HARARE - Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa yesterday revealed how a defeated and despondent President Robert Mugabe had been ready to step down from office in 2008 after the main opposition MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won that year’s keenly-contested elections.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Mutasa, however, disclosed that the nonagenarian had been forced to hang on to power by desperate and fearful Zanu PF hardliners who had gone on to unleash an orgy of violence against the opposition to thwart Tsvangirai and the MDC.
But while confirming yet again that the former prime minister and his party had won the 2008 From Page 1
elections, the former Mugabe close confidante said the opposition had lost the 2013 general elections, dismissing widespread allegations of gross rigging by the ruling party that followed the disputed polls as “far-fetched”.
However, he conceded that “a lot of things could have escaped him” since the company that is alleged to have been at the heart of the claimed electoral manipulations, Nikuv, was handled by the ministry of Home Affairs and not that of intelligence which he headed.
Brutally purged from the post-congress Zanu PF and the government late last year, together with dozens of others of the party’s liberation stalwarts that include former Vice President Joice Mujuru — on untested claims of plotting to oust and kill Mugabe — a remorseful Mutasa has become the leading bane in the political life of his erstwhile comrades in the ruling party, campaigning vigorously for a more democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.
Sticking to his guns that Tsvangirai and the MDC had won the March 2008 elections overwhelmingly, he said when he had driven from his base in Rusape to Harare to support Mugabe, all he wanted was “to stand by and be with the president” in the nonagenarian’s darkest hour.
“Tsvangirai won those elections, no doubt. Even the president, during their congress (December last year) said it himself that Tsvangirai won by 73 percent,” Mutasa said.
Asked if it was not just a slip of the tongue by the nonagenarian in his dotage, as many of his acolytes had claimed, Mutasa who himself is 80 laughed off the claim.
“If it was a slip of the tongue then they must find a new shoe for him,” he said chuckling heartily.
But the diminutive former Cabinet minister said he would not testify in any court about what happened in 2008 since it was public knowledge that Tsvangirai had won that year’s elections — which meant that any debate on this was moot.
Although Mutasa dismisses many government ministers with disdain, it is evident that he still harbours respect for Mugabe, the man who ultimately dumped him to the country’s ever growing jobless and political scrap heap.
“I went to the State House because some of us who were ready to stand with the truth were never afraid of losing. I wanted elections whenever they could be held. I have never lost an election and in fact I am probably one of the few ministers who never lost a poll,” he said.
Quizzed whether his former comrades could graciously accept defeat in future and if Mugabe was ready to step down in 2008, Mutasa said accepting defeat was subject to personal inclinations.
“Certainly, when you go to elections you are faced with a win or defeat. But there are some in Zanu PF who want to win in every election, yet elections are about winning and losing.
“I believe in 2008 the president was ready to step down. That is why we were on his side. He is a very honest person when he wants to be, I have always said that. But the problem is he is misunderstood. He is surrounded by some power-hungry people who urged him to stay,” Mutasa said.
However, the former Speaker of Parliament refused to name the Zanu PF hardliners who had prevented Mugabe from stepping down then, after he suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Tsvangirai and the MDC.
“There are a lot of things that happened around that time, but I cannot talk about them now because I am bound by the Official Secrets Act. However, you shall hear about them when the time comes,” Mutasa said.
When it was put to him that Zanu PF was also said to have manipulated the vote in the 2013 elections, Mutasa said the party had prepared adequately for the rushed polls and had won hands down in his mind.
“The elections were not rigged, at least in my knowledge. There was a very thorough campaign that was led by the president and his wife (Grace). All of us campaigned vigorously.”
But the MDC has dismissed the elections as fraudulent and had pointed out to the involvement of the shadowy Nikuv in the general elections as an indicator that the polls were manipulated.
“I don’t even know about Nikuv as it was engaged by the Home Affairs department and not the intelligence.
“There is a lot of secrecy and even as a minister you don’t get every report,” he said.