PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is not reading too much into rants made by former President Robert Mugabe at the weekend, saying his predecessor was entitled to his opinion.
Mugabe let rip at Mnangagwa on Saturday in a speech believed to have been made at his plush Borrowdale mansion during celebrations to mark his 95th birthday organised by the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Church.
But Mnangagwa, through his spokesperson George Charamba, laughed off Mugabe’s attack.
“Even in the village, there are old people with a right to an opinion. We don’t have time for that. Everyone has a prerogative of opinion,” Charamba said somewhat dismissively.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said Mugabe could not be held responsible for his actions, given his advanced age.
“Former President Mugabe is an elderly man whose age is quite advanced. At that age, people tend to have some feebleness of the mind.
“That state of decrepitude manifests in different ways. Some of the ways are that one is taken advantage of by having words deceptively attributed to them and, in other cases, manipulated to say things they have no lucidity or presence of mind to make sense of,” Mangwana said.
“But, whatever the case, most people who are 95 cannot be held responsible for their actions or words and our former President is no superman. We will continue to remember the positives he contributed to our country and learn from the mistakes he made and still makes in his fallibility as a man of advanced age.”
Mugabe, in the alleged offensive speech, accused Mnangagwa of pitching his administration “on dead bodies” of tens of thousands of people who died and disappeared in a military campaign codenamed Gukurahundi between 1982 and 1987.
“Some of us think leadership means killing people. You want to see a dead body every day, but people will, at some point, want to see your head on a platter. You are not God, ED [Mnangagwa]. Today, you are at the top, tomorrow you will be at the bottom. You should know that. God has his own way of punishing rogue and cruel people,” Mugabe reportedly told his audience.
Mnangagwa served in various capacities under Mugabe for 37 years, but mainly in the security sector, including as State Security minister during Gukurahundi.
The President is also believed to have been the power behind the brutal pre-run-off election in 2008 after Mugabe had lost the first round to the late opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe was pushed out of power in November 2017 after a coup following an internal Zanu PF power struggle.
The former guerrilla leader was seen as preparing his wife Grace for an active role in the presidium, including possible succession. He fired Mnangagwa, triggering the coup and a chain of events that led to his resignation under duress.
Since Mnangagwa’s takeover, the military has performed a more active role in public security issues, leading to the death of at least 20 people since August last year and Mugabe
wants them back in the barracks.
“I say to soldiers, be followers of the people you want to lead, you are not even qualified to lead them. Take your places in recognition that you are not trained to lead, but to follow the people, to protect them.
“No! no! no! to soldiers being leaders of the people. Get the soldiers to their rightful place,” Mugabe reportedly said.
Before the 1987 secession of hostilities and the Unity Accord, Mugabe hounded then opposition leader Joshua Nkomo out of the country as the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade closed in.
Despite having used the army and consistently arguing that politics leads the gun since the liberation struggle, Mugabe reminded Mnangagwa that “the military was created to protect people”.
“(Former Vice-Presidents) Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda and others are gone, but this is not what we created our army for. Soldiers should never lead our politics,” the former Zanu PF leader said.
“When we started our struggle we had principles and those principles have been abandoned …”