Tag Archives: Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe Collapse looms over Mugabe succession

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
July 23, 2016

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

The natural span of life is approaching its end for 92-year-old Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader since 1980, but the infighting over the succession is so intense that no one is running the shop, and there may be nothing much left to inherit when the time comes.

Mugabe has said he intends to run in the next election in 2018 – which will be more a theatrical display than an exercise in democracy – and that he plans to stay in office until he dies. That may come sooner than later. Despite following a rigorous health regime most of his life, Mugabe looks increasingly frail during his now-rare public appearances. He has stumbled and fallen on several occasions.

There was a highly significant public display of the fracturing within the Zimbabwean establishment when the veterans of the country’s 1970s war of liberation against the white minority regime of Ian Smith turned on Mugabe. The veterans have been, in essence, the militia for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party since 2000, when he began depending on violence to win elections. But on Friday the veterans’ organisation issued a statement saying Mugabe’s “leadership has presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin for which the effects are now felt throughout the land.” The veterans went on to say Zimbabwe has seen “the systematic entrenchment of dictatorial tendencies, personified by the President and his cohorts, which have slowly devoured the values of the liberation struggle.”

There are three main candidates circling and manoeuvring to grab the crown. There’s Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

Meanwhile, what was the best organised and most productive country in Africa when Mugabe came to power 36 years ago is now on the brink of ruin. Zimbabwe has had no currency of its own since 2009, when hyperinflation forced the government to issue banknotes with $Zim100 trillion denominations. Instead, Zimbabweans use the South African Rand and the United States greenback.

Inflation is on the rise again. Eighty per cent of government revenues are spent on public service salaries and pensions. But with the destruction of the country’s agricultural, mining and industrial economy under Mugabe’s regime of intellectual and actual corruption, there is no money. Most public servants and pensioners haven’t been paid for months. The exception, of course, is the armed forces and police on whose support the survival of the regime depends.

In recent weeks there have been national strikes by teachers, doctors and nurses, and riots at the Beitbridge crossing point into South Africa against restrictions on imports, a move aimed at saving hard currency. There have even been demonstrations in South Africa by exiled Zimbabweans wanting to send succour home to their families. And earlier this month taxi drivers in the capital, Harare, struck and demonstrated over the proliferation of police road blocks, set up to extort bribes from the cabbies.

Mugabe’s government has blamed, as it always does, unnamed “foreign forces” for the debacle, and briefly arrested a prominent activist and religious leader of “This Flag” movement, Pastor Evan Mawarire.

The threat of growing civil unrest is making it increasing difficult for Mugabe’s ministers to cadge loans from international lenders. There are strong rumours that the government will issue what are known as “bond notes” instead of currency to meet its salary and pension obligations. This is only stoking anxiety as few people expect these bonds to be easily redeemable or worth their face value.

No one in government is attempting to address Zimbabwe’s fundamental economic and social problems, however. It is highly questionable how aware Mugabe is of the situation, or, if he is, whether he has the capacity to respond. Even in his most coherent times, Mugabe’s forte was kleptomania rather than administration on behalf of Zimbabwe’s 12 million people. (At least four million people have fled into neighbouring countries and elsewhere since started following increasingly demented policies in 2000.)

Among the three leading candidates for the succession the most colourful is undoubtedly Mugabe’s scandal-ridden wife Grace, known as “the First Shopper.” Her ambition is evident, but her political authority will probably die with her husband. That may be why she has put forward the macabre notion that Mugabe might continue ruling from beyond the grave. No doubt Grace sees herself as the intermediary for her husband’s post mortem administration.

She may be taking a lead from North Korea where the regime’s founder, Kim Il-sung, was declared the country’s “Eternal President” after his death in 1994.

Grace was Mugabe’s secretary in the 1980s and 1990s when I was Africa correspondent for Southam News and my family and I lived just across the Botanical Gardens from the Presidential Palace in Harare. She became Mugabe’s mistress while his dying first wife, Sally, was still alive, and had two children by him; a son and daughter.

