Worried religious groups are apparently stepping up their efforts to bring together President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his sulking predecessor Robert Mugabe, in a bid to break the heightening tension between the two former allies.
This comes as Mugabe’s longtime spokesperson George Charamba — who is also the permanent secretary for the Information ministry and now speaks for Mnangagwa — told the Daily News yesterday that time was running out for his former boss to get into good books with his successor and the new dispensation in his own interest.
“All Zimbabweans are concerned by the tension between our former leader and the country’s new president, and as an important constituency in our nation we are saying that we need to do something quickly to end this unnecessary tension,” a clergyman privy to the initiative said last night.
Among the churches which have openly admitted to working hard to try and mend the rift between Mugabe and Mnangagwa before this year’s elections take place are the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches Council (Zacc), whose patron is Jimayi Muduvuri.
Muduvuri recently told the Daily News that they had engaged a director with close links with the former president, in an endeavour to make the two men smoke the peace pipe.
“What the former president is doing is wrong. He owes the current president support because the two have been together for more than 50 years. If anything, they should be able to talk.
“Now as the church, we are saying that whoever is pushing Mugabe back into politics is wrong. It is evil to abuse such an elderly person … and all churches are behind the new president,” Muduvuri said.
Attempts by churches to bring the two men together follows a similar initiative by former Cabinet ministers Walter Mzembi and Makhosini Hlongwane, who have also sounded Mugabe and his wife out about making peace with Mnangagwa.
The Mzembi-led initiative — which was first revealed in the Daily News last month and which was presented to Mugabe — followed a sharp escalation in hostilities between the two leaders.
The two former ministers have reportedly asked Mugabe to reflect on the possible consequences of his intransigence as a founding Zanu PF leader, as well as about the results of his failure to reconcile with his successor.
Mugabe fell out with Mnangagwa when he fired the country’s new leader both from being his deputy in government and from Zanu PF in November last year, as the nonagenarian’s long-drawn succession war boiled over.
But the tables turned on Mugabe dramatically when he resigned later the same month, following a military intervention which paved the way for Mnangagwa to take over the reins at both government and Zanu PF level.
Mugabe and Mnangagwa had until then shared a very close relationship that dated back to the days of the liberation struggle when the latter was the former’s aide.
In the meantime, Zanu PF insiders accuse Mugabe of using all manner of “foul tactics” — including sabotaging the government’s work and destabilising the ruling party ahead of the looming watershed elections, by allegedly continuing to work with disgruntled members of the vanquished G40 faction.
This comes as Mugabe recently surprised both authorities and ordinary Zimbabweans by re-entering the political arena, and holding several meetings with opposition leaders — including openly lending his support to the fledgling new National Patriotic Front (NPF).
Yesterday, Charamba told the Daily News: “The need and request for a meeting with the President (Mnangagwa) came from the former president who is reportedly connected to G40. That means he is the one who needs a strategy and solution to contain the meddlesome G40.
“Besides, he is the one with issues to raise with his successor, which means the delayed contact is to his detriment,” Charamba said.
Earlier, over the weekend, Charamba also claimed that Mugabe and the G40 had tried without success to sabotage Mnangagwa’s State visit to China by sending the 94-year-old to the eastern Asian economic giant at the time the Zanu PF leader was embarking on his week-long State visit there.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Mugabe appeared to be “obsessed with power“ to the extent that he was finding it hard to accept that authority now resided with Mnangagwa, which was also getting in the way of dialogue between the two men.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure warned that the tension between Mugabe and Mnangagwa was not likely to subside any time soon because the nonagenarian was too bitter to be interested in common ground.
“The manner with which the ex-president was replaced and elbowed out is the source of his bitterness. It’s one-sided bitterness from the one who was removed and he will neither forget nor forgive … so this could outlive the elections no matter the outcome of those elections.
“There is bad blood between the two and I don’t see any improvement any time soon. Most probably, he will go to his grave with his bitterness,” Masunungure said.
Mugabe has publicly been at loggerheads with Mnangagwa’s administration since he recently broke his silence over his stunning ouster.
He has also complained about the manner in which he lost power, as well as the alleged harassment that he is suffering at the hands of the new authorities.
He has also complained bitterly to the African Union that Mnangagwa’s government is allegedly not treating him well — including through the supposed withholding of some of the eye-watering benefits that he was promised when he fell from power.
Lately, his former allies have also made desperate distress calls to both sitting and former heads of States on the continent, on fears that the government may arrest the nonagenarian and his unhinged wife Grace over allegations that he engaged in myriad criminal activities while in power.
Grace is already under serious police investigation after being implicated in the smuggling of the country’s ivory stocks, with several other ongoing probes said to be targeting the former first lady in the offing.
While it has not been publicly confirmed, the Daily News has it on good authority that Mugabe has been personally assured of his immunity from prosecution for all the crimes that he may have committed during his tenure in office.
However, it is believed that this blanket immunity does not cover the much-disliked Grace who made many enemies both in and out of Zanu PF while her husband was in power.