Zimbabwe

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Mugabe's 'frailty'

2017-05-24 09:01
President Robert Mugabe (File: AFP)

President Robert Mugabe (File: AFP)

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Pretoria - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been looking a bit frail of late – and it may be deliberate.

Institute for Security Studies consultant Derek Matyszak told a seminar in Pretoria on Tuesday that Mugabe’s lighting of the Independence Day flame last month had tongues wagging in Zimbabwe, and it could have something to do with the battle to succeed Mugabe.

In the video, Mugabe appeared frail and he had to be lifted up the step where he lit the flame, next to a young, fit-looking man.

Watch the video below. 

"You have a youth in a  tight T-shirt looking buff and healthy, versus Mugabe who looks like he is on his last legs," Matyszak said.

The 93-year-old president's health is a sensitive topic and the state is normally very careful to conceal Mugabe's frailties and to avoid placing steps in his way that could make him stumble. Over the last few months, however, less care was taken in this regard. "Most Zimbabweans would think it’s deliberate," he said.

The Zimbabwe Independent recently had a full-page story on Mugabe’s health, an article Matyszak speculated could have been something that was “encouraged” by Mugabe’s potential successors.

Of late, the “pendulum politics” of favour in the party seemed to have swung back to vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed the “crocodile” and leader of the Lacoste faction.

Although the existence of factions isn’t officially recognised by Zanu-PF, this faction is known to control the state levers – the military, the judiciary, and so on – while the opposing faction, the G40, holds power within the party.

Series of rallies 

There is speculation that the Mnangagwa faction was using the footage as a subtle way of signalling that Mugabe's time was up and it was time for new leadership in the party. 

Matyszak said governance was very opaque in Zimbabwe and a lot of politics is based on rumour. The speculation at the moment is that Mnangagwa, who fell out of favour in 2004 in favour of Joice Mujuru, has struck “some sort of agreement” with the First Family that would see  Mugabe’s wife, Grace, protected when the nonagenarian is gone.

Mujuru has since fallen out of favour herself, and founded her own opposition party after she left Zanu-PF in 2014.

The opposing G40 faction in Zanu-PF, with education minister Jonathan Moyo and local government minister Savior Kasukuwere, have since come under fire, with Moyo having been accused by the Mnangagwa-aligned Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission of siphoning over $400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund.

Another indication that there might have been a deal between the Mugabes and Mnangagwa was that Mnangagwa was not targeted by Grace on a series of rallies she organised throughout the provinces.

Negotiations 

This was previously the method used to purge Mujuru.

“Mnangagwa was denigrated by Grace on one rally, but after that it stopped,” Matyszak said. The speculation is that these rallies were used to put pressure on Mnangagwa during negotiations.

Kasukuwere has, however, of late come under attack from within the party and his political future is currently hanging in the balance.

“Most believe that this couldn’t have happened without Mugabe’s consent,” Matyszak said, and this was pointing to a tacit endorsement of Mnangagwa as the successor. This momentum, Matyszak said, was enough to carry him through to State House.

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