Mugabe to be ‘looked after’

2017-12-24 06:04
President Jacob Zuma and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, brief the media at Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria. Mnangagwa was on his first working visit to SA following his inauguration on November 24 PHOTO: Kopano Tlape / gcis

President Jacob Zuma and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, brief the media at Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria. Mnangagwa was on his first working visit to SA following his inauguration on November 24 PHOTO: Kopano Tlape / gcis

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Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa visited South Africa this week in an apparent attempt to get President Jacob Zuma’s formal blessing for last month’s coup, and to consolidate his power.

His visit, barely two days after the election of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president, could also have been aimed at pre-empting any possible change of government that could follow.

Harare-based academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza said Zuma’s meeting with Mnangagwa before his inauguration last month was controversial. This week’s visit might have been intended to get Zuma’s blessing for the coup, in order to “pre-empt a Cyril, who might have had different ideas about the developments in Zimbabwe”.

Ramaphosa had a courtesy meeting with Mnangagwa on Thursday, but his spokespeople said they were not aware of what transpired.

Plans for the visit appear to have been made at the last minute, as an invitation from the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria was dated Tuesday, December 19, the day after Ramaphosa was elected ANC president.

Zimbabwe’s Daily News reported on Friday that Mnangagwa’s leaving the country without having appointed his deputies (Zimbabwe’s law allows for two), was a breach of the country’s constitution as it left a power vacuum should something befall the president.

Mnangagwa, who has already appointed his cabinet, is delaying the appointment of his deputies while dealing with the dynamics in the military. Yesterday he appointed two vice-presidents and second secretary of his Zanu-PF party in the form of Zimbabwe’s army chief, Constantino Chiwenga, who played a major role in the coup, and his Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans, Kembo Mohadi.

Zuma received Mnangagwa warmly and with open arms as he arrived at the Mahlamba Ndlopfu presidential guest house in Pretoria around lunchtime on Thursday.

In a joint press conference after the meeting, Mnangagwa said the two discussed “heart to heart issues … which are presidential”.

"He’s a very experienced president"

Mnangagwa said he congratulated Zuma for a peaceful ANC conference. He hinted that the deputy president issue weighed on his mind.

The difference between South Africa and Zimbabwe was that “in Zimbabwe, the president appoints vice-presidents, here [in South Africa] we elect,” Mnangagwa said with a knowing laugh.

Under the Zimbabwean constitution, the vice-president served “at the pleasure of the president. Here the president has constituencies. So it’s an even bigger task than I have.”

Mnangagwa reaffirmed the link between himself and Zuma, whom he regards as an elder. Their ties go back to the armed struggle before Zimbabwe’s independence in the 1980s, when they worked for their respective parties’ intelligence services in Mozambique.

“With that background I felt that after my 26 days in office, I must come to my brother and seek guidance. He’s a very experienced president and I felt the challenges which I face, the first port of call is to go to my colleague and to say, ‘your excellency, I have taken the leadership of Zimbabwe. I seek your guidance on what I may face in terms of challenges’, and I have no doubt he will give me complete and honest guidance.”

Zuma is the current chair of the Southern African Development Community, which has tacitly sanctioned the coup.

On Wednesday, Russian publication Sputnik reported African Union (AU) commissioner for peace and security Smail Chergui as saying no action would be taken against Zimbabwe.

“It’s not a coup according to AU rules. It was just a dialogue between the leadership of the country and the president.”

There are strict sanctions under AU rules for an unconstitutional change of power.

Zuma, too, praised Mnangagwa for the way the situation was handled.

Even though Zuma and his spokespeople haven’t admitted as much, City Press reported that South Africa, China and the US knew about the coup beforehand. Their conditions for giving it their blessing were that there should be no bloodshed and no retribution against former president Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa, in his meeting with businessmen that followed his discussion with Zuma, admitted to having been in “clandestine” communication with Zuma as he fled here into “16 days of exile”, following his sacking as Mugabe’s vice-president.

Zuma said South Africa could not allow the situation in Zimbabwe to get out of hand. “I think again it indicated the maturity of Zimbabweans in handling any situation that will develop, and we are very grateful for that, because in a number of countries, if the army decides to stand up, then they leave a trail of destruction.”

Zuma said Mnangagwa guaranteed that Mugabe “would be looked after”. “In Africa we should look after our elders,” he said.

Mnangagwa was elected president of the ruling Zanu-PF this weekend.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  jacob zuma  |  emmerson mnangagwa  |  zimbabwe

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