Mugabe comeback a risky move

MEDIA are reporting that former President Robert Mugabe is backing the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a breakaway party from the ruling Zanu PF, in a bid to make a political comeback.

Sally Nyakanyanga & Peter Fabricius

Daily Maverick

Reports that Mugabe is plotting a political comeback have clearly rattled his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Returning to the political fray would be a very risky move by the 94-year-old ex-leader, jeopardising his generous golden handshake at the very least.

But some analysts believe such a bold political gambit by Mugabe could be a spoiler, contributing to a shock defeat for Mnangagwa in the general elections expected in July, even if Mugabe has no chance of returning to power himself.

Former Marondera West Zanu PF legislator, Ambrose Mutinhiri, a veteran of the liberation struggle of the 1970s, resigned from the party and from Parliament a week ago, as a protest against the military coup, which had ousted Mugabe in November.

Last Sunday, Mutinhiri met Mugabe at his Blue Roof mansion in Harare and then on Monday, announced the launch of the NPF.

The NPF is seen as a political vehicle for the so-called G40 faction of Zanu PF, which included Mugabe’s wife Grace, and is bitterly opposed to Mnangagwa, who routed its members in and after the coup.

The NPF has suggested that it has Mugabe’s backing, though he himself has not confirmed this.

Addressing a Zanu PF youth meeting on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said he was “unhappy” with the reports that Mugabe was backing the NPF, but had not yet confirmed them.

Analysts are not sure if Mugabe would be so bold as to take on Mnangagwa directly or if he would make any political impact if he did so.

He has a lot to lose.

After he was pressured to step down by the military after firing Mnangagwa as Vice-President, Mugabe was reportedly offered a very generous severance package, including a $10 million pension, and many perks such as full security for himself and his family and many free flights on the national carrier.

Tony Reeler, a senior researcher at Harare’s Research and Advocacy Unit, says the extent of Mugabe’s involvement in the NPF is not yet clear, but it was evident by his recent statement to visiting African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki that he had not accepted his displacement.

“His statement that it was a coup is an indication that he has not given up the fight.”

If Mugabe is, indeed, making a political comeback, it’s still not clear what his intentions are, Reeler says.

“I would doubt that he is seeking a return to power as things have gone too far for this to happen.

“More than likely, his goal is to prevent Mnangagwa from consolidating his power, but the question is whether this is to allow the opposition to win, or to push for some kind of transitional arrangement in which he might have a role.

“I doubt that the NPF will be able to win an election at this point, but it can be a very serious spoiler,” he added, citing the breakaway from Zanu PF by Simba Makoni, which cost the party dearly in the 2008 elections.

Reeler said it was also not clear what support Mugabe still had among the rural citizenry.

He thought Mnangagwa might be reluctant to take away his privileges for fear of losing a large chunk of rural voters.

Other analysts have said Mnangagwa was always in danger of losing substantial support in the three Mashonaland provinces if there were a split in Zanu PF.

Some see the split in ethnic terms, between clans in the dominant Shona tribe.

Mnangagwa is a member of the Karanga clan, while Mugabe is a member of the Zezuru.

Zimbabwean media mogul Trevor Ncube on Thursday tweeted a warning to the new party not to stir up ethnic hostilities, saying: “NPF aims to stop the perceived Karanga control of Zanu PF. This is a very dangerous game.”

Reeler said it remained to be seen how NPF would play this year’s elections.

“Will the NPF operate as a spoiler as one Zanu PF faction did in 2008?

“Will they try to be a real challenger by pulling in all the disaffected Zanu PF people — including [former Vice-President Joice] Mujuru, etc?

“Or will they try to join a ‘grand coalition’?

“All of these are serious problems for Mnangagwa, who not only has to fight to keep his rump of Zanu PF intact, but has to deliver something to the ordinary citizen that might attract votes.

“The latter looks increasingly difficult, and, even if he can keep his rump intact, he will face a very difficult election, especially for the presidency.

