Mugabe reluctant to take action against Zanu PF Wiki-Leakers
By Dumisani Muleya/ Faith Zaba
President Robert Mugabe has uncharacteristically balked at taking action against senior Zanu PF officials exposed in secret United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks as clandestinely campaigning to remove him due to leadership failures, old age and ill-health.
A number of top government officials — including Mugabe’s potential successors Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — met US diplomats, considered enemies of the state in Zanu PF circles, to discuss Zimbabwe’s political and security situation. American envoys also met ministers, Zanu PF politburo members and army commanders.
Mugabe’s back-off is apparently seen within as a sign of political weakness on his part as his grip on the party falters, while he grows frail due to age and health failures. Mugabe is said to be suffering from prostate cancer which has metastasised, spreading to other parts of the body.
Briefings of the Zimbabwe Independent this week by officials close to Mugabe show the veteran ruler thought better of the idea of taking action against those named as his internal rivals who want him to go. It was said Mugabe reached the decision before he left for the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.
“The president took a decision before travelling to the UN General Assembly that there would be no action at the government or party level against those involved in secret meetings with US diplomats to discuss local issues, some of which were very sensitive,” a senior official close to Mugabe’s office said.
“So there will be no measures taken against anybody in the party. If at all, the president will only act strategically and structurally during the course of time.”
This came as a relief to those who feared a fierce backlash. Government insiders say Mugabe discussed the issue with his advisors, mainly in the state security structures, and found it prudent to let the issue pass, at least for now. They said Mugabe did not want to destabilise Zanu PF and undermine himself before the next elections which he still hopes to contest despite mounting pressure for him to retire.
Most Zanu PF officials want Mugabe to quit before the next polls, particularly if the elections are held in 2013 when it would be considered irrational or impractical to field him as a candidate at 89. There is also widespread regional pressure for Mugabe to retire. Even Mugabe’s own doctors want him to be pensioned off.
Sources said Mugabe had to plot a course of backing away from confronting his internal rivals and critics because he feared that taking action would unravel his grip on power because of the high profile nature of those involved and the scale of the problem. State security hardliners, already acting within their own domains, were reportedly not happy with that.
“After carefully assessing the situation he felt it would be wise to manage the situation by doing nothing, even at the risk of him appearing as if he was being managed by events instead of him managing them,” another official said. “It’s a better way of dealing with a crisis situation like this than adopting a kneejerk reaction.”
After WikiLeaks released secret US cables, Mugabe endured extraordinarily miserable weeks, cutting a lonely and isolated figure on the political landscape, while senior Zanu PF officials scurried for cover amid pressure from party old- timers like Didymus Mutasa, secretary for administration, and Rugare Gumbo, spokesman, for them to be punished.
However, after Mugabe’s consultations, internal pressure to discipline those involved in the WikiLeaks disclosures was stymied. This was actually proved by the failure of the Zanu PF politburo last week to discuss the issue. The matter has mainly been discussed within the corridors of power than in formal meetings.
Sources said Mugabe’s public explanation for not acting would be that he was aware of those meetings anyway. Efforts to get comment from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba this week failed as he was said to be in New York.
However, Charamba in his weekly column in the state-run Herald, Nathaniel Manheru, which he writes under a pseudonym, apparently based on information gleaned from his interaction with his boss and other senior officials, tried to advance that argument – that he knew anyway.
“There is hardly anything new to emerge from WikiLeaks,” we are told. “Details may be there. Nuances and brilliant quotes probably. But generally who was doing what with the Americans, all that was quite known,” he said in a move which seemed calculated to answer questions about where the intelligence services were when all this was happening and also justify Mugabe’s failure to act.
“And such contacts were beyond Americans, to encompass many other Western embassies. (Julian) Assange (WikiLeaks founder) just happens to have caught up with the blunderous. They are not the only ones; not even the worst.
By way of actual substance itself, there was no news in the fact that some Zanu PF elements had a hand in the formation of the MDC, let alone in the subsequent fall-out between the MDC leadership and those elements in Zanu PF. There was no enigma in the formation of Mavambo, or those inside Zanu PF who were behind it. What was rather surprising was why this element in Zanu PF balked from the ultimate, namely excising themselves from the main body to join their project.” Zimbabwe Independent