By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
At 94 years, most mortals would have been content and grateful to the Almighty for the gift of long life and take a rest from active politics.
But not so for Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe, who since his resignation last November has been meeting opposition figures and strategizing on ways to challenge the new establishment in the impending polls.
Indications that Mugabe was still keen on having a go at politics started emerging after he met the African Union Commission chairperson Faki Mahamat at his plush Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale.
Mugabe is said to have bitterly complained to the AU Commission chairperson and his delegation that he was being ill-treated by the new establishment led by his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
He said the new government was failing to adequately provide his constitutional benefits as former head of state. Mugabe argued that his wife was being harassed for having acquired a PhD degree from the University of Zimbabwe.
Other issues that the former president raised include the reduction of his security personnel and motor vehicles.
Mugabe had earlier in February met his former deputy, Joice Mujuru, whose expulsion from Zanu-PF he and his wife, Grace, engineered allegedly for plotting to oust him from power.
Although the details of their meeting were not revealed, it is believed that the gist of their discussion centred on the impending harmonised elections.
However, it is Mugabe’s recent hosting of former cabinet minister and senior liberation war combatant, Ambrose Mutinhiri, that has sent tongues wagging over the “Old Man's” plans for a political comeback.
Soon after meeting Mugabe, Mutinhiri announced in a statement that he was now leading a new opposition outfit, the New Patriotic Front (NPF), after resigning from the ruling Zanu-PF as a member and also a Member of Parliament for Marondera East.
In his resignation letter, Mutinhiri claimed that the government of President Mnangagwa was illegitimate.
“As a trained soldier, a former freedom fighter, a former Zipra (Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army) commander during the liberation struggle, a former diplomat, and a former cabinet minister, I am too aware of not only the values and ethos of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle and the subsequent role the founding commanders of the liberation envisaged for the national army in independent Zimbabwe, but also of the functions and limits of the ZDF, as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe authored through a people drive (sic) process and adopted after a national referendum as recent as 2013,” Mutinhiri said in the letter.
Although the new political party is expected to have very little impact in the upcoming elections, many analysts believe the former head of state is intent on stoking political fires so as to discredit the new establishment.
University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer, Professor Obvious Vengeyi, said Mugabe was still bitter because of the manner in which he relinquished power and still thinks that he might wake up one day being the president.
“I can assure you that if tomorrow, he is invited to lead Zimbabwe again, he will readily accept even at that advanced age. You can tell by his behaviour.
He is wearing a tie and a jacket even at home relaxing. It appears like he wakes up every day and dresses up like someone preparing to go to work,” said Prof Vengeyi.
Prof Vengeyi said some people might be misleading the former leader that he still has the gravitas to launch a political comeback even through proxies.
Another University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Wellington Gadzikwa, said it was now becoming apparent that Mugabe pontificated and accepted the idea of being a life president. He said this explains why he was finding it difficult to adjust to a life of being an ordinary citizen.
“This is just a case of sour grapes. Mugabe knows he or his proxies won’t win in any election but simply wants to spoil the party for ED and the ruling Zanu-PF. This is not the behaviour of an elder African statesman. Why can’t he borrow a leaf from Kenneth Kaunda who is a revered figure in Zambia and worldwide for gracefully accepting his fate after being defeated by the late Frederick Chiluba?” Gadzikwa said.
Another political analyst, Alexander Rusero, said claims by the former president that he was being ill-treated were without basis.
“The fact that he is allowed to meet with whoever he wants to meet at Blue Roof is testimony to the fact that he is enjoying his fundamental right to freedom of association just like all other citizens,” said Rusero.
He dismissed his attempt to have political relevance as wishful thinking as most Zimbabweans now treat him as a relic of history.
It remains to be seen how the new establishment will react to Mugabe’s “provocative” antics that fly in the face of ED’s recent appraisals to regional leaders that the former president’s security and welfare was guaranteed.