Troubled leaders Mugabe, Zuma meet

HARARE - Speaking seemingly without any hint of irony, President Robert Mugabe yesterday told his equally embattled South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, who is visiting Zimbabwe, that he was pleased to see him “still in one piece” given the political challenges that he is facing back home.

Mugabe and Zuma were chairing a bi-national commission that is meant to strengthen economic and political ties between Zimbabwe and South Africa, with both leaders facing growing citizen unrest — and after the two countries’ relations were recently rocked by Mugabe’s ill-advised imposition of restrictions on imports from Pretoria.

In the case of Zuma, the forum started a day after a damning state capture report was released back in South Africa implicating him, some of his Cabinet ministers and State-owned entities in alleged corruption.

“We are happy you are still in one piece in spite of what the papers are writing about you every day,” Mugabe said as he welcomed Zuma to yesterday’s meeting. “Comrade president, we need each other even more now than before,” the increasingly frail nonagenarian said.

Zuma faces another potential vote of no confidence in Parliament next week, following the release of the damning graft report by former South African public protector, Thuli Madonsela, alleging his friends, the Gupta family, had allegedly captured key politicians and State functions to ensure that lucrative government tenders went their way.

On Wednesday thousands of angry South Africans swamped the streets in Pretoria, calling for Zuma to resign over the damning allegations — mass action that apparently delayed his trip to Zimbabwe.

On his part, Zuma — who helped Mugabe climb the stairs to the function podium, studiously avoided making any reference to Madonsela’s corruption report.

“All is not gloom and doom,” was all Zuma, said in response to Mugabe and the situation back home.

Mugabe and Zanu PF, in power for 36 uninterrupted years, are also facing the biggest challenge to their rule, which ordinary Zimbabweans say has been disastrous.

In the last three months alone, fed-up ordinary citizens have been demonstrated against the nonagenarian and his government over what they say is his lack of resolve to fix the country’s dying economy and escalating executive corruption.

Apart from struggling to fix the economy, Mugabe is also battling to keep together his ruling Zanu PF, which is being devoured by its ugly factional and succession wars, which have seen him severing his cherished and longstanding ties with war veterans, who had been the bulwark of his rule since independence.

The disgruntled war veterans served Mugabe with divorce papers in July this year, after they issued a damning communiqué in which they churlishly said that the nonagenarian was now a national liability and “a hard sell” for the 2018 presidential poll.

Subsequently, angry authorities launched a brutal crackdown against them, resulting in the arrest of a number of their leaders, while also moving to expel them from Zanu PF which is being devoured by its seemingly unstoppable ructions.

Until then, the former freedom fighters had been Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s strongest pillars of support over the past five decades, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian in power in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of MDC supporters.

Since their stunning fall-out with Mugabe, many of the ex-combatants have also been working with pro-democracy and opposition groups to end their former patron’s rule.

Last week the disaffected war veterans once again bluntly warned Mugabe that they would campaign for an opposition candidate in the 2018 elections if the nonagenarian stood as a candidate in those polls.

 

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