Former president Robert Mugabe’s aides at his Borrowdale mansion in Harare were on Wednesday questioned by State security agents who are trying to unravel the despot’s political manoeuvres that have the effect of destabilising the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of key elections this year.
The Daily News can report that four aides were rounded-up by security officials at the Blue Roof, as Mugabe’s palatial home is popularly known, and spent the whole of Wednesday being quizzed, before being released.
Highly-placed sources said the security agents were wanted to gain insights into what has been happening at the 44-acre property, which is protected by a multi-million-dollar radar system, and blocked from public view by a four-metre high precast wall.
“The workers were denied access to food or water and they were being asked names of the people who have been visiting the former president,” said a source.
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has indicated that his administration was keen to establish whether Mugabe was working with the newly-formed National Patriotic Front (NPF), which registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on Wednesday to compete in the forthcoming elections.
Led in the interim by former minister of State for Mashonaland East Ambrose Mutinhiri, NPF courted the ire of Zanu PF after its leader was said to have held a series of meetings with Mugabe at his Borrowdale home, with one of the meetings lasting four hours.
Mugabe has also met several Zanu PF officials (the majority of them from the vanquished Generation 40 faction led by his wife Grace), heightening speculation that he could be the force behind NPF.
Since his resignation in November last year, Mugabe has raised a lot of dust for the new administration, insisting he was ousted through a military “coup”.
As such, Zanu PF Youth League members have branded him the party’s enemy number one since NPF is likely to fish from the same pond as the ruling party ahead of crunch elections to be held no later than July this year in what could split the party’s vote.
Addressing Zanu PF youths on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said his government was disturbed by media reports linking Mugabe to the NPF but would only act once they get to the bottom of the matter.
He said: “The former president, something is brewing. We read in the media various speculations about his activities. I have no doubt that in no time the facts and reality will be made known and we will only take a position when reality and the issues are known and if it is factual. We are not happy with what the media is saying. We don’t know whether it’s correct or not, but it is an issue we are examining”.
According to insider at the Blue Roof, although former first lady was not harassed by the State security agents, she was left disturbed.
She has since confided in close relatives that she was being “tormented” by the new government, which has pledged to deliver free and fair elections.
Mugabe had earlier on left for South Africa for a private visit, something which has yet again riled authorities.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson and permanent secretary in the ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba, told the Daily News that the assertions were unfounded.
He said: “I cannot comment on cyber rumours”.
But other sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe was a master of smoke and mirrors, adding the politician who turned 94 last month wanted to solicit sympathy and gain mileage through cheap propaganda.
“Simply because they are launching a party and they now need to arouse sympathy. But the answer is not harebrained methods,” said the government source.
“They want to galvanise the sympathy card; they are busy press-ganging even people they have not spoken to in a long time to join (their party). The intention is not to win the elections but to spoil ED’s image. At one point you say the administration is illegitimate and yet they want to participate in an election (organised by the same regime). At one point they say they want security and at another they say they don’t want it,” added the source.
United Kingdom-based political analyst, Alex Magaisa, said the decision by Mnangagwa’s government to move against Mugabe could backfire.
“Some have suggested that the retirement package was far too generous and it could now be reduced as punishment, but this is precisely the picture that Mugabe would be happy to create — that he is being persecuted for his political views,” he said.
Magaisa said if the Mnangagwa administration falls for Mugabe’s tricks, it could alienate more of those in their party who are sympathetic to the despot but had come to terms with his removal.
He said Mnangagwa revealed a weakness when he felt compelled to report to the African Union that Mugabe was being looked after well.
“It showed that he was sensitive to Mugabe’s mistreatment because the veteran politician still has many admirers on the continent,” said Magaisa.
“Any suggestion of persecution is not in Mnangagwa’s interest as it will only taint the reputation that he has painstakingly constructed since the coup,” said Magaisa.