Deposed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has for the first time publicly condemned his removal from office by the military last year saying he feels betrayed by his former protégé Emmerson Mnangagwa, who now leads the country.
Mugabe blamed his successor for working with the military to stage a coup that dislodged his 37-year rule on November 15.
He declared that he was removed from power through a military coup, contrary to observations by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and other political bodies who viewed his ouster a constitutional matter mandated to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
In an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation and several other media houses, Mr. Mugabe indicated that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is an illegitimate leader of Zimbabwe, who needs to discuss with him how to legalize his presidency.
Mnangagwa and the military deposed him last November when the military said it wanted to arrest so-called criminals surrounding him believed to have belonged to a faction of the ruling Zanu PF party known as Generation 40, which allegedly wanted Mrs. Grace Mugabe to succeed him.
A defiant Mugabe told journalists at his family Blue Roof mansion, where he was put under arrest by the army last November, that he was forcibly removed from power by a person he saved from the gallows during the liberation struggle of the 1970s.
“On my side I always had Emmerson Mnangagwa on my side. I brought him into my government. But I never thought he whom I had nurtured and brought into government and whose life I had worked so hard in prison to save as he was threatened with hanging that one day he will be the man who would turn against me. But there it was, there it is. It happened on the 15th of November. He was assisted by the army. I said it was a coup d’etat. Some people have refused to call it a coup d’etat.”
Mugabe said the ZDF completely paralyzed other organs of the security services when it staged the coup d’etat with Mnangagwa and his associates, who belonged to a faction of the ruling party known as Team Lacoste.
“He (Mnangagwa) could not have assumed the presidency of the country without the army. It’s the army which assisted him. The army made sure that other organs of state were neutralized … completely neutralized. They neutralized the Central Intelligence Organization many of whose members were bashed, whose heads were cracked and this is not an exaggeration. Some of them are missing to this day. Their guns were taken away from them. The police had their armoury completely emptied.
“… Their guns had gone … disappeared. Who had taken them? The army. And then in our environment rolled what we never knew we had, some tanks. Oh! Did we have these tanks? I was told they are ancient ones, 1914 to 1918 tanks, 63 or 60 something (years old). There they were rolling, armoured cars running and people not allowed to move from one place to another unless they got the permission of the army. Searches were taking place, left, right and center. Persons being arrested. It was truly a military takeover. There was no movement permissible unless that movement was checked and allowed by the army.”
He said some people decided to only call it a military intervention and not a coup d’etat.
“That’s what it was but I don’t know what you would call it but our people had not experienced such an environment before. We had prided ourselves on being democratic.
The former Zimbabwean leader, who ruled the country for more than 37 years said he played a key role in saving some of the people that were being sought by the army but noted that his staff has been harassed about their whereabouts.
“Every day those young men and women we have are being called one by one to be asked very silly questions. Where is Jonathan, Professor Jonathan Moyo? Where is (Saviour) Kasukuwere? Where is (Patrick) Zhuwao? Ah! They are told ‘no’ there are mere cooks, they are mere messengers, gardeners. You don’t expect them to know. Why worry them? Ask me. I don’t even know where they are. Yes, once upon a time we assisted them to get to safety. Guns, volleys of bullets were being fired at their houses. And the cry came, please, please, and it was my wife. Mama save us, please save us. I wasn’t there. She organized some of her security and said go, go and save them.
“… What happens to you, I don’t know. You may die on the way but go. And she put together the cars and the persons that she had. I wasn’t here. And so they were brought to our house … Jonathan, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Kasukuwere and their families. One had about four children, wife and four children (and) the other wife and three children and we kept them here and said to them we will keep your families. We said that to the men but you men find your way out. Go where you can. We will keep you wife and children here and save them. How they left we don’t know. We don’t know where they left. And we kept their families here until the situation got better. And then they asked to go back to their homes.”
Mugabe noted that he has since been abandoned by the current president and his colleagues.
“Today Emmerson (Mnangagwa) is no longer on my side. I’m no longer the president … he is. I called him president the other day and he said oh no don’t call me president call me Emmerson. I said I can’t call you Emmerson anymore. OK, I will call you ED … I don’t hate Emmerson, I brought him in government. I would want to work with him but he is improper. He is improper where he is … illegal.”
According to the SABC, Mugabe is willing to work with Mnangagwa, provided that he was invited to a meeting to table his ouster.
“ … If it is to correct that illegality (coup d’etat) that he would like me to discuss with him, I am willing. We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves. We don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it. Please we don’t deserve it. Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it. We want to be a constitutional country. Yes, we may have our shortcomings here and there but overall we must obey the law … Become constitutional.
“People must be chosen to be in government in the proper way. I will discuss. I’m willing to discuss … willing to assist in that process but I must be invited. Properly invited for that discussion. Currently I’m isolated but I’m glad I have your (journalists) company.”
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was not available for comment.