Mugabe’s bare-knuckled challenge to Mnangagwa’s legitimacy

It was, for the most part, an exercise in bitter retrospection.

Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe spent much of his first press conference since being ousted reflecting on the illegality of last November’s “coup d’etat,” and on the personal sense of betrayal that clearly still preoccupies the 94 year old.


But while some Zimbabweans, and historians, may find much to ponder in Mr Mugabe’s enduring sense of victimhood, and in the dramatic details he provided about his allies’ escape, under gunfire, from Harare, the real question for the country is what – if anything – this carefully choreographed media intervention means for the future.

Above all, it means working out what Mr Mugabe meant by the phrase “we must undo this disgrace” – in reference to the coup – and whether anyone will now take him seriously.

It is easy, and tempting, to conclude that Zimbabwe has moved on; that Mr Mugabe’s tetchy claims that the man who ousted him, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is “improper… illegal” as nothing more than sour grapes, to be quietly ignored by a nation, and an international community, that has overwhelmingly accepted the legitimacy of the new president.

His press conference however has not endeared him to many of his detractors.

“A cruel old dictator seeking public sympathy. Not from me,” said newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube on social media.

“This man destroyed our lives, murdered thousands and… today he appears on foreign media which he banned and claims he must be invited to a transitional process,” scoffed the outspoken campaigner Pastor Evans Mawarire, using the hashtag #RetireInPeaceBob.

And yet, Mr Mugabe’s strident claims that Zimbabwe remains a constitutional delinquent – that the criminality of the coup cannot simply be wished away – will hold true for some and will surely echo, albeit faintly, through the chaotic politics of a country now preparing for national elections in the coming months.

It’s worth remembering that, despite the sudden unity displayed by the governing Zanu-PF as it rallied behind Mr Mnangagwa and turned its back on Mr Mugabe, last year’s military coup was prompted by deep factional battles within the party, and – not unlike South Africa’s ANC and its new leadership – those divisions will not vanish simply because a new man is in charge.

A new party, the National Patriotic Front (NPF), has emerged in Zimbabwe as a vehicle for those in the G40 faction of Zanu-PF.

These were ambitious figures – who claimed to speak for the youth – who rallied behind Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and briefly succeeded in ousting Mr Mnangagwa.

And yet, the NPF seems unlikely to make significant electoral inroads in such a short time.

And Mr Mugabe’s implicit endorsement of the party may not prove to be the vote winner that he would like to imagine.

“They’re just a bunch of useless, irrelevant individuals, grandstanding,” said war veteran’s leader Chris Mutsvangwa, of those, like former ministers Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo, who now appear to be working behind the scenes with the NPF.

“This is fatuous nonsense from an over-indulged old man.”

In the meantime, most Zimbabweans are preoccupied with more mundane issues, as they cling to the hope that President Mnangagwa can deliver on his promise to revive the economy, capitalise on an anticipated rush of foreign investment, pay salaries, and bring a once prosperous nation back to its feet.

At his luxury villa on the edge of Harare, Mr Mugabe faced the foreign press from behind a grand desk, seeking, it seemed, to project the illusion of power.

He cut a forlorn figure, as he offered to help return Zimbabwe to the path of constitutionality, but stipulated that “I must be invited, properly invited, for that discussion.”
He may have to wait a while.

In the meantime, perhaps the most perceptive comment he offered to the visiting journalists came as he ended his prepared remarks and looked up from his notes.

“Currently… I am isolated,” he said, with some understatement.

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  1. kukwegura kwa bhobho kwave kunzwisa hurombo, vana jonathan nana savior varikuramba vachimushandisa, ngavasadaro.

  2. This old, cruel, ruthless and insensitive dictator must not or never preach constitutionalism to anyone, even to his so called kids because he willy-nilly flouted the Zimbabwe Constitution during his days. Let him tell the world if it was constitutional to refuse to step down from 2002 when he was white washed at the polls by the late RM Tsvangirai(MHDSRIP)…Disgusting idiot

  3. `No one is better than the other

  4. seizure of the open vantage opportunity,my curiosity pursueded l noticed.

