Tuesday 20 August 2019

Mugabe given immunity as part of his resignation deal

Zimbabwe’s incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks to supporters, flanked by his wife Auxilia, at Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare. Photo: Getty Images
Zimbabwe’s incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks to supporters, flanked by his wife Auxilia, at Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare. Photo: Getty Images

MacDonald Dzirutwe

Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution and was assured that his safety would be protected in his home country as part of a deal that led to his resignation, sources close to the negotiations said yesterday.

Mr Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, stepped down on Tuesday after the army seized power and the ruling party turned against him. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president sacked by Mr Mugabe earlier this month, is set to be sworn in as president today.

A government source said Mr Mugabe (93) told negotiators he wanted to die in Zimbabwe and that he had no plans to live in exile.

“It was very emotional for him and he was forceful about it,” said the source, who is not authorised to speak on the details of the negotiated settlement.

“For him, it was very important that he be guaranteed security to stay in the country...although that will not stop him from travelling abroad when he wants to or has to,” the source said.

Mr Mugabe resigned on Tuesday as parliament began a process to impeach him, sparking wild celebrations in the streets.

His rapid downfall, after 37 years in power, was triggered by a battle to succeed him that pitted Mr Mnangagwa against Mr Mugabe’s much younger wife, Grace.

“The outgoing president is obviously aware of the public hostility to his wife, the anger in some circles about the manner in which she conducted herself and approached Zanu-PF party politics,” a second source said.

“In that regard, it became necessary to also assure him that his whole family, including the wife, would be safe and secure.”

Mr Mugabe had clung on to power for a week after the military intervened.

He angered many Zimbabweans when he did not resign in a televised address on Sunday, as many had anticipated.

The government source said the tipping point for him was the realisation that he would be impeached and ousted in an undignified way.

“When the process started, he then realised he had lost the party,” the source said.

Mr Mugabe will receive a retirement package that includes a pension, housing, holiday and transport allowance, health insurance, limited air travel and security.

The ageing former president was “rugged and drained” by events of the past week, and may travel to Singapore for medical checks in the coming weeks, the source said.

He had been due to leave for Singapore in mid-November before the military put him under house arrest.

Mr Mugabe has maintained that he leads a frugal life and that he does not possess any wealth or properties outside Zimbabwe.

But last month a legal quarrel between his wife and a Belgian-based businessman over a $1.3m (€1.1m) diamond ring lifted a veil on the wealthy lifestyle of Mr Mugabe and his wife, nicknamed “Gucci Grace” for her reputed dedication to shopping.

In Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe runs a dairy business and the family has several farms, while local and foreign media have reported that his wife has bought properties and luxury cars in South Africa.

Addressing a cheering crowd in Harare on Wednesday night, Mr Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was entering a new stage of democracy.

He had returned to the country earlier in the day, having fled for his safety when Mr Mugabe sacked him as vice president two weeks ago to smooth a path to the succession for his wife.

“The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God,” Mr Mnangagwa told thousands of supporters gathered outside the ruling Zanu-PF party’s offices in the capital.

The army appears to have engineered a trouble-free path to power for Mr Mnangagwa, who was for decades a faithful lieutenant of Mr Mugabe.

Irish Independent

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