As the frosty relations between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his sulking predecessor Robert Mugabe get better, the government splashed hundreds of thousands of dollars last week hiring a charter plane for former first lady Grace — to allow her to fly from Singapore to Harare for her mother’s burial, the Daily News can report.
Grace had been in Singapore receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment when her mother Idah Marufu died last week — prompting Mnangagwa and his government to scramble to find funds to charter the plane so that she could attend her mother’s burial.
This comes as Mugabe, who until recently had been feuding with Mnangagwa and his colleagues in government, recently made a stunning about-turn — moving to end his tiff with his former long-serving aide by congratulating him for winning the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential poll.
Mugabe who fell from power in November last year, on the back of a military intervention, had until last month not hidden his bitterness and disdain for Mnangagwa and his administration.
Well-placed sources confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Grace had received “five-star treatment” from the government in her hour of need, after Mnangagwa dug deep into the country’s coffers to bring her home in time for her mother’s funeral.
“Yes, there was a plane that was sent specifically for her because we do not have a direct flight to Singapore. We were all amazed at the display of compassion from the president and the government.
“As a result, her trip was hustle-free, thanks to the government. They (Mugabes) received all the help befitting people of their status,” one of the sources close to the former first family said.
Although the Daily News could not get the exact cost of the plane charter, other sources said this had likely run into hundreds of thousands of United States dollars.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba, who is with the president in China this week, said he could not comment on the matter — referring all questions to Regis Chikowore, the principal director in the ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, who was not available for comment.
But National Patriotic Front (NPF) spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire — who has lately acted as a media intermediary for the Mugabes — confirmed the development by thanking Mnangagwa and his government for hiring the plane on micro-blogging site Twitter.
“I want 2 thank Mnangagwa and his presidium for facilitating the travel of former First Lady Dr Mugabe back home for the funeral of Ambuya Marufu.
“Such a gesture is very invaluable and much appreciated. May the Lord keep u, lift up His countenance upon u and give u peace,” Mawarire said.
This comes after Mnangagwa sent a heartfelt condolence message to Mugabe and his family upon learning of the death of Marufu, in a move which was widely seen as a continuation of the mending of relations between him and the country’s former long-ruling leader.
“I learnt with sadness of the death last night (Thursday) of Ambuya Marufu, mother to our former first lady Amai Grace Mugabe and mother-in-law to Cde RG Mugabe.
“The sorrowful development visits us at a time when the Mugabes are not well, with Amai Mugabe away in Singapore where she has been receiving medical attention. My heart goes out to the family.
“I urge our entire nation to stand with and rally behind the Marufu and Mugabe families, so their sorrows are assuaged and made bearable,” Mnangagwa — who had previously dropped the prefix comrade when referring to Mugabe — said.
Until Mnangagwa’s inauguration, Mugabe had been involved in an acrimonious relationship with his successor – following his stunning fall from power late last year, which he described as an assault on constitutional governance by the military.
And on the eve of last month’s national elections, the former president went on to throw the cat among the pigeons when he publicly endorsed opposition leader Nelson Chamisa — before telling the nation that he would never vote for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF.
“Today (July 29) is a better day, I hope it will still be a better day tomorrow. I’m sure the good Lord will help us to bring a better day tomorrow.
“Let tomorrow decide … there should be a big no to guns directing politics. We shall never again experience a time when an army is used in politics.
“I have never met Chamisa. I wish to meet him if he wins. I can’t vote for those who’ve caused me to be in this situation.
“I hope the voting which will be done tomorrow will thrash away the military form of government and bring us back to constitutionality,” Mugabe told journalists at the time at his Borrowdale mansion which is popularly known as the Blue Roof.
Despite the fact that he had done all in his power to derail Mnangagwa’s and the ruling Zanu PF’s electoral bids on the eve of the elections, Mugabe moved to end months of his acrimonious relationship with his former comrades by sending his daughter Bona and her husband Simba Chikore to deliver a special congratulatory message from him and Grace at the president’s inauguration.
The sickly 94-year-old and Grace were unable to attend the big occasion due to their poor health, which had resulted in her flying to Singapore for medical attention.
Interestingly, Mnangagwa’s government had listed the former first couple among the dignitaries who were slated to shake hands with Mnangagwa at the inauguration ceremony at the National Sports Stadium.
“Your Excellency, thank you for your invitation, my wife is not well in Singapore, I am also not well, so I am sending my daughter and son-in-law to represent us.
Congratulations,” Mugabe said in his surprise message that was read by Mnangagwa as he delivered his main address to thousands of people who packed the giant stadium.
Mugabe resigned from office late last year, a few hours after Parliament had initiated proceedings to impeach him — after he had refused to leave office during eight tense days that began with the military intervening in the governance of the country.
The operation also saw the nonagenarian and the unhinged 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.