Not all are celebrating the fall of Mugabe

2017-11-26 05:59
Susan Gweshe sells fruit on the side of the road near Kutama in the Zvimba district. This is Robert Mugabe Highway, which links Harare to the former leader’s rural home. Picture: Memory Mataranyika

Susan Gweshe sells fruit on the side of the road near Kutama in the Zvimba district. This is Robert Mugabe Highway, which links Harare to the former leader’s rural home. Picture: Memory Mataranyika

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The excitement currently dominating Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, following the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe is eerily absent in the long-time ruler’s rural home area of Zvimba.

Villagers want the new administration to ensure his safety, or, they say, they will defect to the opposition.

Just before sunset on Friday and as most Zimbabweans celebrated the inauguration of Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, villagers in Zvimba were reminiscing about Mugabe.

They told City Press that they accepted the new dispensation and were ready to move on with life, but have one demand – the safety of the former president.

“We cannot abandon him – he is one of us. We only want Mnangagwa to make sure that our son is safe and is not troubled or haunted, because he has done a lot for us and for the country.

“No one in the world has had such leadership,” said 37-year-old Tichaona Mwedziwendira, who is Mugabe’s neighbour.

Zvimba, about 90km west of Harare, is in the Mashonaland West province of Zimbabwe and is mostly a farming area. Residents grow tobacco and maize, and raise cattle.

The district of Zvimba is linked to Harare by a smooth tarred road that was recently resurfaced, and also runs to the nearby Murombedzi Vocational Training Centre.

Mwedziwendira has a small plot where he grows tobacco, maize and sugar beans.

The harvest over the past year was so good that he was able to buy a truck to transport his produce to market.

Susan Gweshe, who was born in 1924 in the Kutama area, is another neighbour of Mugabe’s.

She says Mugabe’s decision to resign after a week of military intervention “did not bring any pain or regret” because change is inevitable.

Nearly all the villagers in Zvimba and Mugabe’s kinsmen in the area want the former president to be taken care of.

“We will not vote for Zanu-PF if anything bad happens to our [former] president. Even in this area, chieftainships change,” she said as she arranged fruit and vegetables for sale on the roadside.

On his return to Zimbabwe on Wednesday after his self-imposed exile, Mnangagwa confessed that he had fled Zimbabwe after being tipped off about an assassination plot.

He also spoke about how he was poisoned at a Zanu-PF rally in Gwanda a few weeks ago as Mugabe’s succession race intensified and took a nasty twist amid indications that the former ruler’s wife, Grace, was angling to take over from him.

On Friday in Harare, Mnangagwa made his first public speech as the country’s new president at the National Sports Stadium, during which he heaped praise on his predecessor:

“Let me at this stage pay special tribute to one of and the only surviving fathers of our nation, comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

"He led us in our struggle for national independence and let us all acknowledge his immense contribution towards the building of our nation.

“To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader.

"Our history will grant him his proper place and accord him his deserved stature as one of the founders and leaders of our nation,” Mnangagwa said.

A few of Mugabe’s relatives in Zvimba were not keen to speak and they quickly shrugged off any requests for comment.

The few who did speak did so with a sense of resignation.

“We are grateful that we had a run as a family, and we were happy with how he treated us because he was a man of the people,” said a cousin, who asked not to be named.

Mugabe frequently travelled to his rural roots, but did not usually spend much time in Kutama, where he has a house.

“We never had any special treatment. We would see his vehicles coming mostly on weekends, but, after 30 minutes, he would be going back to Harare,” said one village leader.

A 28-year-old man from Murombedzi, wearing a tattered Zanu-PF T-shirt with Mugabe’s image on the front, said: “It is time to move on and embrace new leadership.

"We are not happy, but we are not holding on to this because the old man must now come and rest.”

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  emmerson mnangagwa  |  zimbabwe

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