Unpacking Mugabe’s Khupe overtures

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THE South African Sunday Times reports that Thokozani Khupe, the MDC-T deputy president was talking to Robert Mugabe before Morgan Tsvangirai’s death. The MDC-T Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says that this is news to the party as this was done behind their back.

The revelation that Khupe has been talking to Mugabe shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands how the Machiavellian old fox has always operated. He plays his worst enemy against an enemy who now thinks he is a friend. That is vintage Robert Mugabe.

Khupe had an avalanche of pity and sympathy come her way during the battle to succeed Morgan Tsvangirai; this was after we all focused on the constitutional issues that she raised in her fight with Chamisa for the leadership of the MDC-T.

However, all that sympathy will now go down the tubes after the revelation that she was talking to Mugabe behind the back of her MDC-T party. Khupe has refused to confirm or deny that she went to Mugabe’s Blue Roof multi-million-dollar mansion in Borrowdale.

When I wrote about Mugabe’s descriptive nature as the ultimate evil uncle who shouldn’t be listened to or allowed to influence local politics, a lot of MDC-T supporters who thought that Bob would split the vote in Mashonaland and damage Emmerson Mnangagwa’s fight pushed back on social media.

They shouted from imaginary rooftops about Mugabe’s constitutional rights, rights that he denied us through rigged elections and many other terrible acts of commission. What they didn’t realize was that Bob is a narcissist who thinks only about himself and advancing his own narrative which says that, only him is destined to rule Zimbabwe.

What we are now seeing is an attempt by Bob and his G40 gang to bring their project back on track. They are aiming for real power and hoping to consign Mnangagwa to the Midlands and Masvingo provinces hoping that they will get the three Mashonaland and Matebeleland provinces through Khupe; a pipe dream if you ask me.

Bob has been meeting and talking not only to General Ambrose Mutinhiri and Khupe; he also had two meetings with Makhosini Hlongwane and Walter Mzembi. This was revealed after the security services went through the visitors’ book at the Blue Roof. People closer to these former ministers are saying that they have rejected the idea that they are part of the NPF project, they are saying that they only went to meet Mugabe to dissuade the old dictator from forming a political party.

Political gamesmanship … Makhosini Hlongwane , Robert Mugabe and Walter Mzembi

Khupe has also been talking to APA with the hope of taking her Matebeleland parliamentary troops to Nkosana Moyo. The deal crushed and burned when she expected Nkosana Moyo to pay their parliamentary salaries for the remainder of the parliamentary term in exchange for dumping the MDC-T last year.

Nkosana Moyo’s reason for entering into the presidential race was articulated when he launched his party APA saying that he intends to change the current political culture of corruption; so, he refused to enter into a deal with Khupe which involved money as he saw the idea an act of corruption. He told them that they could work together only if their desire was to help effect change but not in exchange for money according to one of the MPs who was supposed to cross the floor with her.

These attempts by Khupe to leave the MDC-T were motivated by her fight with the late Tsvangirai over the Alliance agreement, which saw their erstwhile friends like Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube come back to the MDCT under a coalition agreement. Now the latest manoeuvres with Mugabe are premised on the thinking that the NPF must have a Vice President from the southern region, a 1987 ZANU PF Unity Accord template which all the big parties are aping.

It doesn’t mean that Mugabe believes in Khupe as a capable leader; as always with Mugabe, he needs someone to use in order for his selfish plans to come to fruition. He has always used politicians as pawns and pitted them against each other including Mnangagwa, Simon Muzenda, Edison Zvobgo, Josiah Hungwe and many others.

Mugabe will never forgive Mnangagwa and the military for removing him from power as president of the country, a position he believed that he was ordained for, despite the destruction he caused to Zimbabwe in his 37-year rule. The ethnic Mugabe never envisaged handing over power voluntarily or by force to a Karanga. This he said would never happen to many of his confidantes; more so handing over power to Mnangagwa.

His hatred for Mnangagwa came through in the last months of his rule when he sent his wife to verbally abuse Mnangagwa at every rally which was part of the so-called Youth Interface rallies. Some of the rallies became ethnic bashing shindigs when the G40 outfit sang “Zezuru Unconquerable” and Bob and his wife kept quiet, a sign that they approved of what was being said. Thankfully, all right-thinking people condemned the act with the contempt that it deserved.

This is dangerous politics for a country like ours; it divides communities on ethnic lines and it will take us back to the Stone Age. As I have said on numerous occasions, Mugabe does not care about the welfare of his compatriots, he only cares about himself and the power he had over us. Allowing such a man to be part of our political life again is dangerous and reckless because we know what he will do, we have seen him repeat it for 37 years.

Exiled after November ouster from power … Professor Jonathan Moyo

Some have opportunistically spoke about Mugabe’s constitutional rights to participate in domestic politics, thinking that his re-emergence would only take votes from ZANU PF. The idea that his return would only serve to stop Mnangagwa proves that they don’t know the real Mugabe and his G40 outfit. Bob wants his power back and he thinks that he can pull it off by using proxies. A utopian dream driven by the likes of Jonathan Moyo who haven’t woken up to the reality that they have lost power and that they will not get it back.

