Concerns rise over Mugabe’s future influence

Written By: James Douglas
Published: November 30, 2017 Last modified: December 4, 2017

Doubts over the new Zimbabwe regime’s commitment to democracy continued to grow after the Jesuit priest who helped negotiate Robert Mugabe’s resignation said the former president would continue to play a role as an “elder statesman.”

Father Fidelis Mukonori (pictured, left, with Mugabe) said Mugabe would provide “advice” to new president Emmerson Mnangagwa whose sacking sparked a military coup.

There are fears that Mnangagwa, who orchestrated some of worst atrocities committed under the ruling Zanu-PF party since independence in 1980, will not usher in the democratic reforms that many in Zimbabwe are hoping for. In his inauguration speech Mnangagwa called Mugabe “a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader”.

Father Mukonori said that Mugabe and his wife Grace remained at their house in Harare and had no plans to leave the country. The military takeover came in response to Mugabe’s decision to position Grace as his successor.

The priest added that he could not confirm reports that the ex-president was granted millions of dollars and a promise that his huge personal assets would not be seized. Grace is also reportedly going ahead with plans to build the controversial $1 billion Robert Mugabe University in Mazowe, near Harare.

Addressing Harare’s packed 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was now “ready and willing for a steady re-engagement with all the nations of the world”.

He said that “key choices will have to be made to attract foreign direct investment to tackle high-levels of unemployment while transforming our economy”. And pledging a “new destiny” for Zimbabwe, he added: “Let us humbly appeal to all of us that we let bygones be bygones.”

Mnangagwa also said that Mugabe’s land reforms would not be reversed, but white farmers whose land was seized would be compensated; that “acts of corruption must stop”, warning of “swift justice”; that elections scheduled for 2018 would go ahead as planned; and he would be “the president of all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation.”