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Former President Mugabe: Gone but not forgotten, as he turns 95



Robert G Mugabe

Robert Mugabe may no longer be president, but vestiges of his rule still remain in Zimbabwe.

Two streets in the capital city of Harare and the second-largest city, Bulawayo, are named after him. In early November 2017, the main airport in Harare was renamed in his honour to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

The joke on the streets of Harare at the time was that the “honour” was fitting for Mugabe, as he was frequently airborne and never at home. In fact, he had become the airport’s number one traveller.

In supermarkets, products from Mugabe’s dairy business, which are branded “Alpha and Omega”, are in the refrigerators and make their way into the baskets of shoppers. His dairy farm produces ice cream, yoghurt and milk.

On Thursday, citizens were again reminded of the former strongman, who was in power for 37 years before his rule was abruptly cut short by a military coup: he turned 95.

His birthday is officially recognised as a public holiday. The recognition came after a push by the Zanu-PF Youth League, which wanted an honour, similar to those in neighbouring countries, bestowed on Mugabe.

The youth league at the time cited the recognition South Africa gives to Nelson Mandela and Botswana to Sir Seretse Khama, the respective founding fathers.

But since his removal from office, the spectacle and fanfare that usually accompanied Mugabe’s birthday is gone and not even leaders of the youth league, once his most ardent defenders, still stand by him.

Godfrey Tsenengamu, the political commissar for the youth league, said no major public event was lined up for Mugabe’s birthday.

“As the national youth league, so far we have not organised anything nationally,” he said.

Jealousy Mawarire, the spokesman for the National Patriotic Front and Robert and Grace Mugabe’s spokesman, hinted that a private function might be hosted at the Blue Roof mansion, Mugabe’s private residence in Borrowdale, Harare, this weekend.

“If there is something official I will let you know,” he said.

However, it was confirmed from a person who received an invite that a private dinner function would indeed be held at the Mugabe house this weekend to celebrate his birthday.

Away from the public glare, only his Gushungo Holdings company placed two full-page advertisements in the private media today to congratulate him on turning 95.

Traditionally, state media would have run swathes of supplements on his birthday. Parastatals, government ministries and companies would fall over each other advertising congratulatory messages, a huge financial spin-off for the media. Failure by any big entities to congratulate the president on his birthday was frowned upon as a sign of disloyalty.

The annual interview Mugabe usually gave to the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, on the eve of his birthday has disappeared from television screens. Although often treated with kid gloves by the reporter conducting the interview, the media keenly followed Mugabe’s birthday interview to tap into his thinking on a wide range of issues, particularly the succession question, which plagued Zanu-PF in the final years of his rule.

Jacob Mafume, the national spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the sidelining of Mugabe by the state showed “how the mighty have fallen”.

Now, 15 months after his removal from office, memories of Mugabe are mixed on the occasion of his birthday.

The economic sting which is prevailing in the country has made some citizens longingly look back at the days Mugabe was in charge. Inflation is at 56.9%, the highest in a decade. International data and forecasting group Trading Economics expects it to reach 70% by the end of March.

Blessed Zhou, a vendor who plies his trade outside a liquor store along Harare Street, is one of those who told TimesLIVE that he misses Mugabe.

“We remember him, Mugabe, as a caring president, because he allowed us to sell our wares in the streets. Now we are being chased away by the military and police daily,” said Zhou.

“Mugabe empowered us to be self-sufficient, but this so-called new dispensation is disempowering us. I am not afraid to say we miss Mugabe. Police now patrol this street three times a day. We can’t breathe.”

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC president, earlier this week said Mugabe, at his worst, was not like President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Last month, the army was deployed to quell protests which broke out following a fuel price hike.

Human rights groups have put the death toll at 17 and estimate that more than 1,000 people suffered various human rights violations. Chamisa made the comments to reporters at the trial of Tendai Biti, the MDC’s deputy chairman.

“We are also aware of the targeting of many of our leaders across the country… lawyers and doctors, which is quite disturbing, because even Mugabe, at his worst, was not this rabid. We never saw attacks and persecution of lawyers and doctors,” said Chamisa.

Mugabe is gone but is still hard to forget in Zimbabwe.

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Kembo Mohadi resigns amid sex scandal



Kembo Mohadi sex scandal

Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi resigned on Monday following local media reports he had engaged in improper conduct.

Kembo Mohadi, along with Constantino Chiwenga, was a deputy to President Emmerson Mnangagwa since 2018, but without a political power base, he was not seen as a potential successor to the president.

In a rare move by a public official in Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi said he had taken the decision to step down “not as a matter of cowardice but as a sign of demonstrating great respect to the office of the President”.

I have been going through a soul-searching pilgrimage and realised that I need the space to deal with my problem outside the governance chair,” he said in a statement released by the Ministry of Information.

Local online media service ZimLive has in the past two weeks carried reports that Kembo Mohadi had improper sexual liaisons with married women, including one of his subordinates.

Mohadi, 70, denied the accusations last week saying this was part of a political plot against him. On Monday he continued to deny the accusations saying he would seek legal recourse.

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Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers



Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom




Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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