to Singapore to escape from his tormentors.
“The old man loved watching news on television. However, since his unceremonious ousting from power in a coup in 2017, most of his former allies had turned against him and were uttering obscenities against him on a regular basis, something that scarred him immensely.
“For his own peace of mind, he decided to leave the country. For the five months that he spent in Singapore, only five days leading up to his death were spent in hospital receiving medical care,” Zhuwao said during a live television interview in South Africa at the time of Mugabe’s death.
Mugabe’s first born daughter, Bona, also indicated in her speech at the rural home in Zvimba that the former strongman did not have peace during the last days of his life.
“I wish he could have had more joy in this life. It breaks my heart when I think about his life. I want to thank to thank my mother for holding it down during the whole time taking care of father, even during the hard time she was alone taking care of him. And she did an amazing job,” Bona said.
In his press conference address, Malema appeared to follow a carefully crafted script as he used his trademark bluntness to take a dig at Mnangagwa and his administration, describing them as “chancers who can never fill Mugabe’s big shoes”.
“We are here to tell her (former First Lady Grace Mugabe) in person that we are very proud of her and she serves as an inspiration to a lot of us and that she must protect ex-President Mugabe’s legacy with everything against any form of opportunism which will want to ride behind the legacy of President Mugabe even when they tormented him to the last day,” Malema said in his address.
Mugabe himself at one time pointed out that he did not feel safe in the country and that his helpers were being harassed by the state.
Mugabe told the African Union’s Moussa Faki Mahamat when he visited him last year that his family was unsafe.”They told you I was safe, but how can I be in this environment?” Mugabe told Faki.
“My wife is crying daily. They are persecuting her… What am I without my wife and family? We are not safe.”