“I would guess, as things stand now, Mnangagwa is unlikely to get a clear majority on the first round, and could very easily lose the second round if all other parties throw their weight behind the second challenger, whoever that might be, but looks likely to be Chamisa.”

Nelson Chamisa is the new leader of the main opposition MDC-T, which was led by its founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, until his recent death from cancer.

Several other opposition parties have nominated him as their joint presidential candidate.

Reeler concluded by saying; “In sum. I would say that Mugabe entering the fray has changed the terrain dramatically, and has given the NPF a credible political base, even if it a negative one based on those that were illegally removed from office.

“My guess is this is not only stirring up Zanu PF, but causing no end of discomfort in Sadc and the international community.”

However, another Zimbabwe analyst, Derek Matyszak, of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), does not believe the NPF presents a real challenge to Mnangagwa.

Matyszak said it was “wishful thinking” to believe the new party had “the gravitas to challenge the ruling Zanu PF party”.

He also found it very hypocritical of Mugabe to demand an apology from Mnangagwa for ousting him, as Mugabe reportedly did at his recent 94th birthday party.

He noted that Mugabe had overseen “the most brutal regime under the Zanu PF banner for years”.

Zimbabwean political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said he didn’t know the NPF’s strategy was.

“But I hope they can read the dynamics on the ground and understand why it is crucial to have one presidential candidate, if we want to dump the military under President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga,” he said.

“Certainly, that presidential candidate can’t be anyone formerly associated with Zanu PF.”

Zimbabwe advocate Freedom Chuma said he had no doubt Mugabe had given his blessing and support to the NPF, as he was clearly very unhappy with the way he was ousted.
“I think Mugabe is a person with a resilient character.

“Once he sticks to a principle, he can die with it.

“His argument is that politics should lead the gun and no matter how much they might disentitle him or take away his ill-gotten wealth, he might actually choose to go down fighting.”

Arthur Sibanda, from Bulawayo, advised Mugabe to remain in retirement.

“What more does he need?

“He must take a back seat and let others lead.

“His time has passed and he should focus on other things such as playing grandfather to his grandchildren or writing books.”


  1. everyone knows Mugabe is more interested in ego & vengeance than in monetary wealth

  2. Sam van den Berg

    Got the wrong picture there! That was Tutankamun in his holiday wrapping.

  3. The ill gotten wealth that the Mugabes have is also going to be ill spent

  4. Mugabe has no support and only won since 1980 courtesy of the military and the Mnangagwas of this world. Without them he has always been nothing and in fact was caterpaulted to the leadership of ZANU by military personnel like Rex Nhongo in the 1970s. Why did politics not lead the gun in his case? Why does he think other people should not benefit from military leaders’ support?
    He erroneously thought he owned Zimbabwe, its people and their mindset. That delusion has now come crushingly crashing down to the ground. He wrongly thinks that he can launch a comeback with the support of tribal and nepotistic chronies like Mutinhiri, Jonso and Patrick.
    Even joining a grand coalition will not be of help because all the other parties in the grouping have no ground support apart from the MDCT. The rest want to get a morsel from associating with MDCT and be able to get into Parliament that way, because leaders of the MDCT opposition party do not comprehend that a coalition does not mean that you share the seats in your support base, but that you field a single presidential candidate and do your own thing in senatorial and national assembly elections.
    Other commentators cited here like Ibo Mandaza are known G40 sympathisers, activists and operators and there is no reason to take them seriously or expect objectivity from what they say. They see an opportunity to hit back when they are asked to comment in a newspaper article like this one.

  5. I like one thing only, all this will make the election results unpredictable. That on its own is a great gift to the country because no-one should claim overwhelming support which doesn’t exist! If anything we now need to assess each of the candidates on their merit and their parties on concrete actions they will take to move the country forward. I love it!!
    If I was in this race I would want to know the breakdown of the voters apart from age stuff like gender, working/unemployed, rural/urban etc as input into my campaigning strategy.

