Respected former South African leader Nelson Mandela warned President Robert Mugabe four years ago that he should step down from office to preserve his legacy as a liberation hero or risk being disgraced like Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was subjected to criminal trials.
Mandela said by hanging on to power, President Mugabe would open himself up to the “Pinochet dangers”.
Pinochet, Chile’s long-time military ruler, was taken to court on charges of human rights violation and embezzlement of State resources after he finally left office.
Mandela, South Africa’s founding father, reportedly told President Mugabe that if he left office then (2007), he could become an elder statesman who would participate in African issues.
“The ANC did not wish to pressure (President) Mugabe, but to ‘advise’ him that the ANC considered (President) Mugabe a liberation hero, not just for Zimbabwe but for Africa,” Mandela reportedly wrote indirectly to President Mugabe.
“The ANC had defended (President) Mugabe and wanted to continue to defend him, but the situation in Zimbabwe was creating a threat to his legacy. It was time for him to go in order to preserve that legacy.”
Mandela had asked that the message be delivered before a Zanu PF central committee meeting held on March 30, 2007. This information is contained in a United States embassy cable wired to Washington but leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The cable quotes former Information minister Jonathan Moyo allegedly during a meeting with the former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell on April 17, 2007.
“Moyo requested a meeting with the ambassador on April 17. Moyo told the ambassador that Nelson Mandela, on behalf of the ANC, had attempted to send a message to President Mugabe in advance of the March 30 Central
Committee meeting that Mugabe should step down,” read the cable dispatched by Dell on April 17, 2007.
“The message, conveyed through Reserve Bank governor (Gideon) Gono, was delivered after the meeting.”
According to Moyo, Mandela’s communication, along with (then South African President Thabo) Mbeki’s mediation efforts, was part of a sophisticated South African approach to convince President Mugabe to retire.
According to the cable, Moyo told Dell that before the March 30 Zanu PF central committee meeting, Mandela called Gono and said he wanted to deliver a quick and secure message to President Mugabe outside of diplomatic channels.
However, because the call came just before the meeting began, Gono was unable to do so, and relayed it the following Monday. Moyo reportedly told the US envoy that President Mugabe had disparaged Mandela as a “Western puppet” to Gono but was pleased that the ANC held him in high esteem.
President Mugabe is said to have told Gono to tell Mandela and the ANC he would consider their advice and would respond further at the right time.
Moyo said his source was Gono himself. Moyo said the central bank chief had told him that Mandela stated he was calling on behalf of the ANC and not the South African government.