President Robert Mugabe could have an unceremonious exit when the people take to the streets so an exit package of incentives for him to relinquish power should be appropriate, United States diplomats were told.
This prediction was reportedly made by the late Professor Masipula Sithole during the run–up to the 2002 elections which President Mugabe won by a narrow margin.
Morgan Tsvangirai, then an opposition leader, disputed President Mugabe’s victory.
“President Mugabe is bent on winning the election by hook or crook, but when the people take to the streets, an unhappy ending will be inevitable for (President) Mugabe,” Sithole predicted in discussions with former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan.
“(President) Mugabe knows he is unpopular and is worried about his physical security otherwise he would not be clinging to power so desperately.”
Sithole’s predictions are contained in the latest US diplomatic cable released by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to crush any possible revolt against President Mugabe’s rule and dismissed as wishful thinking, suggestions that Zimbabweans could stage an uprising similar to those that rocked North Africa recently.
“The United States, Britain and their allies invaded Libya so that they can plunder their oil resource. They might have succeeded in Libya, but that will not happen here,” Mnangagwa said recently.
Former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s long- time ruler Ali Ben and former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was ultimately murdered, were toppled by “people power”, aided by Nato.
In discussions with the US diplomats, Sithole said President Mugabe was more worried about his physical security and not about money because he had more than enough for him and his family.
He said if disincentives did not convince President Mugabe to hold a free and fair election, then at this point, an exit package of incentives for the former guerilla leader to relinquish power would be appropriate.
“The army would underwrite a set of assurances and act as negotiator with Tsvangirai, who understands the necessity of letting (President) Mugabe go in peace,” Sithole said.
When the former ambassador inquired whether President Mugabe’s inner circle would accept his departure, Sithole said they would if they were included in the exit package.
Sithole died on April 4, 2003.