Written by Chris Bishop
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s nephew and cabinet minister, who is hiding in fear of his life in South Africa, has said the 93-year-old head of state will not step down because of the letter of the Constitution despite a military takeover and massed marches against him in Harare. He also claims Grace Mugabe has no interest in becoming president.
Patrick Zhuwawo, who has been Minister of Public Services and Social Welfare for the last two years, is the son of Mugabe’s sister Sabina, who died in 2010. He is said to be one of the supporters of his aunt’s bid to succeed Mugabe, although he denies this.
Zhuwawo had been in Buenos Aires, Argentina, attending a conference on child labour, when the military went in. As he checked in for a flight home at OR Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg, he took a call from his family in Harare begging him to stay put.
“They told me that my house had been vandalised and I was on a wanted list. The also informed me that a number of people had died in this illegal coup and more than 200 were in detention,” says Zhuwawo.
When will President Mugabe step down? I said, asking the question on everyone’s lips on the day as thousands marched in Harare calling from him to go.
“Because he has a mandate given to him by an electoral process. More importantly stepping down because of a coup is dangerous, it is evil we can never allow military weapons to determine democratic processes….he is not going to step down,” says Zhuwawo.
“This coup is now being window dressed to look like a popular uprising.”
Zhuwawo claims that military chiefs are using protesters to cover what he alleges is looting from multi-million dollar agricultural funds.
Zhuwawo also claimed he was not a member of the so called G40 group of young MPs backing his aunt Grace to succeed his uncle.
“No, that is not the issue and she has no intention of being the next president. The people of Zimbabwe must choose the next president,” he says.
What about President Mugabe’s age and infirmity. When I saw him at the World Economic Forum in Durban in May he moved painfully – isn’t it time, I asked?
“One of the things in our constitution is that there must be no discrimination on race or sex or age..If you were Zimbabwean you are breaking the Constitution …What we do not want to go back to is the day of Nazi Germany when they were euthanizing old people,” he says
After 37 years in power, the last 20 presiding over a crumbling economy, surely Mugabe and his comrades had failed and should go anyway to make way for new ideas?
“You will not divert me here, I am talking about a coup,” he says.
If only Mugabe, Zhuwawo and company had diverted the economy towards growth and prosperity 20 years ago there may not be tanks and protesters on the streets now.