By Ndakaziva Majaka and Fungi Kwaramba
The persistent suspicions that President Robert Mugabe will lead Zanu PF and Zimbabwe for life were given fresh wings yesterday when former State Security minister — and for decades one of the nonagenarian’s closest confidantes — Didymus Mutasa, claimed that his distinct impression when the two geriatrics used to work together was that he wanted “to die in office”.
The sensational claim, which is destined to set tongues wagging among long-suffering Zimbabweans, comes as Mugabe’s ruling party continues to be devoured by its ugly and seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars — with the increasingly frail nonagenarian doggedly refusing to anoint a successor.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday in an exclusive interview yesterday, Mutasa — who is now an elder in the troubled Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party — said Zanu PF bigwigs angling to succeed Mugabe were likely to be left bitterly disappointed as the nonagenarian clearly wished to die in office.
The former Zanu PF secretary for administration’s claims tally with previous statements made by powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe and the ruling party’s youth league, who have said the soon-to-be 93 long-ruling leader should rule Zimbabwe for life.
“Mugabe does not have a succession plan. President Mugabe wanted, and I believe this is what he is looking for, to leave government when he dies.
“That is when he will give up power and be taken from his deathbed to the Heroes Acre. That is his plan. And if you ask anybody who is close to him they will tell you that.
“I mean, his wife (Grace) has more or less mentioned it and (one of Zanu PF’s leading candidates to succeed Mugabe, Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa should know that too,” Mutasa said.
In May last year, Grace stunned thousands of Zanu PF supporters who had gathered in Harare for a solidarity rally with the nonagenarian, when she said Mugabe would rule Zimbabwe from the grave.
“We want you to lead this country from your grave, while you lie at the National Heroes’ Acre,” she told the shell-shocked supporters.
In 2015, and while speaking during a rally at Murehwa Business Centre, the influential first lady also warned Zanu PF heavyweights that she was going to design a special wheelchair from which Mugabe would rule until he was 100 years old.
“We are going to create a special wheelchair for President Mugabe until he rules to 100 years because that is what we want. That is the people’s choice. We want a leader that respects us,” she said.
The Zanu PF youth league also formally moved a motion at the ruling party’s annual conference which was held in Masvingo last December, for Mugabe, to be declared life president.
Indeed, and despite the palpable excitement by warring Zanu PF bigwigs ahead of the Masvingo meeting, the gathering turned out to be a damp squib, after Mugabe once again cunningly resisted factional expectations that he would finally show his hand on his bitterly-contested succession.
For weeks ahead of the meeting, the party’s two major factions — Team Lacoste which is rallying behind Mnangagwa, and the Generation 40 (G40) group which is rabidly opposed to the VP succeeding Mugabe — had huffed and puffed in a desperate endeavour to win the nonagenarian’s public backing.
But it all proved to be in vain, with Mugabe once again virtually affirming the stubbornly persistent national suspicion that his is a presidency for life — a reality that many leading lights in both Team Lacoste and the G40 have resignedly admitted to in previous private briefings with the Daily News on Sunday.
Instead, Mugabe slyly blew a gasket at the Masvingo gathering, savaging his brawling lieutenants, while cunningly moving to finger some of his top aides in alleged plots to hound him out of power — as the ruling party’s tribal, factional and succession wars continue to burn hot.
He made a thinly-disguised dig at Team Lacoste, saying the party’s leadership was not won through plotting the arrest of opponents, but through elections.
This was after the G40 had over the past few months alleged that the Mnangagwa camp was abusing key State institutions, including lapdog State media, to irregularly grab power in the former liberation movement.
“Hukuru muparty hunouya nekusarudzwa…hahuuye nokuti tosunga uyu tipindewo isusu (the leadership of the party comes through elections and not through plotting the arrest of fellow members,” Mugabe thundered.
In October this year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) torched a political storm in Zanu PF after it swooped on Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Godfrey Gandawa during a hotly-contested graft probe.
Moyo, who party insiders say is a key member of the G40, not only accused Team Lacoste and key players at Zacc of waging a factionally-driven war against him and other alleged G40 kingpins, he also threatened to sue Mnangagwa and many other senior government officials.
But, in typical Mugabe style, the nonagenarian also moved to attack the G40 at the meeting for their alleged indiscipline, and for abusing social media to attack fellow party officials.
“To the party leadership, we do not run matters of the party through Twitter or Facebook,” he said, as he sought to balance his criticism and in the process consolidate his own position.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday then said it would have been “atypical” if Mugabe had chosen one faction over the other.
“The current situation where there are factions fighting each other below him means that there isn’t a faction fighting him directly, so the fighting serves him well,” said former civic leader, McDonald Lewanika.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe had repeatedly displayed “tendencies that are consistent with someone who doesn’t want a successor”.
“He is officially the Zanu PF candidate for 2018 and that suits the G40 faction which he heads, but in the final analysis all that is happening is that he wants to die in office,” he said.
But Mugabe — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980 — is facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year rule.
The increasingly frail nonagenarian and Zanu PF are battling growing unrest among the country’s restive populace, which blames his government for presiding over the country’s dying economy and the deepening rot in the former regional breadbasket. Daily News