CAPE TOWN– President Robert Mugabe allegedly told former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Gideon Gono, who was also his personal banker, confidant and family friend, soon after the November 2017 military putsch that toppled him from office, to warn then Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, and now Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was a ticking political time bomb for the country, who needed to be contained one way or the other, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.
It is also coming to light for the first time, that Mugabe who had offered Chiwenga to take over from him at the height of the coup, as a counter move against Mnangagwa’s ambitions for the presidency, also reportedly advised the VP to remain ZDF chief and settle for nothing less than a presidium appointment in Mnangagwa’s government, as a means of buffering his power.
According to a Mugabe family aide, who was present during a January 2018 private meeting Mugabe is said to have held with Gono at his blue roof mansion, the former leader had a two hour conversation with Gono, during which he asked him to relay his final Mnangagwa warning message to Chiwenga.
“Mugabe had a private meeting with Gono in January 2018, soon after the coup, where he told Gono to tell Chiwenga, that Mnangagwa was a ticking political time bomb for Zimbabwe,” said the aide last week from their new home here in South Africa.
“He (Mugabe) also said Mnangagwa was not a true patriot, and that he would work on reversing all his national policies, including the land reform and indigenisation law, because he was answerable to hostile foreign forces and white capital. I also learnt that Mugabe had played a crucial role in advising Chiwenga to remain in office as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, and only step down if Mnangagwa appoints him into the presidium as a vice president, as a strategy to buffer Mnangagwa’s power, after Chiwenga had refused Mugabe’s offer to take over from him two months earlier at the height of Operation Restore Legacy.”
Spotlight Zimbabwe, has since established from sources in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), that Mnangagwa initially wanted Chiwenga to resign as ZDF Commander in early December 2017, in return for a ministerial post as minister of defence.
However, Chiwenga declined the offer and the army demanded that he be appointed vice president instead of Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri who was Mnangagwa’s pick for the post of first vice president, as Chiwenga appeared to take Mugabe’s advise not to settle for anything less, in would seem.
Mnangagwa ended up yielding to Chiwenga and the army, and government subsequently announced on 18 December 2017 that Chiwenga was set to retire pending redeployment. The VP retired from the army on 19 December 2017.
Chiwenga was then appointed as the vice president of Zimbabwe on 28 December 2017 along with Kembo Mohadi, who was appointed as the second vice-president. Mnangagwa also appointed Chiwenga as the minister of defence and war veterans affairs on the next day.
“So the tensions and suspicions between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga keep growing,” said the former Mugabe family aide.
“Mnangagwa got wind of Mugabe’s final message to Chiwenga, which was delivered by Gono not in Zimbabwe, but when he was out of the country for business. Mnangagwa actually fears that Gono and Chiwenga could have personally met abroad to discuss and share more Mugabe revelations about him, including some political secrets.”
OPC officials claiming to have knowledge about Gono and Chiwenga’s meetings, this week said Mnangagwa has been unsettled since Chiwenga recovered from his suspected poisoning ailment in China last November.
“The president knows that the vice president is in possession of a batch of secrets on him, which Mugabe could have revealed to Gono, and that Gono himself might just end up becoming president, should Chiwenga decide not to takeover from him on health grounds. Everyone now knows that the military wants Chiwenga to run this country as a transitional president, but the question is when and how soon?”
The fallout between Mnangagwa and Mugabe, was so serious that the latter refused for the former to preside over his burial.
Mugabe made it clear to his family before his passing, that he did not want to be associated with Mnangagwa and all those he viewed as his betrayers and tormentors in the ruling Zanu PF and government. When the coup happened, Mugabe and Mnangagwa completely lost contact with each other, communicating through emissaries only, including Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Isaac Moyo.
Gono was not immediately available for comment last night, while Mnangagwa’s spokesman, George Charamba, was not reachable on his mobile phone.