When the affair became known, it was put about that Sally had chosen Grace as her successor as First Lady. There is no way of knowing whether that is true or not, but my Zimbabwean friends with deep understanding of local family culture doubt it.

Matters were complicated by the fact that Grace was also married. But that was dealt with when her husband, Air Force pilot Stanley Goreraza, was packed off to Beijing as defence attaché in the Zimbabwean embassy.

Grace and Mugabe married in the “Wedding of the Century” in 1996, bizarrely, an event blessed by the Catholic Church, to which Mugabe claims allegiance when it suits his purposes. There were 20,000 guests – including untold members of Grace’s extended family who behaved as though they’d won the lottery, which they had – and the celebration was said to have cost enough to build 1,200 houses for 7,000 homeless people.

Grace’s taste for luxury has become a byword for what can still go wrong in African political leadership. Early in her tenure as First Lady, Grace ordered the building of a palace, inevitably known as Graceland, in the wealthy Harare suburb, Borrowdale. When questioned about the cost she said she’d paid for it with her savings from her salary as Mugabe’s secretary. She sold that pile to the then Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi – Zimbabwe has become a welcoming refuge for deposed dictators – and started building another palace at a cost of $US26 million.

Meanwhile, she took her pick of farms owned by white families and had them evicted.

Her booming property portfolio now includes real estate in Malaysia and Hong Kong, where she also owns a diamond cutting business.

That’s useful because Grace, according to United States diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, has a firm grip on large parts of Zimbabwe’s extensive diamond production, an asset that provides almost no benefit for local people.

Mugabe opened the door into politics for Grace in 2014 when he made her head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League. The old lags of ZANU-PF, many of whom fought against the white regime in the 1970s, find Grace’s royal airs distasteful in the extreme, but the aura of wealth that surrounds her is enough to attract support from less discerning acolytes.

Then there’s Joice Mujuru, the former Vice-President who fell out with Mugabe in 2014 when he accused her of plotting against him. She has formed her own Zimbabwe People First Party. Mujuru has a colourful record as a liberation war fighter in the 1970s, when she used the nom-de-guerre “Teurai Ropa,” (Spill Blood). In 1974 she is said to have shot down a Rhodesian army helicopter with a machinegun, though other veterans have cast doubt on this story.

In 1977 she married Solomon Mujuru, whose “chimurenga” (revolutionary struggle) name was Rex Nhongo, and who was the deputy commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army. After independence in 1980 Solomon Mujuru became the head of the new Zimbabwe National Army, and in 1992 retired to go into business and politics. He became very powerful within ZANU-PF and was regarded as the only man in the leadership who could publicly challenge Mugabe’s judgement and get away with it.

This authority brought Solomon Mujuru into conflict with another liberation war hero and stalwart of Mugabe’s government in the 1980s and 1990s, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Rivalry between the two men came to a head in 2004 when Solomon backed moves by the ZANU-PF Women’s League to have his wife, Joice, appointed to the vacant Vice-President’s post. Mnangagwa, who was then Speaker of Parliament, thought he should get the job, which carries the inference of being Mugabe’s chosen successor. Mnangagwa was, and remains, bitter.

That is among the reasons why the death of Solomon Mujuru on the night of August 15, 2011, is still regarded as suspicious. The former general had a drink at a bar in Beatrice, 60 kilometres south of Harare, before continuing to his (confiscated former white-owned) Alamein Farm, a further 10 minutes down the road. He was alone at the house, but a guard and a maid heard gunshots later that night, and then saw a fire at the farmhouse. The coroner concluded Mujuru died of smoke inhalation, though few believe it.

Without the protection of her husband, Joice Mujuru was vulnerable, and three years later, 2014, Mugabe was convinced she was plotting against him. She was fired from the vice-presidency, and from ZANU-PF.

Joice Mujuru has launched her own Zimbabwe People First Party, and attracted some support. But like most Zimbabwean politicians of her vintage, her CV is peppered with allegations of corruption. The main charges against her focus on her involvement in the shipping of 3.5 tonnes of gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Switzerland.

