By Andrew Kunambura
President Emmerson Mnangagwa believes former first lady Grace Mugabe had become mentally deranged during the last days of her husband’s presidency. He made the sensational disclosure in a wide-ranging interview with British newspaper, The Financial Times last week.
The two fought a fierce battle as they wrested for control of the ruling Zanu PF party.
A rampaging Grace took every opportunity to malign her husband’s aide for nearly six decades at public events, often lacing her intemperate speeches with consummate abhorrence, as she sought to jettison Mnangagwa from the vice president of the party and country.
Mnangagwa had indeed been out-manoeuvred by Grace an her Generation 40 (G40) faction after he was kicked out of Zanu PF and government, only to stage a stunning of comebacks via an interpolation by the military that swept aside all his nemeses.
In the interview with the Financial Times, Mnangagwa said he was convinced that the colourful former first lady had lost her mind in the mortifying quest for power.
“There was this group called the G40 group, led by the former first lady, using the former first lady as their means to achieve their objectives. But the man who was an obstacle to their agenda was myself. I was the most senior person after Mugabe in the party and I had so much support and popularity among the people, and they knew they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve with me in the party and with me on my feet,” he said.
“So, this is what happened. Then they mooted an agenda of rallies. One thing emerged very clearly: that the only two people who would address the rallies, that is the first lady first, the former first lady, and then the president. The first lady began just attacking me from nowhere: that my body language shows that I’m ambitious, the way I dance,” he said, referring to an incident where Grace accused him of pointing his fingers at himself while dancing to a hit song, Mudhara Vachauya, which was the signature tune to her husband’s public addresses.
“After the first lady castigates me (at a rally), I shake her hand. I said thank you very much. She becomes even more annoyed. Then the next day there was a rally. I didn’t go to that one, but I listened. So, I was being castigated there as a snake. And to deal with this snake you must crush the head. And this snake is Mnangagwa, we must crush the head, not beat the tail or the body.
“She went berserk on that one. At that stage now I believed she was not mentally OK. Then the next day I was fired at about four o’clock. I got a letter. In the terms of section so and so, you are fired with immediate effect,” he said.
Mnangagwa also claimed he knew people who administered the poison which almost claimed his life at a Zanu PF rally in Gwanda on August 12 last year.
“I suspect. I suspect as to who did it. They are still good friends of mine. I now suspect that they now know that I know. They now know that I know,” he said.
He also claimed that his doctors had identified the kind of poison he took as some rare “hard metal arsenic toxin” only found in Russia and Israel.
“They say it was called a hard metal arsenic toxin. Arsenic toxin, something like that. That’s the class of poison. And it’s not easy to come round with it. They say it is colourless, it is tasteless, and the areas where it could be found are possibly two. Three initially, professors in that area eliminated this one, and it was left with two countries. Russia and Israel. So it’s possible it came from Russia,” he said.
“They (doctors) were surprised that I survived because then you’ve heart attack, what they called cardiac arrest. Then the verdict of death would be death by cardiac arrest. So they kept me, you know, washing this out, I had something like 28 one side, you know, what do they call these sachets?
“In one side. And then the other side to wash the stuff out. So last week. This was in August. Last week I went there. They have now declared that I am now OK. It’s not visible anymore. The poison was testable, but not totally clear. But it means it’s not testable. That’s what they said. So maybe I’m the same club with you,” he added.
Mnangagwa also narrated how he refused to approve former president, Robert Mugabe’s plan to take a bloated number of 37 people to a routine medical check-up in Singapore late last year.
“He said he wanted to go to Singapore, I said, Sir, you’re most welcome. I will give every facilitation for you to proceed to Singapore. Then that was that. Then the list of people going to Singapore came to me. They were 38. A delegation of 38. So I phoned back and said, chef????That’s what we call each other. Boss, you’re going for a medical check-up; why do you want 38 people?
“Then he says, Emmerson, I don’t know that list. No one even told me. I never told you? Yes, OK. He says, I don’t know that there are 38 people. I know it’s myself, my wife, and my family. And we are hardly 10. I don’t know where the other 30? I said no, I have a list here of 36 plus yourself and the wife will be 38. So I can’t just approve 38 people just for you for a medical check-up; no.
“You know the new dispensation, I mean, we are trying . . . I have cut down the cabinet. It’s a leaner cabinet. And I’m also saying no minister travels first-class and so on. So I’m cutting expenses and that can’t be understood if you are going to go for medical check-up with a big number. He says, Emmerson . . . He never says Mr President, he just calls me . . . Just said Emmerson. Emmerson, send me that list. So I called the protocol people.
“Then they sent the list to him and they reduced the number down to 21. He says I can’t reduce any further; this is the number. That’s the number that then went. With him, it became 22, but the others were 21. He was then the 22. Then he went . . . But when he went in a 767 it carried these 22 people also to Singapore. Then when I was told I said no, this is not good.
“If the Press hears that we’ve taken the former president on this huge plane, it’s extravagant and so on. And it was published that it cost $6m. So we then said we must look for a smaller plane to go and pick him back when he finishes. Fortunately, when he was there, he then phoned back but he didn’t talk to me; he talked to my directors.
“He said, you see, it’s very absurd that the president allowed me to come with a 767 when we’re so small a delegation. Can you look for a smaller plane to pick me back? This is him. So the message arrived. So I gave instructions to the minister of Transport and my officials. Somehow, the communication didn’t reach Air Zimbabwe on time. Then they sent again the 767.
“He will be going back in April. This time when he goes back we will make sure he goes with a smaller plane as he asked,” said Mnangagwa. Daily News