Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe offered to send his wife into exile in a foreign country in order to retain power. It eventually took an army of Mugabe’s closest allies to persuade the president to leave office, even as four tanks and armed soldiers surrounded him and Grace at their private Harare residence.
“ED [Mnangagwa] told him that he should look around him, that he always said he would leave when the people no longer loved him. Saturday showed him that the people no longer loved him [Mugabe],” said an insider privy to the negotiations.
Thousands of Zimbabweans marched outside his house last Saturday, singing “zvikaramba toita zve jende [if it does not work, we will use force]”.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 15, 2017
“Mugabe spent his last moments as president on November 21 before and after being pressured to resign at 1.30pm at his Borrowdale mansion in Harare, surrounded by close family friends and members of negotiating team which was engaged in talks between him and the military,” a close family member said.
“He was with Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, his spokesman George Charamba, acting director general of the Central Intelligence Organisation Aaron Daniel Tonde Nhepera and close family friend, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, who was invited to join the negotiating team by Mugabe’s family on Friday November 17,” said a witness to the negotiations.
To mark the occasion, one of the attendees suggested that a picture be taken of the historic occasion. A sequence of pictures, that included Gono, Charambra, Nhepera and others were taken, but one, purportedly showing a demure Grace and dejected Mugabe, has been held up as evidence of Mugabe’s defeat. In many of the other pictures the attendees are smiling.
Zanu-PF officials have confirmed that part of the negotiated settlement is that Mugabe and his family will not face legal action and will be allowed to retain all their assets. A number of government ministers and senior officials are already being pursued in countries where they have fled, including Mozambique and Botswana.
At least 68 operatives of the much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation have been rounded up, with others having gone to ground as the military maintains roadblocks throughout the country, searching for those implicated in the decades of looting in Zimbabwe.
Since his resignation, Mugabe has been relegated to a hermit and, on the few occasions he has left his home, was subjected to humiliating security checks by the military who fear he may try to aid his wife or senior government officials on the army’s wanted list.
“If it was not for Grace Mugabe, Robert Mugabe would be in power today. It is that simple. Everyone in Zanu-PF has respect for our statesman; we were willing to allow him to finish his term as first secretary and leader of the party. But to allow his wife to insult senior members of the party, insult Cabinet members …” said a top Zanu-PF insider.
A day after Mugabe’s resignation, life remained unchanged at his rural home in Zvimba but a cloud of fear hung over the villagers, with some saying they were unaware of the dramatic political developments.
For 78-year-old Felix Gatsi, who last had a job soon after independence in 1984, Mugabe’s ouster marked the dawn of a new era.
“I would watch his motorcade drive to his rural home every other Sunday morning. It had been close to a month since he last came here,” said Gatsi.
“I have five children who are all unemployed and now depend on subsistence farming. Mugabe would force us to attend his rallies but he never fulfilled his election promises. For Mnangagwa, it is my desire that he won’t be another Mugabe who has caused so much suffering to the people.”