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The Rise of the UNDERTAKER – Robert Mugabe Jnr. strays onto the political stage

On 23 March 2022 in Chitungwiza, Robert Tinotenda Mugabe Jnr. (The UNDERTAKER), Mugabe’s 30 year old son attended a ZANU PF rally which was being addressed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

After the unceremonious coup that deposed President Robert Mugabe in November 2017 it was always going to be interesting to see how the remaining Mugabe family would react to ZANU PF and President Mnangagwa specifically.

There are several possibilities as to why Robert Jnr. has now “come out” and stepped onto the scene. His effect in ZANU PF and what it might mean for Zimbabwe politics in next year’s General Elections as well as in the next 10 years will be interesting to watch.

Robert Mugabe Jnr. – The father’s heir

Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society, more so for Mugabe, he would have wanted to have his son as his heir, leave alone, the whole argument about Bona, his first daughter.

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Bona became an option because Robert Jnr, had been disappointing to his father because he kept failing in school to the point Mugabe started referring to him as the UNDERTAKER after he scored a string of Us in his exams.

Late former President Robert Mugabe's eldest son Robert Jnr attended a Zanu-PF rally in Chitungwiza
Late former President Robert Mugabe’s eldest son Robert Jnr attended a Zanu-PF rally in Chitungwiza

In a recent interview, the boy talks about how his father on his deathbed kept telling him that he needed to look after his mother, brother, and sister. So now, Robert Mugabe Jnr, is just trying to fulfill his father’s wishes.

The urgent need to defend the family’s wealth and father’s legacy

Robert Mugabe Jnr’s is thirty years old. He is now old enough! At the risk of sounding patriarchal and sexist he is the “man” in the Mugabe house. That he must carry the burden of looking after his family’s wealth is not in doubt.

The family and society in general expects him to do that. It is not going to be easy but the alleged nine farms in Zimbabwe and other business establishments, the reported hotels in Dubai, apartments in Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia need to be protected and he is the right man for the job.

A MUGABE must do it, and naturally he is the MAN for the job.

What does his stepping onto the scene mean politically for Zimbabwe?

a) ZANU PF is looking for someone to boost its image in Mugabe’s stronghold of Mash West

With almost all of Mugabe’s nephews and close relatives in self-imposed exile and the ones left behind such as Philip Chiyangwa and Ignatius Chombo not really capable of rising to the occasion, what is left is to reincarnate Mugabe in some way. The only way to do so is to bring back his son: Robert Jnr.

For all his shortcomings, the boy attended Kutama Mission and he is a Gushungo. Those traits can appeal to the masses in Zvimba and the same sentiments could as well be true for Mashonaland West.

The coup did not go down well with Mugabe’s supporters and having Robert Mugabe Jnr. in the fray is one way to appease the Zvimba people and Mash West.

The talk about having him stand as an MP in Zvimba in 2023 is not a gimmick. The people will vote for him as an MP, and this will also translate into votes for ED thus securing the President’s bid for the next five years.

b) It was never going to be Mugabe’s nephews – vana veva kuwasha vaya

In Zimbabwe’s highly patriarchal society it is the children from the main – man that are considered to be rightful heirs. That Mugabe’s sisters sired children and gave them their maiden surname – Mugabe and then the same boys went on to behave like Mugabe’s children was never fully embraced in Zimbabwe.

With the notorious nephews having been hounded from the country or self-exiled and for those who are still in the country struggling economically, this shows that their perceived borrowed robes were only going to glow and glitter if they had Uncle Bob in power.

That ZANU PF and Mnangagwa have embraced Robert Mugabe Jnr, with open arms shows that this is the man they were waiting for, and they are satisfied that the Real Mugabe is now there to succeed his father.

It gives ZANU PF a good excuse to sideline Mugabe’s nephews deeply entrenched in the G40 – Lacoste factionalism in ZANU PF.

c) Robert Mugabe Jnr, is the ordinary boy who appeals to young people in Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe Jnr. after flirting with the elite Catholic schools of St Michaels and Hartman House was taken to Kutama Mission, old Robert’s alma mater. Although the boy was said to have lived in splendor and grandeur at Kutama, there was a method to Mugabe’s choice for his son’s Mission school.

Old Robert wanted his son and heir apparent to be grounded in the “people and one way was to send him to a school he had previously attended.

Robert Tinotenda Mugabe Jnr seen here at a Zanu PF rally in Chitungwiza
Robert Tinotenda Mugabe Jnr seen here at a Zanu PF rally in Chitungwiza

Like any other normal child, I guess. Robert Jnr. is a true Zimbabwean in a sense.

  • The boy played basketball up to national team level.
  • The boy does not have an accent and he does not speak through the “nose” like most of the rich kids in town and children from fake middle class families
  • He went to an ordinary mission school just like the child next door. He knows all the shenanigans of mission life – ironing bread to get toast, breaking into pantries and all.

