Former president Robert Mugabe has snubbed the mediation team led by Roman Catholic cleric, Father Fidelis Mukonori, which is frantically trying to get him to close ranks with his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Daily News reported.
The two politicians, who became estranged after Mnangagwa was dismissed from Zanu-PF and government last November before he launched a dramatic comeback nearly two weeks later to wrest power from Mugabe, had been scheduled to meet in order to iron out their differences.
That meeting is now unlikely after the 94-year-old teetotaller humiliated the mediation team on Monday when they visited his palatial mansion in the leafy Borrowdale area in Harare.
A former guerrilla leader, who led his country for 37 years before he was forced to resign on November 21 last year, Mugabe infuriated the emissaries who are acting on behalf of Mnangagwa when he refused to come down to meet them from his bedroom, upstairs, saying he was "too exhausted".
Apparently, the exhaustion was caused by his visit to Singapore where he had gone for his routine medical check-up.
The negotiating team comprises Mukonori and Jimayi Muduvuri – a senior Zanu-PF official who doubles up as patron of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mukonori could only say "there is nothing for now, if there is anything we will let you know".
Muduvuri, however, cautioned that the former president was surrounded by the "wrong people", implying the veteran nationalists' judgment was being influenced by those close to him.
"Hopefully, he will invite us and we sit down to find a way forward," said Muduvuri.
Ironically, the military operation that led to Mugabe's ouster last November had a specific mandate of removing "criminals" around him.
A number of Mugabe's allies fell by the wayside during the military operation. Some of them were arrested on various charges, while a few went into self-imposed exile, among them former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and ex-Labour and Social Welfare minister Patrick Zhuwao.
Up to this day, Mugabe has rarely ventured outside his exquisite Borrowdale mansion, affectionately known as the Blue Roof, where he spends much of his time with his wife, Grace, who is 41 years younger than her husband.
It has often been said that Grace has a hold on Mugabe more than his long-time war allies who have been alleging that he has become captured.
Mnangagwa's spokesperson, George Charamba, who was not immediately available for comment yesterday, has previously told the Daily News that his former boss was surrounded by the wrong people.
He said the tragedy about Operation Restore Legacy, which caused Mugabe's ouster, was that while it removed negative elements that were around him, it could not get into his home.
" . . . he is being abused by the likes of … Moyo and his wife," he said. "There is no way Operation Restore Legacy would have visited his bedroom. He is a revered icon – let him rest, now they are putting his pictures on their party," added Charamba, referring to the National Patriotic Front (NPF)'s campaign posters.
Moyo, the former minister of Information and Publicity, went into exile, along with Kasukuwere and Zhuwao after the military raided their respective homes in search of Mugabe's allies.
Mugabe is now linked to the NPF, whose key drivers were behind the Generation 40 (G40) faction, which was resistant to Mnangagwa's vaunted ambitions to succeed him.
The army that Mugabe had feted for almost four decades, "stepped in" on November 15 last year in the wake of Mnangagwa's dismissal from Zanu-PF and government and, in less than 10 days, hoisted the former Justice minister to the presidency.
Sources told the Daily News yesterday that while Mnangagwa was relishing an opportunity to engage face-to-face with his boss of nearly six decades to ensure that his Zanu-PF party goes to the forthcoming polls united, he was also uncomfortable with the people around Mugabe.
They said Mnangagwa was particularly unhappy with Mugabe's continued association with the NPF and a coterie of officials previously linked to G40, among them retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri, who is the party's leader.
Yesterday, the NPF leapt to Mugabe's defence saying he has no business sitting down with "coupsters," a derisive reference to the people who orchestrated his downfall.
During celebrations to mark the country's 38th Independence Day celebrations, NPF boycotted the event even after being invited in protest to the "unconstitutional takeover" of the country by Mnangagwa and his acolytes from the military, among them former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantino Chiwenga, who is now vice president.
In a scathing statement, NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said they could not attend the country's 38th birthday because there was an unfortunate reversal of Mugabe's policies such as the land reform and indigenisation.
"When we thought our people had gotten land, the top national grievance that led thousands to take up arms against the racist Ian Smith regime, now we face the gloom reality of that land being returned to our erstwhile colonisers by, ironically, the people who staged a coup to ‘restore the legacy' of our founding fathers.
"We are saddened, today, that the coup plotters are sacrificing all the pro-black and empowerment policies that . . . Mugabe had introduced in order to get recognition and endorsements from our former colonisers. It is sad that, as we celebrate our 38th year of self-determination, we are faced with the gloom reality of an illegal regime doing everything to reverse the land reform and indigenisation policies that had been set in motion as vehicles for creating a generation of black land owners and industrialists, all under the guise of a useless anecdote that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business'.
"We find ourselves, today, in an uncanny situation where those we entrusted with spears to protect the people, never turned their weapons into productive instruments for social security, but, instead, turned them into weapons of usurping power from the people, instruments of coercion not protection," said Mawarire.
Due to their perceived closeness, NPF's sentiments are said to echo those of Mugabe who recently said his dethronement was unconstitutional and needed to be corrected.
Like Mugabe, the NPF spokesperson said that when the army took over last year – several people were left dead.
Although Mnangagwa told thousands of Zimbabweans who thronged the National Sports Stadium that his government was working flat out to end cash shortages and would also ensure free and fair elections due around midyear, the NPF remains unconvinced and, just like Mugabe, says the present government is "illegal".
"Today, we should come to our senses and realise that an illegitimate and illegal government cannot proffer solutions to the cash crisis. It cannot build new road and rail infrastructure because it has no mandate to do those things.
"In NPF, we understand the plight of our people in the rural areas. We are aware that Zanu-PF under . . . Mnangagwa is threatening to take away land from resettled black farmers and hand it back to former white farmers," said Mawarire.
However, in his address at the Independence Day celebrations, Mnangagwa said no one is going to lose the land despite a land audit currently being conducted.