Harare - Robert Mugabe will have a second round of negotiations with the generals on Sunday who took control of Zimbabwe earlier this week about an exit package. Mugabe wants his assets secured and indemnity from prosecution which falls away when he is no longer president of Zimbabwe.
On Sunday, in addition, the Zanu-PF central commmittee meets to see if it can vote him out as president and first secretary of the party. It has to have a quorum and a majority to do that at its headquarters in Harare. It will also then discuss the mechanism it can use to reinstate sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, so that he can move ahead to create a new government, probably of national unity, to avoid unaffordable elections. All of this will have to be done somehow so as not to offend the 2013 constitution, insiders say.
But memories are still fresh for the military leaders of Saturday’s extraordinary day of goodwill and good-natured chaos.
Under grey skies, after a night of hot summer rain, thousands of Zimbabweans staged chaotic demonstrations all over Harare and in other towns calling on Mugabe to go.
They sang, danced, stamped, hooted horns, shouted, drank beer from bottles and cans, and went out of their way to hug, wave, touch, and blow kisses at the few whites on the streets.
Never before, not even when Mugabe returned from exile to the then Salisbury in late 1979, was there such public jubilation.
Years of restraint, police cordons, tear gas, arrests of activists, journalists vendors etc - all the trappings and mechanisms of a dictatorship - were gone. A few soldiers on a couple of armoured personnel carriers in the city centre waved at the crowds and grinned broadly as people sang to them.
Several evicted white farmers, made homeless during the post 2000 landgrab wrapped themselves in the Zimbabwe flag and sang along with the people in the city dominated by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.
But many of those singing, cheering, and howling with joy, were also supporters of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. The party, or his faction of it, known as G40, appears to be in tatters. Several of its leading supporters are in detention in military barracks and human rights lawyers are starting to ask when they will be charged or released.
The crowds and vehicles were rock solid along the Samora Machel highway into the city centre, moving from east to west, past the colonial era Munamatapa building which has a clock on a tower stuck for years at 3.15 pm.
Within the building, is a tiny courtyard with a pond overlooked by a small statue of David Livingstone, a miniature of the giant one at Victoria Falls.
Across the road is the Harare High Court and Parliament, buildings which will be used in the next few weeks to change the organs of state.
Mugabe worked here until about 14 years ago when he moved his office to State House, the building where colonial era governor-generals lived, where Lord Christopher Soames, Winston Churchill’s son-in-law lived and governed briefly after the ceasefire in the Rhodesian war in 1979.
Mugabe left these graceful buildings when he and his family moved to their private mansion in the Borrowdale suburb, about 12 km north of the city centre.
State House was guarded on Saturday by a handful of privates from the army, who put spikes up on the road to prevent people moving past it and waved people away from the cross road with Churchill.
At Mugabe’s residence, in the posh Borrowdale suburb, the road was no longer closed so people could drive up to the main gate, guarded by huge black metal Chinese dragons on pillars.
It is known as the Blue Roof, as the pottery tiles are Grace Mugabe’s favourite blue/turquoise colour. At least one cab driver was beaten up by a policeman on Saturday near the gates.
But Mugabe is there, inside the three storey mansion, surrounded by landscaped parks and wildlife. This is his private property and many believe that his wife Grace is there too.
Their eldest child, daughter Bona, and her baby, are believed to be in Dubai at present. Their two wild, extravagant sons are in Johannesburg since they were kicked out of Dubai last year.
Father Fidelis Mukonori, the top Jesuit in Zimbabwe, who has known and respected Mugabe from the days of the liberation war, and knew his rural family, who were staunch Catholics, has been advising the imperiled Zimbabwe leader. He has always taken Mugabe’s side, and was not known to have done much to prevent the gross human rights abuses which mark Mugabe’s 37 years in power.
At stake are the Mugabe family’s assets which he wants transferred to him, which will be difficult as tens of millions of rands of them are on state-owned land. Grace Mugabe together with her husband control more cropping land in Zimbabwe then anyone else, including the former Lonrho businessman, Tiny Rowland at the height of the colonial period.
