Mugabe grooms ruthless successor
Robert Mugabe is manoeuvring to ensure a key political ally
known as ‘The Butcher of Matabeleland’ is installed as his
successor before standing down on his 80th birthday.
The prospect of Emmerson Mnangagwa assuming power -
which would ensure Mugabe avoids a potential trial for human
rights abuses and allow him to remain in his palatial home
called ‘Gracelands’ - will dismay political opponents as he is
considered to be even more dangerous than Mugabe himself.
Mnangagwa masterminded the slaughter of more than
25,000 civilians opposed to Mugabe in Matabeleland in the
mid-1980s and was also largely responsible for the
controversial land reform programme that resulted in attacks
on white farmers by army veterans who seized their property.
Despite mounting speculation by Western diplomats that
Mugabe will relinquish power this December, informed sources
in Harare told Scotland on Sunday that the Zimbabwean leader
has chosen his birthday, February 21, to make his departure
"He feels that at the age of 80 he will
have a wonderful excuse to step down and hand over to a
younger man," a former cabinet minister in Bishop Muzorewa’s
short-lived government said.
At that age no one could
accuse him of cowardice, said the source, who has asked not to
be named at a time when the dreaded Stasi-trained Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is hunting down "dissidents"
and "traitors to Africa".
"Robert is a bit like
Macbeth. He’s haunted by the number of people he has killed.
He is terrified of going on trial somewhere and being
remembered not as a hero, but as a monster," the source said.
"He knows that Emmerson Mnangagwa is a safe pair of hands
because they’re as bloody as his own."
The source was
once a close friend of the Zimbabwean president and knows the
country’s leaders intimately.
He added: "He [Mugabe]
wants Emmerson Mnangagwa to take-over, and although there are
other people in line for the job, I can’t see either the
Central Committee or the Politburo challenging the will of a
man who still somehow controls the police, the army and most
important of all, the CIO, which has been responsible for
thousands of murders and political assassinations since
independence in 1980."
Mnangagwa, 60, has been at
Mugabe’s side since the late 1970s when the Jesuit educated
Marxist guerrilla fighter fled to Mozambique, where he helped
lead a protracted war against white rule in Zimbabwe, then
After independence, Mnangagwa was
given key ministries in Mugabe’s handpicked cabinet of
loyalists, and even when he lost his seat at the 2000
election, he was made speaker of the parliament, a post he
But Mnangagwa was always more than a
political adviser to Mugabe.
The source said: "We must
never forget that between those dreadful years 1982 and 1987
when Mugabe unleashed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade
of the Zimbabwe National Army and let hooligans in uniform
slaughter upwards of 25,000 black civilians because they
opposed his rule, it was Mnangagwa who stood beside him and
ran the CIO."
Last year, Mnangagwa, who also heads up
Mugabe’s vast business empire in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), led a government and ruling party delegation to a
meeting of Thabo Mbeki’s African National Congress party in
Crucially, the South African leader sees
Mnangagwa as the next leader of Zimbabwe.
reports say that when US President George W Bush was in South
Africa last week, Mbeki told him to stop talking about
Mugabe’s track record of human rights abuses.
the Americans and the British want to see a "democratic"
presidential election when Mugabe steps down, the South
African leader is said to be content to see Mugabe choose his
successor, as long as his choice is approved by his Zanu-PF
While Washington and London believe opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) would easily win a genuinely fair election, Mbeki wants
to see an ideologically and politically correct ‘old style’
leader take over north of the River Limpopo.
say Mbeki personally likes Mnangagwa, who has a legal and
He is said to be a man of great
personal charm and is also a close friend of one of Zimbabwe’s
most important men, Army commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe.
It was Zvinavashe who commanded the Fifth Brigade when
it invaded Matabeleland in a terrifying campaign to wipe out
the opposition, which was led by Dr Joshua Nkomo of the
Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU).
Bush was in South Africa he described Mbeki as "the point man"
Zimbabweans in exile in South Africa -
there are now close on two million of them - say that Mbeki
remains "highly suspicious" of Tsvangirai.
Mbeki is known to regard the MDC as a creation of white
Zimbabwean farmers. The MDC receives funds from wealthy whites
with mining and farming interests in Zimbabwe and Mbeki
regards Tsvangirai as little more than a puppet manipulated by
Mugabe and Mbeki have become close
friends since 1999.
Basildon Peta, the respected
Zimbabwean correspondent in Pretoria, said this week that
America recently pledged a "reconstruction" package for
Zimbabwe worth up to $10bn (£6.2bn) over an unspecified time
The deal, says Peta, was discussed by the two
leaders during a private meeting in Pretoria.
Opposition politicians fear that now he is America’s
"point man" on Zimbabwe, Mbeki will be able to persuade
Washington to accept any new leader as long as he demonstrates
a desire to "start again" without embarrassing the outgoing
minister SIMBA MAKONI who is known to be the favourite of
America and Britain. He opposed Mugabe’s land reform programme
which he said would cause inflation to soar and even more
Makoni is popular with whites in
Zimbabwe and big business in South Africa, but he has little
support in the townships, from the MDC opposition or from the
DUMISO DABENGWA, former home affairs
minister, who fought against the Rhodesian forces with the
Zimbabwe African People’s Union under Joshua Nkomo.
rose to become the commander of Nkomo’s military forces and
was known as the uncrowned king of Matabeleland.
former opponent of Mugabe, he sided with the government after
1987 and lost the support of the young and the MDC opposition.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, the leader of the main opposition
group, the Movement for Democratic Change, is still
challenging the result of last year’s contested presidential
election through the Zimbabwean courts.
last year gave Mugabe a further six-year term in office but
there were claims of vote-rigging and intimidation,
The former trade union leader, spent 10 days in prison
on treason charges for allegedly plotting to overthrow