Former president Robert Mugabe must be free to engage in political activities he wants and associate with any party he wants to as long as such activities are not treasonous, analysts content.
Mugabe and his wife Grace, seem to have angered President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF party after they reportedly “anointed” former minister of State for Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs Ambrose Mutinhiri as the leader of the new political project, National Patriotic Front (NPF).
Mutinhiri, a veteran of the 1970s war against white minority rule resigned from Zanu-PF and gave up his parliamentary seat before meeting Mugabe after which he announced that he had formed NPF.
The development has rattled Zanu-PF officials who are suspicious that by endorsing Mutinhiri, the former president is daring government under the leadership of Mnangagwa.
Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao speaking from his hide-out has said Mugabe and his wife are not part of NPF.
But Mnangagwa, addressing a Zanu-PF Youth League assembly recently said he is disturbed by the media reports that Mugabe is behind the formation of NPF.
He added though that he is not going to take a stance against Mugabe until he has gathered enough information that the former president is behind the formation of a political party to distabilise Zanu-PF.
Mnangagwa remarked: “The former president, paita nyaya (there’s an issue). Currently, we see in the media about various speculations about his activities. I have no doubt that in no time the facts and reality will be made known.
“And we will only take a position when the issues are known and it’s factual. But currently we are not happy with what the media is saying. We don’t know if it’s correct or not but it’s an issue that we are examining.”
Political and social analysts believe Mugabe’s involvement in active politics from behind the scene is an irritant for his successor.
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said Mnangagwa’s quagmire and political quandary is that he was in Mugabe’s government since 1980, which makes him complicity in abuses levelled against Mugabe through the principle of collective responsibility.
“He therefore maybe unable to prosecute or charge Mugabe, but would rather use harassment and intimidation to try and silence Mugabe without having to subject him to due process of law which would openly expose the fallacy of a new administration totally divorced from Mugabe’s era.
“If Mnangagwa cannot subject Mugabe to due process like prosecution he should guarantee Mugabe’s full rights as a free Zimbabwean citizen. Only a competent and independent court of law can place a legitimate limit on a citizen’s rights, including Mugabe,” said Mavhinga.
Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Mugabe poses an electoral challenge to Mnangagwa as he remains popular with some in Zanu-PF and the formation of NPF by Mutinhiri is an attestation that there remains many disgruntled Zanu-PF members not happy with events of November 2017.
“In this regard Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF are concerned about Mugabe and his movements and likely political decisions. They would rather have Mugabe remain in Zanu-PF than have him support another political party. Mugabe has a right to support a party of his choice and engage in political activities within the law. That is an inalienable right for every citizen,” said Mukundu.
Crisis Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo said the issue at stake here is that Zanu-PF is fretting over the numbers that are still in Mugabe’s corner.
“The active participation of Mugabe in politics eats into the ground of Zanu-PF loyalty base, hence the reflex response through attacks on his person.
“Remember, Zanu-PF all along won elections through its support base in the Mashonaland Province, therefore the panic arise in that by lending his support on the new party he exerts pressure on the Zanu-PF’s catchment area.
“However, whatever it is, the people of Zimbabwe should not allow their eyes swayed from the ball by politics of personalities but should demand for the strengthening of institutions and reform of the laws ahead of elections so that their electoral choices are respected,” said Moyo.
Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said Mugabe should be accorded the same rights as everyone else including freedom of speech and association including supporting a political party of his choice.
“The Mnangagwa regime is acting insecure and surprisingly so since they decommissioned Mugabe in November. They are behaving like a man who divorces his wife for cheating; says he has moved on and even remarries but still hounds the ex, stopping them from freely associating with whomever they want.
“Mugabe on the other hand, and perhaps rightfully so is like a woman scorned, and hell will not have a fury like his; making Mnangagwa’s fear founded although he caused the situation,” said Lewanika.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Mnangagwa’s government has a lack of understanding of the idea of constitutional rights such as freedom of association, which no one has the power to grant or take.
“So to see them criminalise people for forming a political party affirms their lack of understanding of this fact. Many Zimbabweans wanted Mugabe to account for a plethora of human rights issues that arose under his 37-year rule and contribute to a national peace and reconciliation process, but in ED’s wisdom or lack of it, he said Mugabe would not be questioned. If they have any charges against Mugabe they should simply subject him to a legal process,” said Gwede.
“…they are using the de facto amnesty they gave him in as a weapon of political blackmail, and political blackmail is neither the best idea of justice nor democracy.”
Lawyer and former MDC official Obert Gutu said Mugabe, at the ripe old age of 94, should accept reality that he was chucked out of office and move on with his life.
“He is a Zimbabwean citizen and of course, he is fully entitled to politically associate himself with whomsoever he wants as long as such an association is lawful and constitutional.
“That said, it is rather strange and absolutely absurd that Mugabe still wants to be a political activist at his advanced age.
“He seems to be in denial. He should simply accept that he is no longer the president of Zimbabwe and that the country has since moved on,” said Gutu.
He added that on the other hand, Mnangagwa shouldn’t be unduly perturbed by Mugabe’s political activities as long as such activities are not treasonous.
“Zimbabweans are not stupid people. They know that Mugabe is yesterday’s man. He is expired, politically. If I was in Mugabe’s space and at that advanced age, I would simply enjoy my retirement in peace and tranquillity and concentrate on writing my memoirs,” said Gutu.
Social analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said the morality of politics is a debatable phenomenon.
“When Mugabe resigned, the nation was told it was based on conditions we are not fully appraised. If Mugabe ‘signed away’, as it were, his political rights, he is under a moral obligation to adhere to those conditions. Mugabe spent his time in power curtailing our freedoms. He deserves everything thrown at him.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said on surface Mugabe must be free to engage in political activity he wants and associate with any party he wants.
“For the good of the nation and political courtesy ex-heads of States stay clear of politics for stability and preservation of their legacies.
“This is why (Barack) Obama is not saying much about (Donald) Trump or former presidents in SA and Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia among others keep low political profiles even if they don’t agree with incumbent’s policies,” said Saungweme.
He added that Mugabe’s latest activities have potential to throw the delicate political aura in Zimbabwe into chaos or instability.
“While his activities will help the opposition as they face a fractured Zanu-PF, the end of it all will be chaotic and potentially bloody. We may see people getting arrested for made up cases.