No white farmer ever had even a quarter of the land Grace Mugabe controls. She has spent millions - no one knows where the money came from - to build two huge school, offices, new luxury houses, a dairy, and supports an orphanage built for her by South African businessman, jack Ping. How will the Mugabe’s secure those assets on State Land?
Will the Mugabes have to pay back the state for the years when a state-owned enterprise, The Agricultural Rural Development Authority, ARDA, ran some of the farms the couple had taken, paid the wages etc? Even paid a white farmer half the value of his farm, when Grace Mugabe decided she wanted it?
Patrick Chinamasa, the reformist finance minister, who was sacked from his post by Mugabe last month, said that the central committee meeting on Sunday was the “important” moment. “That is where we will make decisions. Be there tomorrow. Speculate as you like about what will happen in the future but this is an important step. Tomorrow. See you there,” he said.
Mugabe will likely be sacked as president and first secretary of the Zanu-PF party. The other vice president Phelekezela Mphoko is out of the country at present.
Sacking Mugabe from the ruling party would be the first step to removing him from power in a way which ANC president Jacob Zuma and the 15 nation Southern African Development Community, SADC which he leads, would understand.
This will not remove Mugabe from his national post. But he would then be a president of a country where the ruling party has rejected him.
Former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, may then reappear in public, insiders say. The central committee may also discuss how to reinstate him as vice president and not violate the constitution.
Some speculate his lawyers may - this is still under discussion - approach the Harare High Court on Monday with an urgent application to challenge his axing as vice president earlier this month.
Harare’s massive, lovely spreading flamboyant trees are in full flower along the avenues near the city centre. The pot holes are full of summer rain, and there is degradation everywhere, but people were shouting on Saturday: “We have a new Zimbabwe. This is OUR new Zimbabwe… Bugger off Mugabe,” said another.
Chad Gandiya, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Harare of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) said he was glad to be able to comment: “The jewel, our jewel is ready to shine. There is hope in the air. As a church we hope all will be peaceful and that people will desist from any violent action This is our Kairos moment. Let us grab this God given moment.”
Judith Todd, who campaigned against the minority white government of Ian Smith, and was later stripped of her citizenship by Robert Mugabe because she spoke put against him, said from second city Bulawayo on Saturday: “Once again, I am surprised by joy.” She said that former war veteran Tshinga Duba recently sacked from the cabinet by Mugabe, "was in his element, looking so happy and vindicated.”
Todd’s father, the late Sir Garfield Todd, was a former reformist prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, who was kicked out by whites who then brought in Smith who declared UDI in 1965, which sparked a terrible civil war in which, at the end, more then 1000 people were dying a day. It was stopped by Prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Lancaster House agreement mentored by Lord Peter Carrington.
Zimbabwean leaders Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo negotiated the ceasefire and transition to democratic rule. After independence, Mugabe sacked Nkomo, and persecuted his Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), the official opposition, and thousands of his supporters were killed. Mnangagwa is accused of playing a major role in this episode of violence in southern and western Zimbabwe. Twenty years later it was the Movement for Democratic Change’s members who were persecuted, arrested in their thousands and killed.
David Moore, Zimbabwe historian at the University of Johannesburg said after the dramatic and warm Sunday demonstrations, which took place in a city, overwhelmingly supported by the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change: “It should be clear to SADC and all interested parties that Robert Mugabe no longer has ANY legitimacy. A parliamentary impeachment o if necessary would emphasise this. Of course, if Mugabe was watching the TV on Sunday - presumably it would have kept him awake - he would resign with at least half a fig leaf of dignity.”
Sunday will be a key day in the ongoing determination of Zimbabweans to end, constitutionally, Mugabe’s nearly 38 years in power, and somehow, to find a way that they don’t see or hear about Grace Mugabe or her sons, ever again. “We just don’t want to have anything more to do with Grace. We are ashamed of her. She embarrasses us,” said a senior lecturer at a local university who asked not to be named. “We detest her."
Independent Foreign Service