In an interview with a Zimbabwean newspaper over the weekend, ousted dictator Robert Mugabe complained that his friends in South Africa “could have done much more” to save him from the coup that ended his four decades of rule.
“It did not have to send an army, but just to engage,” Mugabe elaborated, in case anyone thought he expected South Africa to invade Zimbabwe to keep his 94-year-old frame perched upon his throne.
Mugabe said the envoys sent to Zimbabwe by South Africa during the coup “gave a false impression that all was okay” and “there was no need for intervention,” while other regional powers “just sat on their laurels, and they said, ‘Ah well, South Africa says there’s no need” for intervention.
He summarized his complaint by saying that “in a sense” he felt betrayed by South Africa and its president at the time of his ouster, Jacob Zuma. (Zuma is also out of power, having resigned under a cloud of scandal in February). Mugabe compared himself in the interview to Julius Caesar getting knifed during the Ides of March by people he had elevated to power during his reign.
After a period of relative quiet, Mugabe returned to the public stage last week and began loudly denouncing his removal from power as a “coup d’etat” and a “disgrace.” Although he was given a lavish retirement package by the country his economic policies destroyed, Mugabe has lately been presenting himself as an oppressed victim, a helpless old man pushed around by the (relatively) young bully who replaced him, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On Tuesday, Mugabe mouthpiece Jonathan Moyo, formerly the education minister of Zimbabwe, appealed to current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki to “save” Mugabe from persecution by Mnangagwa.
Mugabe is also making life difficult for Mnangagwa by divulging official secrets that cast the new president in a most unflattering light. For example, he accused the coup masterminds of using violence to suppress his supporters and accused Mnangagwa of masterminding political killings in decades past.
Some observers speculate Mugabe is calling in political chips and attempting to build international sympathy ahead of the Mnangagwa government arresting him for corruption. Mugabe’s wife Grace is the target of several active investigations, including allegations that she ran a massive ivory, gold, and diamond smuggling ring.
Mnangagwa ordered an “urgent” investigation of Grace Mugabe this week after an Australian photojournalist named Adrian Steirn published an undercover investigative report on the poaching network. Steirn produced extensive undercover video of poachers and government officials describing how Grace Mugabe used her special privileges as First Lady to bypass airport security and smuggle ivory out of Zimbabwe.
“For years I’ve been documenting the front-line poachers who end up serving 20 years for shooting a giraffe. Meanwhile, she was taking billions of dollars out of the country. If they charge and arrest her, and she goes to jail for wildlife crimes, that will change the dynamic of the entire perception of wildlife trafficking across Africa,” said Steirn.
The ruling Zanu-PF party said last week that it is considering ejecting Mugabe and stripping him of all privileges, including those that protect him from prosecution as former head of state.