Grace Mugabe visited Gwina Farm — one of her numerous farms — in Banket in late February and said something telling. She boldly told her farm workers who were demanding their terminal benefits that she would not buckle because not even President Emmerson Mnangagwa could touch her.
By TAWANDA MAJONI
That wasn’t a suicidal statement from a bitter former first lady who was stopped from landing the presidency by Mnangagwa and the army. In a way, she was stating what looks like the truth. Ordinarily, you would expect Grace to be grovelling at Mnangagwa because, at the surface, her life is straight under his grip.
The trip to court can be a short and fast one if Mnangagwa and his military friends decide to prosecute her. But then, it is unlikely that they will summon the courage to haul her into the dock any time soon. And that is simply because she is married to Robert Mugabe, the man too hot for Mnangagwa to touch, at least for all the time before the 2018 elections.
Just last week, the world got worked up at the news that police were closing in on Grace for alleged smuggling of ivory worth millions of dollars to the United Arab Emirates, China and the United States. According to investigations carried out by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority whose findings are now with the police, Grace would use her influence to demand export permits for the ivory that she claimed would be given to international dignitaries as gifts. Once outside the country, the ivory would be diverted to the black market.
The case against Grace and her alleged accomplices in the Office of the President and Cabinet looks strong on paper. This partially explains the worldwide excitement. Chances are slim, though, that the police are going to take her to court any time soon. The ivory smuggling revelations are more designed to embarrass Grace and her husband than to ensure the wheels of justice turn their course. Embarrassing the two through the media is a safe strategy for the Mnangagwa administration which can’t afford the risk of a boomeranging prosecution of Grace.
The post-coup establishment has already shown its timidity to directly deal with Grace and, by implication, Mugabe. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has, weirdly, already excluded her from prosecution over the doctoral degree she obtained fraudulently in 2014. According to Zacc, Grace must not be tried because she was an innocent beneficiary of the degree. As I argued in this column recently, that doesn’t stick. Grace must have known that she was participating in crime, so the ignorance that Zacc claimed on her behalf can’t be a defence. Simply put, Grace is supposed to have her day in court.
Excluding Grace from prosecution is not only embarrassing, but fraudulent too. It shows that nothing has changed from Mugabe’s days in office. Zacc is still being used as a political tool to advance certain interests. In this case, it looks clear that the new dispensation ordered Zacc to steer clear of Grace because touching her would backfire on the new rulers.
Mnangagwa is just too scared of Mugabe. This is because the man he booted out with the help of the army can say and do things that can fatally harm him and his political career. Mugabe knows just too much about Mnangagwa, just as the latter is also too intimate with his former boss’s dark past. The ex-president, who is acutely bitter that his dream to rule Zimbabwe till he turned 100 or died, whichever came first, went up in smoke the day Mnangagwa and the military decided on a soft coup, can do dangerous things any time, especially if he feels that his former deputy has crossed the red line.
He has already hinted at what he can do. Never mind his rambling complaint that the current administration is unconstitutional and must, therefore, somehow, be legitimised. Mugabe, in a recent interview, revealed that it was Mnangagwa who used the intelligence services to persecute Dumiso Dabengwa during the Gukurahundi days. That is throwing thick mud at his former aide. Mugabe, therefore, looks capable of revealing Mnangagwa’s damaging past ill-deeds.
The current president is scared that Mugabe can easily open the closet and show skeletons that will definitely ruin his chances of winning the coming elections. Let’s imagine, for instance, that the former president calls a press conference and claims that Mnangagwa is the one who killed Solomon Mujuru, and even goes further to give convincing details about that. This is not to imply that Mnangagwa did it, of course. The “revelation” would severely damage Mnangagwa, it would be difficult for him to ever rise again. But there is a possibility that Mugabe can say worse things that Mnangagwa would rather have tucked away from the world for good.
Mugabe can decide to spill the beans if he feels too cornered by Mnangagwa. He is a bitter old man. That is precarious enough. He is married to a loose cannon in the form of Grace and is getting desperate advice from his wife’s close circle.
It’s not too naïve to believe media reports indicating that Mnangagwa is seeking to reach out to Mugabe to make peace, especially after the latter started hollering from the Blue Roof. There is no tall tale in reports that Roman Catholic cleric, Fidelis Mukonori, and politician Jimayi Muduvuri have of late been reaching out to Mugabe to pave the way for “peace talks” between Mugabe and Mnangagwa.
Granted, Mugabe needs talks with Mnangagwa so that his pension and other benefits are guaranteed. But the current president is clearly too anxious to appease his former leader as well. He wants Mugabe to zip up so that his political boat enjoys some form of stability ahead of the elections and, better still, after. And smoking the peace pipe with Mugabe involves, outside the talks, ensuring that the ex-president does not become too angered by the prosecution of Grace which her husband will easily consider as persecution.
That takes us back to ground zero. We may wish as much as we want, but Grace will not be getting her day in the dock any time soon. If the new dispensation was not too scared of Mugabe, she would be having her time at Chikurubi by now. And the fact that nothing of that nature is happening lends weight to Grace’s bold declaration that Mnangagwa can’t touch her.
l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on email@example.com. – This was first published by the Standard