Ousted former president Robert Mugabe has thrown his full weight behind the New Patriotic Front (NPF), led in the interim by retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri, in what is likely to split the ruling party vote at the forthcoming polls, the Daily News can report.
Initiated in November last year, NPF had largely remained a political project on paper until the surprise resignation of Mutinhiri from Zanu PF last week to take up its leadership — springing another candidate into an already congested presidential race likely to be tightly-contested between the ruling party and the MDC Alliance.
Mutinhiri, through NPF, confirmed meeting Mugabe yesterday, betraying the 94-year-old despot’s hand in the new party, which is hardly surprising considering that he has since gone public, demonising his dethronement in November last year as “unconstitutional”.
The NPF issued its first statement yesterday, tacitly revealing that Mugabe had endorsed the party when he met Mutinhiri at his “Blue Roof” mansion in the leafy Borrowdale area on Sunday.
At the meeting, Mutinhiri claimed that out of every three Zanu PF members, two of them were NPF faithful. He also sensationally avowed that the impeachment process that Parliament rolled into motion in November last year to get rid of Mugabe, would not have succeeded as 50 Members of Parliament had been mobilised to vote against the motion.
The statement indicated that the purpose of the meeting was for Mutinhiri to appraise Mugabe of his resignation from Zanu PF; his gratitude for the opportunity to serve under the teetotaller’s administration and to bring him up to speed with the formation of NPF, which the retired brigadier general said was a result of the disenchantment in the ruling party over the manner in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed power through a military soft coup.
“In his response, … Mugabe congratulated … Mutinhiri for taking a bold move and said that Zimbabwe needed man and women of principle who should fight to preserve the legacy of the liberation struggle and condemn the brutality against the people that is being witnessed under the military junta,” reads part of NPF’s statement.
In response, Mugabe was quoted as having said “everyone should fight to ensure that people are free to belong to parties of their choice and that there is no interference by the army or those that would want to resort to violence as a means of getting votes”.
Mugabe is also said to have urged Mutinhiri to work with the “full spectrum” of youths to enable them to take over governance of the country in the interest of generational renewal “whose time has come”.
He is quoted as having said: “I hope your NPF party will empower the youths to takeover. Don’t oppress them; make sure they are not harassed. I know they will be harassed and some arrested but empower them mentally to fight for what is right.”
Indications are that Mugabe and his overbearing wife Grace could be headed for big trouble with both the ruling Zanu PF and the country’s new government, who perceive his utterances as “provocative”.
Yesterday, the State media railed against Mugabe’s alleged political manoeuvring, and alleged for the first time the former first family’s greed — including owning a staggering 21 farms.
With Mugabe keen to return to hit back on those who ousted him from power, several sources told the Daily News yesterday that the Mnangagwa government was not leaving anything to chance and is now targeting Mugabe and his wife to return money allegedly stashed in foreign lands with the extension of the moratorium to March 16 to bring back externalised assets also said to be targeting the former first family.
Mugabe’s wife Grace has properties in South Africa and the family reportedly has properties in Asia.
Mugabe was deposed last November after the military launched Operation Restore Legacy, which led to him and his wife Grace being removed from power and being placed under house arrest.
Several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 faction — who had coalesced around Grace — were targeted in the operation which ended towards Christmas, with the soldiers only retreating to the barracks after five weeks of executing the operation.
But the former Zanu PF leader has not yet thrown in the towel and is now emerging as one of the constant pains for Mnangagwa’s government.
Mugabe, whose birthday falls on February 21, first emerged from his shell last month when he reportedly told the African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahammat that he was unconstitutionally removed from power and that the country should not expect a free and fair election because the military is now in charge.
Since breaking his silence he went on to host former Cabinet ministers at his palatial Borrowdale home.
Political analyst Alex Magaisa said the new administration was built on a faulty foundation and despite assurances to the contrary, authors of the events in November knew that they had set out to remove Mugabe using force.
Magaisa said Mugabe may have tendered a resignation letter on November 21, but he would not have done so had the military not intervened and sparked the series of events that placed him under severe pressure to throw in the towel.
“It was a coup in all but name,” he said.
“There were illegalities including the unconstitutional deployment of the armed forces on November 14, which happened outside the authority of the commander-in-chief of the (Zimbabwe) Defence Forces. No rational observer can possibly conclude that this deployment was legal.
The authors of the coup were fully aware of this which explains the bizarre judgment issued by a High Court judge three days after Mugabe’s resignation declaring that the actions of the military were lawful and constitutional.”
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said: “Mugabe will succeed in causing mayhem and confusion in Zanu PF.