PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Friday held a surprise meeting with Enos Nkala, one of Zanu PF's founders who later turned into an acerbic critic of the veteran leader after a falling out.
The meeting, lasting 45 minutes, took place at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport’s VIP Lounge.
Neither man said who had requested the meeting.
Emerging from the talks, Nkala – who was sacked from government in the late 1980s over the Willowvale scandal – said Mugabe had intended to visit him at his house but had lost time during a visit to Gwanda.
Only two years ago, Nkala said of Mugabe: “Robert is a first-class intellectual but lacks administrative ability. He is a talker but not a leader. He should be teaching at a university not leading the country.”
But on Friday, he was a reformed man, saying he regretted personal attacks on the man he describes as his “best friend”.
Nkala, who served as Home Affairs and Defence Minister after independence in 1980, said: I don’t know whether it was arrogance or what, but I dropped all and said ‘to hell with it’.
“But there is a kind of renewed relation between us... I think he desires that before the two of us leave this world we would meet again.”
Nkala, now 82, said he was “shocked” by the 88-year-old Mugabe’s fitness.
"The time has gone but I am shocked he is still fit and strong like that,” he said.
He would not reveal what they discussed to avoid “controversy”, but he admitted the two men were trying to “revive and renew our friendship” which started back in 1963 when they were part of a small group of nationalist leaders which engineered the split from ZAPU to form ZANU at Nkala’s Harare home.
Nkala said: "We grew up together and we were best friends. We formed ZANU together and we saw it growing. We went to the elections and won.
“I had a stint as the Minister of Finance and established the Ministry of National Supplies, I became the Minister of Home Affairs and Defence. Then there was the so-called car scandal and I got so upset. I retired from politics and became myself up to date.
"We were reminiscing about our friendship days. Our past is full of happy events. We have always desired that from time to time we meet and chat about our life. He was even there at my wedding.
“I cannot say he has made mistakes. So we are still good friends.”
In 2006, Nkala revealed that he had written a book about Zimbabwe’s history but said it would only be published after he had died – sparking speculation that he feared Mugabe may not like the book’s contents.
He said after Friday’s meeting: “It is me sometimes who make provocative statements but I have realised that he [Mugabe] is more mature than me.”