The smart money in the Mugabe succession stakes is on Mujuru’s rival and current Vice-President, Mnangagwa. He is said to be Zimbabwe’s wealthiest man, and has a formidable record both within the ruling ZANU-PF party, and – most important – as a key member of the country’s security and military establishment.

Mnangagwa joined ZANLA and the war against the Ian Smith regime as a teenager in 1963. He was sent to China for military training, and later infiltrated what was then known as Rhodesia as the head of a brigade called the “Crocodile Group.” (His followers are now known as Team Lacoste for the crocodile emblem of the sportswear manufacturer.)

In January 1965 Mnangagwa was betrayed to Rhodesian police, arrested and, because he was under 21 years old, sentenced to only 10 years in prison. There, much like Nelson Mandela’s associates on Robbin Island, his political education was completed by fellow prisoners like Mugabe, Edgar Tekere, Enos Nkala, and Didymus Mutasa.

On his release, Mnangagwa was deported to neighbouring Zambia, a headquarters in exile for the political wing of the liberation movement, then known as the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). He studied law in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, and became a leading figure in the exiled ZANU establishment. Mnangagwa was part of the ZANU negotiating team at the Lancaster House talks in London in 1979 with Ian Smith’s government and he led Zimbabwe’s new civilian leaders back to their homeland in 1980.

From the start of the Mugabe years, Mnangagwa was deeply involved in the country’s security apparatus, and that experience and those links will probably give him victory in the succession battle now. Until 1988 Mnangagwa was the chairman of Joint High Command, which oversaw the integration of the liberation armies with the remnants of the Rhodesian Army. In this role he was also overseer of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) at the time when Mugabe was using all his forces to suppress the political power of the minority Ndelbele people in western Zimbabwe. This was achieved by killing Ndebele in large numbers, a crime against humanity for which several leading figures in Zimbabwe have yet to answer.

In the 1990s Mnangagwa held legal, economic and foreign affairs posts before becoming Mugabe’s chief elections strategist in the 2000s when violence and coercion were the chief campaign tactics. Mnangagwa’s direct contact with the security establishment resumed in 2009 when he was made Minister of Defence.

The key group here is the Joint Operation Command, made up of the heads of the army, air force, police, prison service and CIO. ZANU-PF’s rules governing the succession have never been made public, though as Vice-President Mnangagwa clearly has the inside edge. But when all is said and done, it will be the senior officers in the Joint Operation Command who decide, and, so far as can be judged at this point, Mnangagwa is their man.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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One Zimbabwe success story

First Street in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo by Gary Bembridge, Creative Commons

First Street in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo by Gary Bembridge, Creative Commons

In great contrast to the Borgia world of Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe — the subject of last week’s column by International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe  — is the skill, imagination, talent, determination and sheer hard work that ordinary Africans have to employ to survive and succeed.  Manthorpe offers a tale, One man’s thrust for survival in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Excerpt:

It was mid-December, the height of yet another summer of drought in Zimbabwe, and I was making the early morning coffee when there was a loud cracking and wrenching noise from the garden.

It was a noise I’d never heard before, so loud and tortured it was clear something momentous had happened outside. I walked through the house to the French doors and out on to the tiled patio, the terra cotta red of the African earth. It was an extraordinary sight. The trunk of massive, old Albizia tree down by what passed for a swimming pool had split in half down its whole length. The Albizia is known as the “flat crown tree” because its branches spread wide and grow up to an almost equal height, making it one of the most popular shade trees in Africa, for humans and wildlife alike. For this one, however, the weight of its spreading branches had suddenly become too much for the trunk to bear and it had wrenched itself apart.

