President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has moved into the residential side of the State House, called Zimbabwe House, but shunned the official lavish apartment in favour of a cottage reserved as a guest house.
Instead of moving into the opulent apartment that his predecessor Robert Mugabe called home before decamping to his Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale in the dying years of his presidency, the former spy chief has moved into a modest guest house in what is being touted by his spin-doctors as the latest example of the president tearing up the rule book and rejecting the pomp and ceremony associated with the rule of the fallen despot.
Mugabe’s 37 uninterrupted years in power were brought to an inglorious end when the military launched Operation Restore Legacy on November 15 last year, which saw the nonagenarian and his then influential wife, Grace, being placed under house arrest and later the teetotaller being toppled in the soft coup.
The new Zimbabwe president seems so eager to distance himself from his disgraced predecessor that he has partially abandoned one of the job’s major perks: the main house at the Zimbabwe House presidential palace, from which Mugabe conducted his imperial presidency.
However, the sprawling property has undergone extensive renovations, with the whole complex repainted.
Mnangagwa’s move to abandon the main house for a cottage seems to be part of an attempt to be a more down-to-earth president.
In other words, the opposite of what critics saw in Mugabe’s presidency.
There have been suggestions that Mnangagwa could be spurning occupation of the main house at Zimbabwe House for superstitious reasons.
Some have claimed he wanted a cleansing ceremony first.
But presidential spokesperson George Charamba explained that he rejected the option of living in a sumptuous official residence, instead opting for a modest cottage, because he does not need a big house.
“H.E. (His Excellency) and his family, you know his children are all grown now, so he decided that he lives in a smaller house from that whole complex, that is the one that was refurbished. So that’s where he is staying,” Charamba confirmed to the Daily News.
He said the president does not need a big house because most of his children were married with kids and have started their lives elsewhere.
Charamba rejected speculation around the bizarre frugal move to live in a guest room at a time the main house was vacant.
“But surely a home must be proportionate to your needs. You want him to live in the extravagant mansion for what? What will he be doing there?” Charamba asked rhetorically.
Since his ascendancy to the throne on August 26 after a disputed, blood-soaked election, Mnangagwa took his sweet time to move into the official State residence — remaining at his relatively modest home in the northern suburb of Greystone Park of Harare, which security officials rejected as both unsafe and unsuitable for the country’s new leader.
Mnangagwa’s move is unusual to be sure. Presidents the world over hardly abandon official residences. And leaders, both democratic and autocratic, recognise the residences and their grandeur as symbols of their office and its might.
Mnangagwa own the modest Greystone Park house in Harare, a farm in Kwekwe called Sherwood and a rural home in Mapanzure near Zvishavane.