Former president Robert Mugabe on Tuesday shed tears and lamented what he called betrayal by his lieutenants as he finally agreed to step down, some members of his inner circle have revealed.
By Xolisani Ncube
Mugabe resigned late in the afternoon as Parliament moved to fast-track a motion to impeach and condemn him to an even more humiliating exit.
Sources that were at the former president’s palatial mansion known as the “Blue Roof”, have revealed fresh details of the dramatic events that marked a seismic shift in Zimbabwe’s political landscape.
Mugabe, the sources said, was holding a rosary in his right hand as he told his close associates and a team of negotiators that he was calling it quits.
“After a four-hour long meeting, which was attended by the chief negotiator, Father Fidelis Mukonori, family friend and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, presidential spokesperson George Charamba and the (former) first lady Grace Mugabe, Mugabe was adamant that he would not step down,” said the source oncondition of anonymity.
“He was prepared to die for his seat. He looked down, looked at his wife, took a deep breath and said ‘so this is what they have decided.’”
Attorney-general Prince Machaya and former Justice minister Happyton Bonyongwe had advised the 93-year-old strongman that his options were fast running out. The two told Mugabe the impeachment process would be fast- tracked.
“He looked down and said ‘people were chameleons, (name of the senior Zanu PF official withheld) of all the people to do this to me,” Mugabe said to have lamented.
“After all I have done to protect him, corruption issues raised against him and I have stood with him.
“Is this the same person I recently gave a lifeline and I pardoned him since 1983? Today he turns against me.” He then held firm his rosary as he agreed to step down.
Before he agreed to step down, Mugabe had been told by one of his advisors that he had a chance of surviving the impeachment as some MPs were prepared to vote against the motion in a secret ballot.
“While Father Mukonori was shuttling between the defence forces commanders and the president, Bonyongwe as leader of the House was also shuttling between the Blue Roof and Parliament looking at ways to avoid an embarrassing exit for the president.
“The president even said Parliament should sit to deal with the budget while he addressed concerns raised by the military command, which would have seen him stepping down at the Zanu PF congress.”
However, after Machaya’s advice, Mugabe called the speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda as the MPs began a debate on the motion and advised him he was stepping down.
“It was a heart-rending moment, especially for Mukonori who could not hold back his tears,” another source revealed.
“The letter was drafted and Mugabe read it before appending his signature.
“There was total silence in the lounge. People looked at each other and the first lady looked down in disbelief that this was how far the issue had gone.
“The same letter was sent to the military commanders at the same time as it was being dispatched to Parliament.”
Another source said Mugabe felt betrayed by people he had groomed and taken care of.
“While he agreed that issues were not well in the party, he was of a firm belief that there was a better way to solve the crisis,” the source added.
“He said ‘well, they have done this, I hope it ends with me’, before he put his rosary back into his pocket.”
Gono refused to comment on the matter, saying it would betray the trust between him and Mugabe.
Mukonori said he needed approval from the office of the President and Cabinet as he was asked by the government to mediate.
Bonyongwe and Charamba were not reachable for comment.
Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, fired by Mugabe early this month for “disloyalty and deceit”, took over as president last Friday.
On his return from a brief exile in South Africa, Mnangagwa said he had been in constant touch with generals after they put Mugabe under house arrest on November 14.
Judge president Justice George Chiweshe on Friday ruled that the military action did not amount to a coup.
l Also read ‘How Mugabe was persuaded to resign’ on page 6