More than six months after former president Robert Mugabe was dramatically ousted from power — and with Zimbabwe’s crunch national polls a mere three weeks away — the nonagenarian continues to hog the limelight in the country’s fluid body politic.
This comes as both Zanu PF and the opposition are seemingly unsure about how they should relate to him, with the ruling party — which the 94-year-old led for nearly four decades — lately and curiously using him and his restless wife Grace to peg back MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s election bid.
Not unexpectedly, as a result, State media has repeatedly reported the unconfirmed claim over the past few weeks that Chamisa and Grace had allegedly entered into a political pact that will see the latter getting the national vice president’s post in the event that the former wins the July 30 plebiscite.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Zanu PF was doing this in a desperate bid to destroy Chamisa’s political standing — having realised that Mugabe and Grace were deeply despised in many circles, as well as the fact that the former first family was now working for the demise of the ruling party.
However, the analysts added, this strategy could backfire on Zanu PF as they believed that Mugabe still had residual support within the ruling party, particularly in the Mashonaland provinces — which could prove key during the polls.
“Linking Chamisa to Mugabe is Zanu PF’s strategy meant to besmirch Chamisa’s image. However, this may boomerang on Zanu PF.
“The rural Zanu PF supporters, particularly those linked to the G40 faction, are not all happy with how Mugabe was toppled, and they may vote for Chamisa. At the same time, Chamisa’s urban support base will not be swayed by these attacks,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
“Having said that, and apart from the possibility of rural Mugabe supporters voting Chamisa, Mugabe has no other political currency that Chamisa can harvest.
“Chamisa should thus, just snub this link (to Mugabe) and move on … and then, I don’t see the link gathering enough steam to derail Chamisa’s electoral chances,” he added.
Another political analyst, Eldred Masunungure, said it would be “very risky” for Chamisa to work with Mugabe and Grace.
“Zanu PF is clearly trying to reduce Chamisa’s chances of landing the popular vote by linking him to Mugabe.
“Throwing mud at a competitor is very common in Zanu PF, and the ruling party is thinking that Mugabe and his wife are two of the most unpopular couples in the country, and so they are counting on this.
“Therefore, Chamisa and his party must play it carefully … as it is risky for them to work with Mugabe. Counting on Mashonaland’s support for Mugabe is also very risky as this support is unproven,” he said.
This comes as Mugabe was recently said to have sent two clerics to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti, to table a potential co-operation pact with the main opposition — ahead of a meeting of MDC Alliance principals which was held a day before the sitting of the Nomination Court.
Mugabe was said to be offering “technical, moral and political” support to Chamisa, ostensibly to increase the opposition leader’s chances of defeating President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the end of the month.
But well-placed sources told the Daily News that Chamisa had apparently opted not to work with Mugabe and Grace — this after former South African president Jacob Zuma reportedly relayed a message to him via one of the Alliance’s principals that this would be “impolitic”.
Meanwhile, MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube says his party does not need Mugabe’s support to win the keenly-anticipated July 30 elections.
“For someone to think that we are going to have an alliance with Mugabe and his wife is complete mockery.
“We know that Mugabe will even vote for us. He too wants to be free …. his future will be more secure in . . . Chamisa’s hands, which is why he will vote for Chamisa.
“The fact is that the Mugabe issue is an internal Zanu PF issue. We can win this election without a single vote from Zanu PF,” he said.
“We have enough support and numbers to win the elections and we are not bothered where Mugabe and Zanu PF stand.
“We just need a free and fair election, with a level playing field. We have won this election before, even though this was rigged.
“We have spent the whole of our adult life fighting Mugabe. But we were not fighting Mugabe only, we were fighting the system which caused much suffering among Zimbabweans,” Ncube told the Daily News.
On his part, Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said it was an act of desperation that Zanu PF was pushing the agenda to link Mugabe and Grace to Chamisa.
“That is fake news which is being created by Zanu PF. The fact is. . .Chamisa is expecting votes from all Zimbabweans, including Mugabe.
Addressing his supporters in Marondera on Sunday, Chamisa also said Mugabe was now “history”.
“I have not run out of options that I would resort to appointing Grace Mugabe as my vice president.
“As the MDC Alliance, we respect Mugabe’s legacy, but he is now history and like everyone we are also happy that he has retired.
“Why is Zanu PF tormenting him? I have never met him since he retired, but I have heard from sources that he said Chamisa had a clear agenda and that he would vote for me. If Mugabe wants to vote for me, he is welcome,” he said.
Mugabe has openly disclosed his bitterness with Mnangagwa and his administration. In March this year, he told a media briefing that he would render his support to a young politician, which some people now claim was a reference to Chamisa.
When the country’s military launched Operation Restore Legacy in November last year, this triggered a chain of events which ended with the curtain falling on Mugabe, when he resigned moments after Parliament had started damaging proceedings to impeach him.
The operation also saw the nonagenarian and Grace being placed under house arrest, while several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 faction — which had coalesced around the Mugabes — were also targeted.
The annihilated G40 was, before the military intervention, locked in a bitter war with Mnangagwa and his supporters for the control of both Zanu PF and the country.