Nefius, our gardener who lived in a three-room shamva at the top of the garden, and Phillip, our overnight security guard, who was just about to set off on his two-hour bicycle ride home, were already examining the wreckage and laughing loudly. And indeed, there was a comic, burlesque quality to the dramatic way the tree had suddenly decided to give up the ghost. But it was also very inconvenient. My family and I were due to fly out of Zimbabwe that night on our annual three-week leave. The wood from the tree would be an excellent stock of fuel for the fireplace in the house — very necessary in the chilly winters at Harare’s high altitude – for Nefius to use for cooking and for our brais – the southern African word for barbecues. But this was clearly too big a job for Nefius alone with just our bow saw and axe for tools. Phillip volunteered to help Nefius cut up and stack our windfall if he could have some of the wood. … log in to read more (paywall*)

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Manthorpe on Gucci Grace, Zimbabwe’s “most reviled and hated woman”

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

In 1996, the year Robert Mugabe married Grace Goreraza, life for the majority of Zimbabweans was probably the best it ever had been, or was to be since, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. Many give credit for country’s good times to Mugabe’s late wife Sally. Since then, the country has been in free fall. “Grace has a lust for power and wealth almost beyond the country’s power to provide for her passions. Grace has become the most reviled and hated woman in Zimbabwe,” he writes. Excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column,  The Rise of “Gucci Grace,” Zimbabwe’s “First Shopper”:

Sally Mugabe was much loved in Zimbabwe and many believed, with some justice, that it was only her steadying hand that stopped her husband, President Robert Mugabe, from becoming the feral tyrant that emerged after her death.

In the months before her death in January, 1992, it was widely known in Harare that she would soon be taken by the liver disease from which she had suffered for several years. It was also known that the President had not waited to become a widower before seeking comfort elsewhere. At least three years before Sally’s death Mugabe had taken one of his secretaries, Grace Goreraza, as his mistress. More than that, he had two children by Grace. A daughter, Bona, named for the President’s Mother, was born around 1989, and a boy, Robert Jr, was born a few months after Sally died.

The story circulating in Zimbabwe at the time, and widely believed, illustrates the esteem in which Sally Mugabe was held, but it also attempted to save Robert Mugabe’s reputation. Sally Hayfron was a Ghanaian studying at a teacher’s college in what was then Southern Rhodesia where she met Robert Mugabe. They married in 1961 and the couple had a son, Michael, in 1963. But Sally and Robert were both deeply involved in the fight against the white minority government in Rhodesia. They lived lives on the run or in detention or prison. The boy developed a severe case of malaria and died in 1966.

Sally Mugabe was unable to have more children. So, as her death approached in the early 1990s, the story around Harare was that Sally had not been deceived or jilted by her husband. … log in to read  The Rise of “Gucci Grace,” Zimbabwe’s “First Shopper” (paywall*)

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page or here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee). 

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

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In a world of youthful leaders, gerontocracies rule Africa

By Stephen Chan, SOAS, University of London
September 19, 2014

There are many African presidents whose age far outstrips that of their peers on other continents. David Cameron (47), Barack Obama (53), François Hollande (60), Merkel (60), Vladimir Putin (61) – these are striplings compared with the gerontocrats of Africa. Even the Chinese, long committed to respect for the old and wise and venerable, now seemingly have a commitment to presidential and politiburo appointments under the age of 60.

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Robert Mugabe, 90, is a creature of constant rejuvenations, writes Stephen Chan. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock, United States Air Force

I was reminded of this stark contrast by billboards in Harare, Zimbabwe, where I spent much of the northern summer. They bore a picture of Robert Mugabe, who celebrated his 90th birthday while I was there in February, emblazoned with the slogan: “With age comes wisdom”. The picture was of Mugabe in his 60s.

The Mugabe of 90 is, notwithstanding, a creature of constant rejuvenations. His repeated visits to Singapore for medical treatment of an eye complaint seem also to add a spring to his step that is remarkable for a nonagenarian.

Indeed, at the recent Southern African Development Community summit at Victoria Falls, colleague presidents made two common remarks: that he chaired the summit with amazing vigour, and that his mind seemed to think in terms of a bygone age.

The current president of Tanzania, for example, reportedly took exception to a remark that nothing in his country has equalled the era of Julius Nyerere, who ruled from 1961 to 1985 and died in 1999.

