By Tererai Karimakwenda
89-year old Robert Mugabe is reported to have displayed a growing sense of paranoia when he attended the SADC summit in Malawi last week, soon after claiming to have won a landslide victory in the July 31st elections.
According to the Independent newspaper, Mugabe avoided travelling in vehicles provided by the regional grouping while in Lilongwe, “citing security reasons”.
The paper quoted sources who alleged that Mugabe turned down the SADC-hired Mercedes Benz, claiming that “most European countries enjoy good relations with Malawi” and this increased “chances of an ambush by locally based agents”.
The report said that Mugabe, having escalated his security after the disputed poll back home, “opted to use his official Zim 1 limousine sent to Malawi by road, arriving a day before the summit”. Two Toyota Hiluxes are said to have escorted the Zim1 by road to Malawi, via Nyamapanda and Mwanza borders.
The ageing Mugabe’s behavior reportedly “surprised all members of the regional grouping because all logistics were in place with security on high alert”, the Independent newspaper said.
But his spokesman, George Charamba, defended his boss, saying: “He has always been using his own car for regional engagements so there is nothing new here”.
Commentator Luke Zunga from the Global Zimbabwe Forum dismissed Mugabe’s actions in Malawi, saying there were no enemies from the west hunting him down in Malawi. He added that Mugabe has an intelligence unit that would have advised him of this.
“Maybe these enemies are in his own mind but I think there are not many people who want to hunt him down and kill him, because Zimbabweans are not really violent. They are peaceful people,” Zunga told SW Radio Africa.
He added: “No-one has tried to kill him so far and I’ve never heard of an attempted coup or assassination in Zimbabwe, no! As I say Zimbabweans are peaceful people. They try other ways to resist or otherwise they leave the country.”
According to The Independent, a senior government official in Malawi said President Banda had ordered that all ministerial vehicles be rented to SADC heads of state, leaving fleet vehicles for other duties. “Ordinary people with vehicles in excellent condition” were also given the opportunity to supply them for use by SADC delegates.
The cost to Malawi for hosting the SADC summit was reportedly over US $1.3 million, most of it owing to car rentals, and the Malawian press blasted the government over this. SW Radio Africa