By Tatenda Chitagu
THE late former President Robert Mugabe’s son, Robert Junior’s recent endorsement of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is seen as a climbdown meant to protect the late strongman’s empire and secure the future of his widow Grace, analysts have said.
Robert Jnr surprisingly pitched up at a Zanu PF rally in Chitungwiza last week which was being addressed by Mnangagwa clad in ruling party regalia chanting party slogans, praising Mnangagwa and expressing his long-standing love for the ruling party.
“I thought I should come and support the party. It is like family tradition. The only party I have known since I was born is Zanu PF. I am a child of Zanu PF and I have a Zanu PF soul. It is only right that I continue the legacy,” he said.
Mnangagwa appeared flattered when Robert Jnr shouted the slogan, Pasi nemhandu (to hell with the enemy). This is despite the fact that Mnangagwa ousted Mugabe in a coup in 2017 after a fallout in the last days of the late leader’s long reign.
In 2017, at public rallies dubbed “meet the people”, Mugabe and his wife Grace took turns to take a dig at Mnangagwa, sometimes delving into his personal life.
Mugabe died in 2019, two years after the coup.
Before his burial, there was a standoff over where his remains were to be interred, with the government preferring the National Heroes Acre where a mausoleum was built for him while the family chose to bury at his rural home.
With this background, some observers said the late Mugabe could be turning in his grave as his son was wining and dining with his “tormentors”.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Robert Junior was playing the fool to secure the family businesses and its future.
“Inasmuch as he has a right to join a political party of his choice, nothing much should be read into Robert Jnr’s endorsement of Mnangagwa. This is just a strategy to protect family businesses and interests,” Gwede said.
He added that the Mugabe family was under pressure due to collapsing businesses, multiple farm ownership issue and exhumation court battle, hence the need to make peace with Mnangagwa
“There are many forces working behind the scenes to give this result. The family has been under pressure even before Mugabe died. Waning businesses and the exhumation court battle could have been deciding factors. So they want to protect their future. The Mugabes want to keep properties and wealth, so it is not betrayal on the part of Robert Jnr. He knows what befell his father, but this is a time for reality, they want to align with the new dispensation,” Gwede added.
Another analyst, who requested anonymity, said there could be other manoeuvres on the part of the new dispensation which wants to be seen as continuing Mugabe legacy.
“Do not just take it from the side of the Mugabes. There are manoeuvres on the part of the government and emissaries could have been sent to convince Robert Jnr.
“The new administration wants to be seen as carrying on the legacy of Mugabe so as to disprove the fact that it staged a coup. It is a win-win situation,” said a lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (Independent) questioned whether the reception given to Robert Jnr was a re-admission of the G40 elements in Zanu PF.
However, Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi said Robert Jnr was welcome in the party and “the same favour even goes to the former First Lady”.
“Membership to Zanu PF is individual not family-based. Robert Jnr was not expelled from Zanu PF, same with Chatunga and Bona. The President promised that he will always be there for the Mugabe family whenever they needed him,” Mugwadi posted on Twitter.
- Follow us on Twitter @NewsDayZimbabwe