  6. One thing we need to understand is ED is more of Mugabe, the coming of Mugabe into opposition politics is a better move cause he knows all the dirty tricks ED is going to use.Mind we under a serious military rule. After disposing of Mugabe the noble thing was to call for NTA, but ED and military went greedy anmd this should not go on like that

    1. End is nigh for Junta

      you’re right. and he continues to show that power nolstagia. but this sets in motion his own demise. three, four months from now ngwena will no longer be in power. but I think he will be contented because all he wanted in all these years of scheming, including eliminating potential suitors was to at list go in the history canals as one of zim’s presidents never mind for how long he occupies the august post.

  7. One thing we need to understand is ED is more of Mugabe, the coming of Mugabe into opposition politics is a better move cause he knows all the dirty tricks ED is going to use.Mind we under a serious military rule. After disposing of Mugabe the noble thing was to call for NTA, but ED and military went greedy anmd this should not go on like that

  8. I think people are missing the point. This is more than just for Mugabe’s ego but a tribal move. This man has always been a tribal front for a group of tribal misfits in the mind set of Zanupf politics.
    I have had personal experience of this from ye years ago when I was subjected to disenfrancement because I was not from the zezuru tribe. Initially they had taken me as one of their own because I grew up and went in a zezuru rural setting. But when they discovered I was not really from there, I went through hell and I had to work 5 harder to prove my worth
    Upto now there are some zezuru who think th they are entitled to rule the country and no other ethnic group should claim to rule. I hope this will not lead to genocide as happened in other countries.

  9. Watch the political mutation of Mugabe keenly lest he goes down with the nation. Its time to revisit his retirement package and take the necessary disciplinary action for breach of contract. At 94, his cronies can take advantage of his advanced age to pursue their own interests. He is a Zimbo by right but his political moves after expulsion demand thorough scrutiny. Beware of the threat from within.

  10. Robert is Chewa, only his mother was Zezuru.


    1. @Kaguvi, with due respect, you must be blind. Are you aware that Robert endorsed everyone born from a parent outside Zimbabwe as ALIEN? Which law are you talking about which only select him to be zimbabwean and everyone else Alien? Even those born before him have alien on their birth certificates and ID’s. It’s your right to support him, but be realistic.

  12. Comment…The threat posed by.Mugabe and ZanuPF as strong political entity with national and non-tribal outlook. Mugabe benefited for close to half century from the benevolence of fellow freedom fighters with far greater and more genuine nationalist credentials than his.

  13. Comment…The threat posed by.Mugabe and ZanuPF as strong political entity with national and non-tribal outlook. Mugabe benefited for close to half century from the benevolence of fellow freedom fighters with far greater and more genuine nationalist credentials than his.The best card playable by ED proceed undeterred to do what Migabe failed to do in 37 years introduce clean version of democracy not inferior to South Africa’s younger democracy.

  14. I think the comment above is misplaced to say ED is worried about Mugabe” s comeback,most Zimbabweans are worried about this development and I would like to applaud Trevor Ncube for seeing the whole chess game being played by Mugabe. We have always known that Mugabe thrives on tribalism and Im disappointed that our local journalists are trying to deny this fact.Trevor Ncube is an an accomplished and foresighted journalist whom I regard highly because he calls a spade a spade not our local journalists who are just social media journalists who call a spade a frog.Mugabe”s manouvres are going to cost the whole country not just Zanu Pf mark my words.

  15. Mtinhiri and Bob are an extention of Florizi, that tribal outfit.The former president wanted to have left one of his kind in power,from the Mashonaland provinces and not the guys from the SE.He was never happy about all except his tribesman.Mtinhiri is pretending to see injustice now yet he was part of the gravy train for the past 38 years.Funny.The government must allow the common man into Blue house to remind HIM of our sadness about his actions and the rest will follow.Will give you more instalments……

  16. Manautsamukanwa, hohonwa kurota ichidzokera pachigaro

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