FORMER President Robert Mugabe planned to return to the country at the end of this month and mutually agreed to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa upon his homecoming before his untimely death last Friday, Director-General (DG) in the President’s Office Mr Isaac Moyo said.
According to State media; DG Moyo, who was the point man in liaisons between the State and the former First Family, said the former President died around 4am at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore despite having briefly shown signs of improvement earlier in the week. Cde Mugabe spent five months receiving treatment in Singapore.
The State materially supported Mugabe and his family’s upkeep during the period. In an hour-long interview with our Harare Bureau yesterday, in which he described intricate details of his time with the Mugabes, Mr Moyo gave details of how he had learnt of the devastating news of Cde Mugabe’s demise in the wee hours of Friday after having communicated daily with Mrs Mugabe last week.
“Last Saturday, I got a call from Amai Mugabe and she said that the former President had been admitted to hospital. We again spoke on Sunday and she said there was not much change. We spoke earlier in the week and she said that his condition had improved. However, on Wednesday night, she said there had been a significant deterioration in his condition.
“That day, she spoke in an agonised voice and I did the best I could to comfort her. I spoke to her again on Thursday, in the morning and in the evening and she said the situation was really bad. When I woke up at around 4am on Friday morning, I saw a missed WhatsApp call from the former First Lady and I immediately sensed that something was wrong. Ever since we had communicated, she had not called around that time.
“Upon returning the call, she conveyed the sad news that the former President had passed on. She broke down and it was painful hearing her voice from the other side of the phone,” he said.
Grace Mugabe had told her that Mr Mugabe passed on “between two to three minutes” after the missed call.
Mr Moyo said soon after speaking to the former First Lady, he conveyed the message to President Mnangagwa, who informed him that he would call Amai Mugabe to convey his condolences.
“At that point, I needed to advise the President and I called him just after 4am. Fortunately, the President is the type of person who picks up his phone, unlike others whom when you call at night you are lucky to get answered. He picked up his phone from Cape Town and I broke the news to him. After that, the President then also called Mai Mugabe to say that he had heard the news and to convey his condolences.”
“The former President hoped he was going to come back home and that he wished to see the former President upon his return. We had told him that the President looked forward to seeing him upon his return and he had also expressed similar sentiments that he would be delighted to meet the President. And at that time, we were told that the last date of his medical engagements was the 17th of October and that soon after he would return home. A week after our return, I then got a call from Mrs Mugabe and she said that the treatment regime that the former President was having would no longer be extended to October, it would end in September instead and because of that, they were now scheduled to come back home at the end of September.”
DG Moyo said since last year, he had developed a cordial relationship with the Mugabes, characterised by frank engagements with the couple who freely opened up to him on their concerns.
“For the last year, in fact even before the elections, the President assigned me to be the linkman between former President Robert Mugabe and his wife . . . Members of the Mugabe family like Walter Chidhakwa and Albert Mugabe (nephews to Mugabe) visited me and told me of their desire to visit Singapore and from that time I had also informed the President, in turn he had tasked me to work with the family, and he tasked me to ensure that they were able to go.
“We had actually assisted the former First Lady’s sister — Mrs Gumbochuma — to go to Singapore. She did not have a passport and we used our good relations with the Registrar-General to consider treating her passport application as a humanitarian emergency.”
DG Moyo said he was surprised to see news that Mugabe had refused to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.
“I saw it in the newspapers. When we went there to see the former President, there was absolutely none of that. I was actually surprised to see it in one of the newspapers. If they had such a feeling, they had managed to hide it from us. You can see from the description I gave there was no hint of that. We actually had a very good engagement. Even when I engaged with Walter and Albert, they knew what Government had been doing for the former President, they were full of praise for the President. They knew that Government had gone out of its way to support the former President to have stayed that long in Singapore.”
DG Moyo said last year, Mugabe visited Singapore for routine medical check-ups before returning home, but this year, doctors had requested for an extension of his time under treatment.
“He was staying in a house that he was renting privately. It was not paid for by Government, but from his own resources. Government only paid for his medicals. But the accommodation he paid for himself. It was fairly small (single storey) Singaporean suburban house that was convenient for his condition.”
He added that the former President never voted for MDC A leader Nelson Chamisa in the past elections.
DG Moyo said: “Of course here and there, there were also moments we had our tensions. I remember when I first went to see him after his Press conference, where he announced he was going to vote for Chamisa. We really had an exchange that day, but what then emerged was that he said despite having threatened to vote for Chamisa, he actually did not vote for Chamisa and I was told on how on the eve of the elections, he had agonised, he could not sleep. According to the former First Lady, he had woken up around 2am somewhere and he said he could not sleep and the idea that he would go and vote for Chamisa was rebuffed, he could not do that.
“And the former First Lady said she then encouraged him to follow his real wishes and to vote for comrades he has always been with and not to worry about the small matters between them, and so the former First Lady, with the concurrence of Mugabe himself, said he had not voted for MDC, but he had voted correctly, I found that funny and I enjoyed the story.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, who is also the Presidential spokesperson, Cde George Charamba, said the former President was expected to be buried on Sunday at the National Heroes’ Acre. His body is expected in the country on Wednesday.
He said contrary to reports in some sections of the media, there was never any differences in opinion between Government and family on where the former President would be buried.
“It is the timeline that we are working with, but subject to confirmation with the leadership. The major decisions will be taken tomorrow in the context of the proposed programme,” said Charamba.
The body of the founding President of Zimbabwe is expected to be received at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Mugabe and Marufu family members and chiefs from Zvimba.
Upon its arrival, the body is expected to be taken to Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba. While a proper funeral programme is yet to be pronounced, provisional plans are that the former President’s body would be placed in the giant National Sports Stadium, where mourners from all the country’s provinces would have the opportunity to pay their last respects.
A team of Government officials, the Mugabe and Marufu family members and Zanu-PF party representatives is to travel to Singapore today or tomorrow to assist the wife of the former President, Mrs Grace Mugabe, in repatriating the body.
Emerging from a meeting with traditional leaders from the Gushungo clan in Zvimba yesterday, family spokesperson Mr Leo Mugabe told the media that it was befitting to include chiefs in preparations for Mugabe’s burial, since he was a chief in the Gushungo clan. He also denied media reports that the former President had refused to be interred at the National Heroes’ Acre.