PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has accused his wife Frist Lady Grace Mugabe of prematurely exposing his then second-in-command Joice Mujuru’s alleged coup and assassination plot.
VENERANDA LANGA/RICHARD MPONDE
In his televised interview broadcast on ZTV on the eve of his 91st birthday celebrations in Victoria Falls, Mugabe said he had wanted Mujuru’s alleged shenanigans to be exposed at the “right time”, but was surprised when Grace let the cat out of the bag during her ‘Meet The People Tours’ which were held a few months before the Zanu PF congress in December.
“At home we discuss politics and share ideas, but Grace started to talk about Amai Mujuru’s corrupt activities too early,” Mugabe said.
“When she (Grace) went out and started talking, I said Oh! – she has spoken way too early – because we had expected that we will reveal all her (Mujuru) shenanigans when the right time comes.”
Mujuru lost both her government and party posts alongside 17 ministers and nine provincial chairpersons just before the party’s congress on allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe, but she has denied the charge and challenged her accusers to prove the allegations.
Mugabe said Grace had entered politics on her own volition contrary to speculative reports that he had introduced his wife into politics to safeguard his legacy and business interests.
He also denied claims that Grace was now calling the shots after taking over political power from her ageing husband.
“She has come into politics in her own right and she is not the power behind my throne. She has appeared in the politburo on behalf of the women – and that is all she did. Why should people think that because of what she has done she is now the power behind me? She has not yet come into the real part of things and is not yet strong enough. Leaders of the Women’s League and Youth League automatically become members of the politburo. The way it came out – it started giving people ideas,” he said.
Grace’s political ascendancy has been littered with controversy with top Zanu PF officials now regarding her as the new centre of power after she joined the politburo and, in an unprecedented move, sat among members of the presidium during her maiden politburo meeting a fortnight ago.
Mugabe also said the Zanu PF constitution did not necessarily dish out freebies to women and urged them to fight for political positions like everyone else in the party.
Mugabe – a devout Catholic member described himself as a “a very prayerful, Godly man”.
“Mugabe is a God fearing man and he also goes to church, asking God to give him good health, praying for peace in the country, as well as praying for guerrillas (magandanga) who kill people,” he said.
The President also publicly admitted that his feet often get swollen but insisted that he was still fit and does physical exercise a lot to keep himself in good shape.
Meanwhile, the effects of age and ill-health seem to be taking a heavy toll on Mugabe as he exhibited embarrassing memory blackouts and eyesight problems while addressing delegates at his birthday celebrations in Victoria Falls on Saturday.
The Zanu PF leader struggled to read his prepared speech and ended up addressing the crowds from his head where he intermittently suffered memory lapses.
Mugabe’s eyesight problems became apparent when he failed to read clearly what was written on his prepared speech and he blundered saying the celebrations were for his “21st” birthday instead of 91st.
The actual portion that Mugabe wanted to read was: “once again I thank you for the support, blessings and gifts that you all bring as you come to celebrate 21st February, which this year coincides with my 91st birthday.”
After the first blunder, Mugabe temporarily stopped reading the speech and started addressing the gathering from his head, where he then experienced memory blackouts, constantly shaking his head as if to shake his memory into place.
Mugabe went on to talk of things which were not written in his speech until he read the closing remarks.
His eyesight was also tested when he nearly fell after missing a step on the staircase from the podium at the end of the function on his way to his waiting limousine.
First Lady Grace Mugabe who had helped him down the staircases had to come in handy and give him a helping hand to avoid another embarrassing fall which would have come a month after he tripped and fell off the staircases at the Harare International Airport on his return from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“At his age it is natural for him to have eyesight problems. This can be faced by any other person of his age and there is nothing newsworthy about that. We should not concentrate on trivial issues, but celebrate his life,” a senior Zanu PF and government official said after the near mishap.
“It is not peculiar to Mugabe alone and cannot be used as a test of his health condition.”
Mugabe has been facing health problems recently and has travelled several times to the Far East to have his eyes checked.
At one time Mugabe flew in a hush to Singapore where he was filmed arriving at an upmarket health institution – and his office said he had gone to have cataracts removed.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba’s mobile phone was unreachable to comment on Mugabe’s seemingly deteriorating health condition yesterday.