In many countries which are the historical bedrock of democracy, people like Mugabe and his proxies would have been banned from political life.
A recent example is when Italy banned its former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from taking part in Italian political life or running for any public office. This is because, we the public, must be protected from such dangerous schemers who will ignite the country to burn in their evil pursuits for power.

Some have questioned how that can be done when the current rulers were Mugabe’s foot soldiers. My answer is to ask whether we want to subject ourselves and lives to academic exercises or we want to be pragmatic and move ahead by extracting ourselves from the political cesspool that Mugabe left us in.

Mnangagwa and General Constantino Chiwenga were part of Mugabe’s team, but they removed us from his evil grip which was turning into a Mugabe dynasty with Grace Mugabe lined up to rule us. Shall we spite ourselves to prove a point to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, or shall we give our country a chance to become normal again?

Preferred successor … Former first lady Grace Mugabe

I find the cheering on of Mugabe morbid and an act of irresponsible citizenship. It is not a surprise that most of the people finding fascination in the idea of Mugabe’s return don’t currently live in Zimbabwe. They won’t be directly affected by the chaos his return will cause.

This to me is a time when we should choose between applying common sense or irrational political exuberance. We have to make a choice that should be determined by applying reasonable and pragmatic ideas in finding the best way forward to prosperity and a better life for all.

There are many of us who have survived economically through this crisis making speeches and writing papers for 17 years and being called specialists on the Zimbabwean crisis; some of these people will selfishly defend Mugabe’s right to remain in politics.

The Zimbabwean crisis has become a money-making industry for many who, to this very day, continue to weave tired legalistic arguments. This crisis requires a political solution, not lofty legalistic ideas. Mugabe and his lot should be stopped and if it means his former lieutenants who are now in power are the ones to do it, so be it; as long as it brings peace and prosperity to this country.

The time for being lenient and respectful with Mugabe is over, he has no respect for the citizens of Zimbabwe and he will do anything regardless of how destructive it is to the prospects of our country being revived economically and emotionally. This is a man who is still demanding his pension in cash when we can’t get a dollar from the ATMs. He was paying himself in cash and yet he was preaching that we tighten our belts and use Bond Notes and plastic money. He was so detached from the everyday realities of the common man and woman.

Mugabe, his wife and their group committed many crimes, both political and criminal. The political indemnity that he got should be lifted and the prosecutors should be allowed to do their work. The fact that the current administration also has people who committed crimes does not indemnify Mugabe and his gang from prosecution. He should be prosecuted and if found guilty banned from seeking public office.

The idea that he should be stopped at the polls forgets to remember and understand how the human mind works. There are people who will give him legitimacy by voting for him through his surrogates. There are people today in Germany who will vote for Adolf Hitler, people who believe in his supremacist and racist views. Such people are not allowed anywhere near a ballot paper because of the vile views that they stand for.

That said, the current government should shoulder some of the blame for what is happening. They were used to dealing with such tricky situations through the use of a hammer. This time the weapon should be the intellect. As Alex Magaisa said in his insightful article on Saturday, Mugabe would be happy to draw Mnangagwa into a muddy bath fight and then expect to milk sympathy from citizens who will ask whether it is necessary to use force on a 94-year-old man.

The government has had so much goodwill both locally and internationally, but that goodwill is now disappearing because the government is failing to implement things that do not need any money. These things include repealing or amending repressive legislation like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and The Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Ordering ZBC to return to professionalism and ethical reporting does not require money, only political will.

Many people are asking the same question; if the government is genuine in its promises, then why is it not doing these things that require very little to implement? Failure to implement these reforms is what is making a lot of people start to become doubtful whether the president is genuine in his call for change.

A lot of people had decided to give President Mnangagwa a chance on the premise that he was being blocked by Mugabe to implement a progressive agenda. That confidence in the administration is now receding. The President shouldn’t fall victim to Mugabe’s disease of wanting to be told what he wanted to hear only, instead of being told what he needed to hear.

As Mugabe soldiers on with the same political attitude of not knowing when to stop, the president should move the opposite direction and start implementing the changes that will make citizens believe in what he is saying. Failure to do so will bleed urban votes for him and his party if he doesn’t act quickly. This will force them to return to the past template of coercion. Only intellect will work this time if they want to retain legitimacy.

As for Thokozani Khupe, her actions have closed the leadership issue in the MDC-T. She has endorsed Nelson Chamisa as the new leader by talking and entertaining someone as vile as Robert Mugabe.

The MDC-T needs to separate themselves from her as she has become politically toxic. ZANU PF will easily point to her talks with Mugabe on the campaign trail as the reason why they can’t be trusted. They can’t talk about Gukurahundi whilst working with the chief architect of the massacres as people like Jonathan Moyo are deceitfully doing.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow. His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March. He can be contacted on or on twitter @daddyhope