Former president Robert Mugabe has denounced the use of lethal force by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to crush last month’s protests, and warned that his successor faces the spectre of being overthrown because “God has his own way of punishing rogues and cruel people”.
The former president, who was ousted in a soft coup d’état in November 2017, lashed out at his successor at a private 95th birthday party held at his plush palace, dubbed “Blue Roof”, for disproportionately curtailing the right to protest during last month’s fuel protests, and condemned the army-led violence against civilians.
A visibly frail Mugabe, wearing a dark suit and speaking in a gravelly voice that gradually became stronger, according to footage of the shindig, said Mnangagwa must stop styling himself as a “god”.
“You want to shower yourself with praises despite being at the top? You are not God ED. Today you are at the top, tomorrow you will be at the bottom, keep that in mind. God has his own way of punishing rogues and cruel people,” Mugabe said.
Details about Mugabe’s private party at his home were revealed in a blizzard of tweets late last night by Jealousy Mawarire, the spokesperson of the opposition National Patriotic Front, which Mugabe seems to have thrown his full weight behind.
The teetotaller reportedly blamed Mnangagwa for the widespread use of lethal ordinance by soldiers against unarmed civilian demonstrators. Mugabe spoke with anger and passion, saying he was deeply aggrieved with what transpired.
“We condemn the violence on civilians by soldiers,” he said.
“You can’t do without seeing dead bodies? What kind of a person are you? You feed on death?” he fumed.
The demonstrations began as a peaceful protest against a sharp rise in the price of fuel, but then degenerated into chaos as demonstrators became violent. To quell the protests, Mnangagwa dispatched the military in a clampdown that was condemned by the western world due to its heavy-handedness as well as reports of rape and torture of unarmed civilians.
Property worth millions of dollars was also destroyed and looted in the mayhem which ensued, after thousands of workers heeded the three-day strike call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
At least 20 people died, while 78 others were treated for serious gunshot wounds, according to rights groups and medical doctors.
“He who is obsessed with seeing corpses everyday will soon realise that people would clamour too to see his corpse one day. I say to soldiers stop killing people,” Mugabe fumed. “What you are doing (killing people) is going to catch up with you very, very, soon. Just tomorrow, it would have caught up with you,” Mugabe warned ominously.
“Now we hear there are countless graves of people killed by the army, who is going to unearth or exhume those bodies?” Mugabe asked rhetorically.
“The late vice presidents Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda and I and others did not create the army to kill people. The army does not lead politics,” he said. “Some believe being a leader entails murdering people, that’s not it. “Mugabe said Zimbabwe needs a people’s military not one that turns its munitions on people.
“People should love their army, they should not fear the army,” he said.
“We can’t continue with people being bashed on the head. So, I say to you, get your lessons correct. Let’s create an environment where our people are happy, not what’s happening now.
“We will not shy away or be afraid to talk, no! Let’s be frank with each other.”
Mugabe also blasted Mnangagwa for appointing more senior military officials to top posts in his Cabinet.
He spoke as Mnangagwa last week retired four senior generals to join the diplomatic service.
The retired generals – major generals Martin Chedondo, Douglas Nyikayaramba, Anselem Sanyatwe and air vice marshal Shebba Shumbayawonda – will join the Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministry.
“No, no, no to soldiers being leaders of the people? Get the soldiers to their rightful place,” Mugabe said.
“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.”
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, said Mnangagwa has abandoned the ideals of the liberation struggle.
He said: “When we started our struggle we had principles and those principles have been abandoned.”
Viewed by some as a liberation hero, until he stepped down under pressure from Mnangagwa’s allies in the army in November 2017, Mugabe insinuated his successor was abusing people. “We are one people in Zimbabwe. Leaders are bound to treat us like God’s people, not beasts of the forest,” Mugabe said. “I want to thank even those I am chiding, we thank them for coming to listen.”
He said he was not afraid of the consequences of his utterances.
“I am telling you straight forward. I don’t care what will happen to me,” he said. “We want people to see the country as the one they fought for, not one that was fought for by soldiers alone,” he railed against an army that was instrumental in his ouster.
“This is not the environment we wanted to create with Msika and Nkomo,” he said, referring to his late deputies Joseph Msika and Joshua and John Nkomo.
“This is not the environment we wanted to create with Msika and Nkomo, we wanted people to be happy.”
Since his fall from power, Mugabe has stayed at his Harare mansion with his wife Grace.
His ousting was the culmination of a power struggle between Mnangagwa and Grace, who was being groomed by her husband as his potential successor.
The former first lady – a ferociously ambitious woman blamed for the spectacular fall of her 95-year-old husband – said she will stand by her doddering husband until the end of time.
“I promise to be the living and caring wife until the end of time,” she said at the party yesterday, standing at a podium with a background that read “Living Legend.”
She reportedly later took to the dance floor.
Mugabe was instrumental in founding the Republic of Zimbabwe – but became known for his brutal policies and corrupt leadership.
His rule proved to be one of the most controversial of any world leader in the 20th or 21st century. At 94 years of age when he was eventually replaced by a military coup he was by far the world’s oldest active national leader, and is still going, with some recalling his rule with nostalgia.