WILY MUGABE'S LATEST MASTER-STROKE



President Mugabe's eldest child, Bona Mugabe, is seen here greeting Vice Presidents Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi & their wives at President Mnangagwa's inauguration ceremony at the National Sports Stadium in Harare today


President Robert Mugabe was not in Singapore today. He was at home. For a man his age, he is in remarkably good health, even though he sent a letter to the inauguration, read by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the National Sports Stadium today, pleading ill-health.

The letter was not a sign that Mugabe has forgiven Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. No.

Those present at the Blue Roof when the decision was made are clear what Bona and her husband's presence at Mnangagwa's inauguration today was all about.

As an aside, despite what the former president is accused of having done to this fellow citizens and to the country, some of us were amazed at the spontaneous and deafening applause that echoed through the National Sports Stadium in Harare today when Bona Mugabe's name was called by the Master of Ceremonies. No other dignitary present, apart from Chief Justice Malaba, got such a reception.

But back to the real story. The former president is nearing his 100th birthday.

Sending Bona and Simba to the inauguration today was this wily old gentleman setting his family up for a time he will not be around.

We are reliably informed that  President Mugabe told his family, "Emmerson and his people have issues with me. They don't have issues with the Mugabe family, but with Mugabe."

He explained that the family needs to make sure that they signal to Mnangagwa and to ZANU PF "kuti hamuna kutenga nyaya yangu" (loosely translated, that means, "you need to show that you are not aggrieved on my behalf."

Uppermost in his mind is the peace and prosperity of his family in the future.

The former president honestly and genuinely believes that the current administration is restraining itself when it comes to his family because he is still alive, around. He believes Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies either still have some respect for him or fear him. Hence, they will not make a move against his family as long as he is still around.

He has also made it clear that, primarily for this reason, he also believes, as long as he is still around, President Mnangagwa's government will not make any moves to take away the farms that belong to his children, grandchildren or his wife.

He is convinced, however, that, should the bad blood between him and Mnangagwa/Chiwenga spill into being a "family feud" - the thing he cherishes more than anything else will be wiped off the face of the earth.

Those who truly understand Mugabe know that legacy means a lot to him (Chiwenga and ED were not stupid when they named their Operation). But here we are not talking about the political legacy.

Mugabe was deeply troubled by the fact that, with his Ghanian wife, it looked like he would leave no heirs to carry the Mugabe name forward. It was one of the primary driving forces for his behaviour in the last days of his first wife, which some people took to be mean and cold behaviour.

It was, instead, action driven by his wiring, which sits very comfortably with his idealistic, ideological and unsentimental approach to life.

If you listen to his interview with Dali Mpofu, which is probably the most intimate and personal interview he has ever given, make sure you listen careful to his own words as he talks about why and how he came to be with former First Lady Grace Mugabe. It is a shockingly unsentimental narration, clinical description of how he went about securing heirs for himself.

A family feud with the new rulers, therefore, risks seeing an entire dynasty wiped off the face of the earth once Mugabe is no longer on the scene.

This, he wants to avoid at all costs.

So, sending his first born today to the inauguration was his way of ensuring that he separates his feud with Mnangagwa from his family. By having them demonstrate that they, the children and the in-laws, hold no grudge, will congratulate and kiss and hug the new dispensation, he has ensured that the new dispensation under Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, realise that the children and the heirs are no threat to their new-found power. There is no need to go after them.

It is a masterstroke only because, despite the temptation that would have consumed any other person, Mugabe was able to stick to his principle of not hobnobbing with those who "tormented" him while at the same time retaining some clear strategic thinking to secure his family's future beyond his own personal presence on earth and in their lives.

He has, in effect, thrown a shield over his family that he is reasonably sure will long outlive him.

Mugabe has never believed in punishing children for the sins of their fathers, unless those children sinned in their own right. It is what separated him from the more acidic and vindictive politics of his opposition when he was in power, an opposition that followed the children of ZANU PF officials to foreign countries and persecuted them there.

What happened with Nelson Chamisa during the election demonstrates that we have always said is true: at some point, history will rehabilitate Mugabe, just as it has rehabilitated corrupt dictators like Julius Caesar and even bloodthirsty lost causes like Idi Amin, who is being viewed more favourably today by Ugandans.

When that happens, his descendants will retain a nostalgic power that, no matter how much you may disagree today, will be sought out by future leaders and citizens.

But for today, we all have to agree that Mugabe pulled his latest and, perhaps, his last masterstroke, designed to protect the interests of his family long into the future. Should the MDC or an opposition party come into power in the future, you all know that he has also covered that base.

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