The rumours of Mugabe’s ill health are just that, rumours. For now, he appears robust and able to give the lie to predictions of (or wishes for) his imminent demise. But with age inevitably comes speculation related to health – and the track record of previous aged African Presidents is not encouragement.

Right now, Zambia’s 77-year-old president Michael Sata is probably seriously ill, and has scarcely been seen in public for months – notwithstanding a carefully-staged recent reappearance, framed by orchestrated (or archive) footage of him chairing cabinet meetings. While he struggles with his health, his party, and even his long-time lieutenants, are locked in a vicious struggle to succeed him.

Zambian leader Michael Sata. Photo courtesy of the Commonwealth Secretariat

Zambian leader Michael Sata. Photo courtesy of the Commonwealth Secretariat

The piquancy here is that Sata’s vice president, Guy Scott, is a white man, and ordinarily, under the constitution, should succeed in the event of the president’s death. But because of a constitutional amendment brought in 1996 to prevent Kenneth Kaunda, with Malawian parentage, from running again, Scott cannot be president because his parents were not born in Zambia.

Zambia’s succession crisis has also therefore become a constitutional crisis – and all the while, the official machinery insists the president is alive and well.

This is not new; it happened before in Zambia when president Levy Mwanawasa was fatally ill – a fact both explicitly denied and hidden from the voting public.

It happened in Nigeria when president Umaru Yar-Ardua was fatally ill, but all was officially denied. His death was compounded by Yar-Ardua’s choice of a “harmless” vice president – who became the hapless president Goodluck Jonathan.

It happened too in Ethiopia, when the death of prime minister Meles Yenawi was hidden from the public – though in this case, the succession of his deputy Hailemariam Desalegn was hammered out behind closed doors with decisiveness, and later, with a show of public solidarity.

All this raises obvious questions. Why wait until presidents and prime ministers are so old and sick they die in office? And in a world of youthful premiers, why the glut of aged, even moribund leaders?

And above all, the inescapable problem: if wisdom really comes with age, Africa’s assorted gerontocracies are governed surprisingly unwisely.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Stephen Chan, Professor of World Politics at SOAS, University of London, does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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Zimbabwe’s new colonial master

It looks increasingly as though Zimbabwe’s peasant farmers have simply exchanged colonial masters, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt of his new column, China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe:

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That significance is likely to grow early next year, when Mugabe is the odds-on favourite to be selected leader of the 54-member African Union (AU). The stage was set for Mugabe to be given this accolade last week when he was chosen unanimously to be chair of the 15-member Southern African Development Community.

Next year is southern Africa’s turn to provide the AU leadership, and Mugabe’s anti-colonial, freedom fighter history (actually, he was a behind-the-scenes schemer, not a fighter) still resonates with his brother leaders. His gross mismanagement of his own country and abuse of his people, a third of whom have fled abroad, is a secondary consideration.

But it will be a feather in Beijing’s cap to have its own man at the head of the AU …  click here toread China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (Subscription required*).

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Who will succeed Robert Mugabe?

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Robert Mugabe. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock, United States Air Force, U.S. government photo (public domain)

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is 90. He has never named a successor and there are indications he enjoys the confusion he spreads by seeming to favour one candidate and then another, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. It is a measure of his ability to confuse that there is much chatter in Zimbabwe that he may resign at the December meeting, but there is an equally strong contingent that says Mugabe intends to die in office. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

It offers a glimpse into the dark recesses of Robert Mugabe’s soul that he has remained in power in Zimbabwe for over three decades by the masterful manipulation of his opponents’ weaknesses.

Some have been bought off. Others have had their gluttony for the trappings of power sated to the point of political surfeit and suicide. Those lusting to grab Mugabe’s political power have been tricked and trapped into exposing their own ambitions, and then removed.

When all else has failed, Mugabe’s opponents have died, usually in questionable circumstances.

But now Mugabe is 90 years old and time is running out, barring a Faustian deal to live forever – which many adherents of traditional culture in Zimbabwe would consider entirely plausible.

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