Shocking claims have emerged that although ousted former president Robert Mugabe was a much-feared leader both at home and abroad, even in his dotage, he was allegedly a “helpless” victim of domestic abuse by his volatile wife Grace by the time he fell from power.
Although allegations to this effect had long been whispered within the corridors of power, ex-aides of the former first family lifted the veil of secrecy around their troubled lives at the weekend, telling the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe was “a broken man” when the military intervened in the governance of the country last year.
Indeed, so widespread had talk around Mugabe’s apparent political incapacitation and alleged domestic abuse become at the height of Zanu PF’s brutal tribal, factional and succession wars, that fearless former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda spoke publicly in October 2014 of a “bedroom coup” at State House — a statement which later led to his arrest.
It didn’t help to douse Harare’s rampant rumour mill that the nonagenarian himself later openly told delegates at the ruling party’s hotly-disputed elective congress of that year that Grace was the boss in his home, and that she always dictated to him what to do — and that he had no choice but to follow her instructions to the letter.
“Gushungo (Mugabe) was in serious trouble from Amai (Grace) for many years, and at one time one of his children (name supplied but withheld) was even forced by the circumstances to approach General … (name of the retired top securocrat supplied but withheld) who is distantly related to the family, to tell him that the former president was being badly beaten and abused by his wife.
“The situation was so bad that there was even a serious consideration by the military top brass to take the then president, as their commander-in-chief at the time, to the safety of Tongogara Barracks since he was no longer safe at home,” one of the well-placed former aides told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.
Another former aide of the increasingly frail nonagenarian — who sounded pitifully incoherent when he entertained a select group of mainly foreign media at his Blue Roof mansion in Harare last month, where he couldn’t remember that Grace had been a senior Zanu PF official and an untouchable power broker at the time he fell from power — appeared to corroborate the claims.
“I don’t think that it’s right for me or for anyone for that matter to get into the details of the lives and their difficulties of Baba naAmai … suffice to say that they sometimes had their challenges like all people, and it didn’t help that there is a significant ideological and age difference between them,” the second former aide said, refusing to shed more light.
Repeated efforts yesterday to reach Mugabe and Grace yesterday for a comment drew a blank, amid reports that the former first lady is currently away in Singapore, on unspecified business.
A senior government official who did not wish to “dwell on intimate details of the former first family’s personal lives”, was nevertheless happy to confirm that Mugabe had “indeed lost control of the levers of the State” by the time he was deposed from power.
“I don’t want to dwell on intimate details of the former first family’s personal lives, but it is common cause that the former president was definitely no longer in charge of the country when Operation Restore Legacy happened.
“Cabinet appointments and sackings, for example, were now being made elsewhere, which is why, as you may remember, it later came out that the former president couldn’t even remember firing President Mnangagwa when the two men spoke on the phone at the time,” the official said.
Last week, Mugabe’s former spokesperson and Information permanent secretary, George Charamba, told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, that although Operation Restore Legacy was able to get rid of bad elements who had surrounded Mugabe, there was “no way that the army could have separated the former first couple”.
“The tragedy about Operation Restore Legacy is that it extricated negative elements that were around the then president, but it could not get into his home.
“He is now being abused by the likes of (former Higher Education minister) Jonathan Moyo and his wife … and there is no way Operation Restore Legacy could have visited his bedroom … now they are putting his pictures on their party (NPF) regalia,” Charamba said.
Insiders have also claimed that when prominent Roman Catholic cleric, Father Fidelis Mukonori — accompanied by Kadoma based businessman Jimayi Muduvuri, who is the patron of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches Council (Zacc) — recently visited Mugabe, they found him looking lonely and teary.
“He was literally crying, bemoaning the fact that liberation struggle veterans such as (Josiah) Tongogara, (Herbert) Chitepo, (Joshua) Nkomo and (Simon) Muzenda had all passed on. He also complained wistfully about Mnangagwa also abandoning him,” one of the sources privy to the engagement said.
The South African born Grace, 52, rose to fame when she started an affair with Mugabe — who is 41 years her senior — while she was working as a typist at State House, and while she was still married to Stanley Goreraza, an air force pilot with whom she has a son Russell.
At the time, Mugabe was was also still married to Sally, his much-loved first wife who died from kidney failure in 1992.
The couple later married in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony that was attended by the late anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, and a host of other African leaders.
They have three children — Bona, Robert and Chatunga — and are reputed to have vast business, real estate and farming interests both in Zimbabwe and abroad.
Grace is a controversial figure, with her infamous lavish lifestyle earning her derisive nicknames such as ‘Gucci Grace’ and ‘DisGrace’ from her many critics. She recently lost more than US$1 million on a botched ring purchase.
Among countless other scandals linked to her, she controversially earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Zimbabwe in 2014, and last year savaged a young South African woman who was consorting with her wild-living sons in Johannesburg.