    FORMER PRESIDENT COMRADE ROBERT GABRIEL MUGABE here on my other wing followed by CURRENT PRESIDENT EMMERSON MUNANGARWA on my other wing aswell. Division of recent fraternised coalitioned party alliance FORMULATED l consider based on the scuffication of assumptions prior to the frequency of publishment ,l foresee.

    WICH is WICH?vexed by vexers of vexation ask. what to answer for the considerable answer is void.
    WHO to favor? symbolises a second vexed question of vexers that of consideration aswell.

    MY point is positivities are present amongst the candidatures here discussed,firstly that of abdicated famous syndicate wich is MR MUGABE, the KARIBA project was a successful ambition under his control, command agriculture aswell and the like wich remarks a box of positivities which boasts the economy of the country AND so is the current party PRESIDENT MUNANGARWA so the question randomly goes to the center of criticism that of WHICH IS WHICH, WHO IS WHO.

  5. Iwo wana Ngwena wachinyanyawo….heee Mugabe is my father,my icon….hezvoka Baba wako wakuti wakabvuta masimba avo.Siyanayi nayo harahwa iyo.

  6. looking for friends he said he is isolated and poked fun at antiquated zna weaponary thats how i summarise this old man’s cry to be heard but unfortunately its falling on deaf ears across the length and breath of this country, bhobho converting aeroplanes into taxis and sending grandchild for check up in the far east is over, the writing is on the wall.

  7. MUgabe wants to play with our emotions like he used to do. MY FOOT!!

  8. Ever since Ed came to power , newsday has become his mouthpiece…hear the way they praise him when he had utterly done nothing economically and politically to guarantee a prosperous zim ever since he came to power…its just pure truth that u have being paid to write positive news when he isnt duin anything…look at the way you report about MDC…pure negativity…newsday u are a disgrace

  9. Mugabe is useless like old cabbage… and he smells.

  10. How can he be isolated, remember his facial expression when he was shaking hands with ED after the youth interface rally?

  11. Comment…**** you Bob you have fogotten how you staged a coup in 2008.Just up and see how a country is run.Zim is not yours.

  12. You were caught napping Old Madhala…..the horse has bolted already and you cannot believe it you Old Thug…..Never Say Never…you thought you were invincible kkkkkk…Power Pepe Dhu its gone in a flash. Accept it and move on Matibiri.

  13. It could rightly be call of duty on the part of those who arranged and carried out this press conference.But eish! guys, be considerate and leave this ambitious and combative nonagenarian to a deserved rest.One of these days he could collapse during the interviews


  15. hes been sleeping for so long, now hes awake for a few minutes talking sh!t again. go back to sleep you old man, forever !!!

  16. Kenneth (Ken) R Sharpe

    This is Ken Sharpe. I am the Chairman of Augur and West Properties in Harare. My companies have concluded a number of important national projects under the guidance and leadership of minister Chombo including the airport road in Harare officially commissioned by the President Mugabe. We are currently working on the construction of our flagship project- the Mall of Zimababwe.
    The attacks on the democratically elected president Mugabe by an illicit Mnangawa cabal is a malicious and well calculated attack on our democracy!!
    Mnangagwa and his regime came to power as a result of a military coup, which is illegal and should be rejected by all Zimbabweans.
    Mnangawa personally has the blood of the Matabele people on his hands.
    Have you forgotten this? These crimes can never be forgotten or forgiven.

    We need to repent for our sinful ways and pray to restore president Mugabe to his rightful place as a president of Zimbabwe and hold a free and fair elections!!!

    My companies and I strongly support cde Mugabe who came forward critisising the illigality of Mnagagwa’s “government “ and the way our leader and elder has been treated.

    Ken Sharpe
    Augur Investments

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