The boy mentions that he is now an architect after studying in Singapore. From a boy who was called an Undertaker for dismal performance in high school to achieving an architect’s qualification in tertiary education, this is a high achievement for the boy. How would the boy not be able to appeal to your own child who just turned eighteen when voting time comes in 2023?

d) Robert Mugabe Jnr. breathes and speaks ZANU PF lingo as well as ideology

When Robert Jnr. talks about life in Zimbabwe and abroad where he has spent most of his time, he speaks the ZANU PF lingo and this makes him appealing to so may sections of the Zimbabwean populace.

For instance, Robert Mugabe Jnr. on several occasions has mentioned that he works at his family’s farm, and he is also into mining like his stepbrother, Russel Goreraza.

Former president Robert Mugabe's two sons Chatunga Mugabe, center, and Robert Mugabe Junior, right, accompany his casket in an air force helicopter for transport to a stadium where it will lie in state, at his official residence in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The ongoing uncertainty of the burial of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at the age of 95, has eclipsed the elaborate plans for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the former guerrilla leader at several historic sites. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Former president Robert Mugabe’s two sons Chatunga Mugabe, center, and Robert Mugabe Junior, right, accompany his casket in an air force helicopter for transport to a stadium where it will lie in state, at his official residence in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

This kind of talk blends well and fits into the ZANU PF mantra that the Economy is the Land, and the Land is the Economy and Mnangagwa’s Make Money Make Money utterances at public rallies. 

On that note Robert Jnr. easily becomes an ambassador for young farmers and entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. He just needs to be given more airplay and there ZANU PF and ED would have created media content to campaign in 2023 with young people.

There is a method to ED’s rantings “Make Money Make Money” when he addresses young people. It resonates very well with young people in Zimbabwe who are tired of unemployment, and poverty.

Robert Mugabe Jnr. will be able to bridge this gap between ED and young voters come 2023. Young people such as Robert Mugabe Jnr. are portrayed as making money from farming and mining. Who would not want to join such a crusade?

e) Robert Mugabe Jnr, offers a buffer and alternative for ED to Mnangagwa

One of the most crucial factors that ED and ZANU PF might not be having issues with the fact that Robert Mugabe Jnr. has come into ZANU PF politics is that he offers an underplayed role of offering an alternative to Vice President’s Chiwenga’s ascendancy to the presidency in 2028.

The reported factionalism and animosity between the President and VP should not be downplayed.

The argument that ED would want to spite the VP by bringing this boy into the fray cannot be discounted. ED was and has always been old Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy.

That ED and Mugabe had differences was only because the old geezer would not pave way for him. Paying his old boss back by playing dynastical politics and pushing for Mugabe’s son to the Presidency is a possibility.

f) Robert Mugabe Jnr. offers Grace Mugabe, the G40 faction and ZANU PF a chance  to regroup

After the coup in 2017, several ZANU PF members who were close to Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe were hounded out of the country or self-exiled themselves.

The list is endless, but the key people include Savior Kasukuwere, Augustine Chihuri, the Mugabe nephews, and other stalwarts such as Mandiitawepi Chimene and Professor Jonathan Moyo.

The G40 faction and Grace Mugabe especially could be seeing an opportunity to close ranks with ED and the main ZANU PF party because they cannot continue to be persecuted when Robert Mugabe Jnr. who is one of them is now in the picture?

Robert Mugabe Jnr.’s fray into ZANU PF could see the G40 faction being allowed back into ZANU PF and the two factions closing rank and supporting each other in 2023.

The G40 needs a political home, and they need ZANU PF for their own survival. Vice versa, ZANU PF needs the numbers that are being held back by the G40. Robert Mugabe Jnr., offers this platform and opportunity.

Robert Mugabe Jnr.: Whose political child shall he be anyway -ZANU PF, ED, G 40 & or Grace Mugabe?

The Robert Tinotenda Mugabe Jnr., Zimbabwe knows is the boy who used to pop champagne and live lavishly in Sandton City, South Africa. Zimbabwe knows the boy who was arrested for the use of drugs in Dubai.

Zimbabweans know this boy whose girlfriend was whipped by his mother using an electric cord leading to her self-imposed banishment from SA. The same Zimbabweans know this boy as someone who would stomp on cars while drunk in a parking lot and do all sorts of shenanigans. All signs of privilege, grandeur and pompousness brought about by power.

However, post the 2017 coup, post Robert Mugabe’s death, ZANU PF has now unveiled its own version of Robert Tinotenda Mugabe Jnr. There is a method to the social media interviews, to the attendance at party rallies and the TV shows etc.

Zimbabwe is now being shown this boy. The cute by with the deep voice. The boy who speaks fondly of his father who he bathed even in his last days. The boy who used to call Robert Mugabe “daddy.”

The boy who speaks fondly of his mother – the erratic Grace Mugabe, his stepbrother, sister and Chatunga. The boy who speaks of wanting to bring the knowledge he got from Singapore, Dubai, and Malaysia  to develop Zimbabwe. Th boy who says he only and has lived “ZANU PF” all his life.

Robert Tatenda Mugabe Jnr. is the man to watch in ZANU PF. He will be there in Zimbabweans” faces in 2023. More importantly, in 2033, he will be the Presidential candidate for ZANU PF! My take.

You can follow Tendai Chabvuta on his blog HERE