Former president looking forward to retirement, nephew says
Ousted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was in good health and quite jovial after being forced to resign when a military takeover ended his 37 years in power, according to his nephew.
However, Leo Mugabe declined to discuss the $10-million (R14-million) retirement bonus reportedly granted to the 93-year-old as part of a deal that finally persuaded him to resign.
“He is actually looking forward to his new life — farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well,” the son of Mugabe’s late sister, Sabina, said.
He said Mugabe’s wife, Grace, was now concentrating on plans to build a university in his honour.
“I like the spirit she has, she is with him all the time,” Leo said. “She is an amazing person. She wants to continue planning the Robert Mugabe University so that they have something to do.”
Zimbabwe announced plans in August to build the $1-billion (R14-billion) post-graduate university in Mazowe, 35km outside Harare.
The plan drew fierce criticism as Mugabe is accused of brutal repression and bringing the country to economic ruin.
In the exit negotiations, Mugabe was granted the lump sum, full immunity and allowed to keep his assets, according to the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
He will still be paid his full salary, in line with constitution, while Grace will reportedly receive half his pay after his death.
Asked about the deal, Mugabe’s long-time spokesman, George Charamba, said that the package of a retiring president was defined by law.
He said earlier that immunity had not been discussed during the talks between the president and the army chiefs who briefly put Mugabe under house arrest.
Grace, 52, was alleged to have positioned herself to be Mugabe’s chosen successor, prompting the military to intervene on November 14 and usher in its preferred candidate, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, a former close ally of Mugabe for decades, has vowed sweeping changes to revive the country’s moribund economy.
In his inaugural address on Friday, Mnangagwa paid tribute to Mugabe, describing him as one of the founding fathers of the nation.
Critics fear Mnangagwa — who has been accused of overseeing violence and ethnic massacres -could prove as authoritarian as his predecessor.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Mnangagwa said he valued democracy, tolerance and the rule of law and would tackle corruption.
Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, exercising almost total authority to crush any sign of dissent during a reign characterised by brutality, rigged elections and international isolation.
Until his rule ended on Tuesday with a resignation letter sent to MPs who had gathered to impeach him, he was the world’s oldest head of state. Activist pastor Evan Mawaire called yesterday for Mugabe to face justice, saying that further demonstrations could erupt if people believed there was no accountability for decades of state crimes.
“A lot of people in this country have been wronged and oppressed, it is important they see justice playing out,” Mawaire said after preaching at his small church in Harare.
“It is important for these criminals to be followed up to show the nation that the law catches up with them.”
Mugabe made a defiant televised address two days before he resigned.
On Friday, a high court ruled that the military takeover was legal, raising concerns about the army’s future influence and the rule of law under the new administration.