President Robert Mugabe was so obsessed with eclipsing former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda’s 27-year stay in power that he rejected advice from aides and his personal doctor to leave office in 2007, a leaked United States secret cable has revealed.
The revelations were allegedly brought to light by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono during a meeting with Katherine Dhanani, a US Foreign Affairs official then with the Harare Embassy. The meeting was held on September 5 2007.
President Mugabe was also concerned about the then Vice-President Joseph Msika’s health and infighting in Zanu PF and said he wanted to leave office after ensuring a Zanu PF victory in the 2008 elections.
“Gono told us he had broached President Mugabe’s retirement with him by suggesting the country needed his memoirs. President Mugabe responded with a litany of reasons as to why he did not wish to step down now,” reads the report by Dhanani.
“(Mugabe) agreed with (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair on one thing — the time to step down was after leading one’s party to victory, thereafter giving it time to consolidate before the next election. He did not want to have led the party for much of his life and then see it get defeated after his departure . . . There had been questions about his legitimacy, and he wanted to put those to rest through an election victory next year.”
According to the report, Gono suggested President Mugabe had a long-standing grudge against Kaunda.
“Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda had left office after 27 years. (Mugabe) wanted to exceed this, which meant staying on until next year.
(Note: Gono thought Mugabe felt a personal rivalry with Kaunda since Kaunda had supported Zapu).”
Gono also revealed that President
Mugabe’s Malaysian personal doctor had relocated to Harare as concern increased over his health.
“In a hushed voice, Gono then told us President Mugabe’s personal physician from Malaysia was now living in Harare, close to Mugabe. He said he (Gono) alone was part of health discussions with Mugabe and the physician,” wrote
“The physician had urged Mugabe to step down immediately; continuing as President would be dangerous to his health.
President Mugabe had resisted and asked him to keep him going until next year’s elections.
“The physician agreed on condition that President Mugabe leaves office right after the election. President Mugabe agreed.”