HARARE – A deal has been put on the table to end the bickering between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, as the ruling Zanu PF party races against time to end internal discord before harmonised elections to be held by July 31, the Daily News can report.
By Gift Phiri
Mugabe, 94, a stubborn but charismatic figure revered for leading the struggle for liberation, yet reviled for rights abuses, electoral theft and vandalising the economy during his 37 years in power, was ousted in a soft military coup that enthroned Mnangagwa, 75, last November.
There has been palpable tension between the two erstwhile allies, with Mugabe accusing his successor of ill-treating him, ruling unconstitutionally and also alleging the country was now under military rule.
A plan to draw Mugabe and Mnangagwa into a binding rapprochement process looks like a last, desperate gamble by key figures of the Generation 40 (G40) political faction — the target of the coup by the military — who are keen to end one of the ruling party’s most intractable feuds since its formation in 1963.
The deal involves bringing the long ruling veteran from the cold as a ruling party “elder” to back his former deputy’s presidential bid in mid-year elections.
Former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi — who was expelled from the ruling party in November 2017 and subsequently expelled from Parliament but insists his “heart and soul remains embedded in the ideals, principles and ideological construct of Zanu PF” — is attempting to bring together the feuding leaders for a national dialogue as tensions escalate, amid untested claims that Mugabe is surreptitiously sponsoring opposition to Mnangagwa in a vengeful bid to torpedo his presidential bid.
The deal involves Mugabe settling into the rhythm of private life as a hero of the revolution and father of his country, and embracing the Mnangagwa administration and coming to terms with it as well as giving it stability and direction if asked.
It envisages Mugabe retiring to a life outside of the public eye and publishing his memoirs, with a ceremonial advisory role.
The Daily News can report that G40 has now split, with an exiled faction led by propagandist and acerbic former Information minister Jonathan Moyo now backing the National Patriotic Front (NPF), led in the interim by retired brigadier-general Ambrose Mutinhiri, in what is likely to split the ruling party vote at the forthcoming polls.
Another faction of G40 members led by Mzembi, who is on a political sabbatical, and former Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane — which remains in Zimbabwe — is pushing the initiative to bring Mugabe and Mnangagwa to the negotiating table, and possibly also get the purged G40 cabal readmitted into the party.
The ruling party’s politburo on Wednesday, however, resolved that all expelled G40 cadres — comprising mainly the party’s intelligentsia which remains in orbit — can only be considered for readmission after five years, according to the party’s constitution.
The delicate talks, aimed at unifying the political arch rivals, and avoiding the complete implosion of Zanu PF so that it goes into the mid-year elections as one, united fighting party, is confronted with deep-seated suspicions and profound animosities.
Mzembi declined to comment on the delicate, ongoing talks.
“I am not at liberty to comment on that at this stage,” he told the Daily News.
Hlongwane told the Daily News: “I can’t talk about that.”
Mzembi’s initiative, first unveiled to Mugabe three weeks ago at his Blue Roof residence in the leafy Borrowdale suburb in Harare, followed a sharp escalation in hostilities between the two leaders.
The first meeting last month — attended by former first lady Grace Mugabe — lasted three-and-half hours, where the ex-ministers frantically persuaded Mugabe to accept that Mnangagwa’s rule which brought an abrupt end to his 37-year rule — was now irreversible.
Mugabe had initially ruled out any prospect of taking part in any talks with Mnangagwa insisting he seized power unconstitutionally.
But the two former ministers reportedly asked Mugabe to reflect on the consequences of his intransigence as a founding Zanu PF leader and his failure to reconcile with his successor, failure to unite a party he formed and the spectre of the nascent opposition exploiting the situation in its continuing effort to confine the ruling party to the dustbins of history.
The Daily News understands the talks were not easy, but Mugabe conceded the team had tabled a “superior argument” and then assigned the duo to hammer out a discussion document.
Interestingly, Grace also reportedly threw her weight behind the unity initiative aimed at making her husband and Mnangagwa find each other.
And on Thursday last week, Mugabe met again with Mzembi and Hlongwane at his Blue Roof residence in the absence of Grace in a tense meeting that reportedly lasted for four hours, and finally agreed to a deal to engage Mnangagwa for talks.
Grace later gave the talks a thumbs-up.
This was after Mugabe was run through a framework of engagement with Mnangagwa.
The initiative by Mzembi and Hlongwane — both former leaders of the Zimbabwe delegation to the African Caribbean and Pacific-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels — comes as Mnangagwa is cementing his leadership of a country increasingly eyed by investors for its impressive variety of mineral deposits comprising more than 60 minerals and metals.
The mooted deal hives out a significant chunk from a solution that had been cobbled by the Sadc Troika in Luanda and the regional bloc’s secretariat to diffuse the situation in Zimbabwe during the course of Operation Restore Legacy.
The Daily News understands after a tough debate at his Blue Roof mansion last week Thursday, Mzembi managed to persuade Mugabe to accept the proposition of a role similar to Zambian independence leader Kenneth Kaunda — who at 94 is the same age as Mugabe and is known as “Africa’s Gandhi”.
Mahatma Gandhi employed non-violent civil disobedience to lead India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
The former Cabinet ministers are yet to present the initiative to Mnangagwa.
It remains unclear if Mnangagwa would be willing to engage in dialogue, but Mugabe has reportedly assigned the brokers to reach out to the president and agree on a possible way forward for the sake of peace, unity and development — the ruling party’s central policy theme.
The talks should establish a timetable and an agenda for future meetings.
After Mzembi and Hlongwane’s meeting with Mugabe — a day before Mutinhiri also met the ousted former president — the State media claimed the duo has been conscripted into the retired brigadier-general’s NPF, an allegation the two have strenuously denied.
The two said their visit had absolutely nothing to do with the “fiction published”.
“It is not a crime for Zimbabweans to visit each other, let alone a former head of State; in fact it is a privilege and honour to ‘steal’ four hours of his retirement time which he should be sharing with his closest family and grandchildren,” the ex-ministers said in joint statement. – Daily News