Former president Robert Mugabe marked Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebrations surrounded by relatives and close allies at his majestic Borrowdale home on Wednesday, rebuffing President Emmerson Mnangagwa who officiated at the main ceremony held at the National Sports Stadium on the same day.
Mugabe, who has kept to his immaculate sense of dressing, declined an invitation sent to him by his successor on the basis that the current administration was in power “illegally” and therefore had no right to preside over the ceremony.
While some opposition parties, notably the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa, graced the occasion to mark the country’s 38th birthday, Mugabe — who presided over the country’s affairs for 37 years before the army removed him from power — would have none of it.
Instead, he chose to celebrate the historic day when he was installed as the country’s first black prime minister at his Blue Roof mansion, far from the madding crowd.
“He had a very small function held to commemorate Independence Day and he did so in the company of his family and allies. He had no reason to attend the celebrations held at the National Sports Stadium even though an invitation had been sent to him,” a source said.
Mugabe is on record saying he was forced to resign by the military which backed Mnangagwa.
He has so far scoffed at attempts by mediators sent by government to convince him to support his successor.
Political analysts told the Daily News yesterday that until Mnangagwa gets the mandate from the people in an election scheduled for this year, he will not be able to do much to convince Mugabe to support his administration.
Professor of world politics at the London School of Oriental Studies, Stephen Chan said for now, Mnangagwa finds his hands tied to deal with the stubborn Mugabe who still regards himself as the country’s president.
“At the age of 94 and with his legacy of economic stagnation, there can be no comeback. He has no political party that would support him, no army. Mnangagwa has it all. For that reason, Mnangagwa can just let the old man fret. As long as Mugabe does that, Mnangagwa knows the electorate will view him as the new president as the better choice,” said Chan.
Mugabe was removed from power in November last year and has told the world that he is being persecuted by his allies-turned foes.
He has refused to endorse the current administration and has warned that free and fair elections promised by Mnangagwa could be a pipe-dream unless if the army disengages from civilian matters.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mugabe should accept that he no longer has power and move on than clinging to a past that was “ugly”.
“Mugabe is a stubborn nonagenarian who is full of himself and thinks he is the best person Zimbabwe has ever had. He sees himself as invincible, unmatched by anyone and he never wanted to be in a Zimbabwe where someone is president. He feels Mnangagwa is too junior to him and he will never recognise any other person as president until he dies.
“Time has moved on and he can’t make a political come back. The earlier he realises that Zimbabwe has better things to focus on than him, the better. Mnangagwa needs to do nothing with him…,” said Saungweme.
Academic and researcher MacDonald Lewanika said Mugabe did well by staying away from the Independence Day celebrations as that would have been tantamount to endorsing the people who dethroned him.
“I think . . . Mugabe is behaving normally, we have to remember that he was deposed and the executioners of his political death are the ones in charge of the State today. It is enough that they succeeded in toppling him, he doesn’t have to like it, and grace any occasions that affirm the new reality.
“At the end of the day, it is about leverage, and it seems the Mnangagwa regime do not have enough of it to force Mugabe to bless them and grace their occasions.
Mugabe, on the other hand, has the fact that he is alive and the regime wants to show Africa that he has not been harmed and is well as leverage against the regime.
“This will however, only last until ED gets a fresh mandate through a free and fair election — only then can he and his regime really afford to lose patience with Mugabe,” said Lewanika.