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Former Zimbabwe president Mugabe calls his ouster 'coup'

  • 16 Mar 2018

"I say it was a coup d'etat ... We must undo this disgrace," says former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe in his first TV interview since his departure from office last year.

Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe says he never thought new President Emmerson Mnangagwa would turn against him. ( Reuters Archive )

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe described his departure from office in November as a "coup d'etat" that "we must undo" in his first TV interviews since then, aired on Thursday.

Mugabe, 94, spoke slowly but clearly to South Africa's SABC broadcaster from an office in Harare, dressed in a grey suit, sitting in front of a portrait of himself and his wife Grace.

"I say it was a coup d'etat – some people have refused to call it a coup d'etat," said Mugabe referring to the brief army takeover which led to Emmerson Mnangagwa assuming power after Mugabe's resignation.

"We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don't deserve it ... Zimbabwe doesn't deserve it."

In another similarly vehement interview with Britain's ITV News, the elderly former leader said he had no desire to return to power.

"I don't want to be president, no of course," he said. "I'm now 94."

Mugabe told both interviewers he did not hate his successor President Mnangagwa, 75, but alleged that he had "betrayed the whole nation."

Interview ahead of polls

Mugabe's media appearance was apparently organised by the new National Patriotic Front (NPF) party which hopes to unseat Mnangagwa's government in polls expected by August.

Mugabe sent shockwaves through the ZANU PF ruling party when he recently met with the NPF's leader, retired general Ambrose Mutinhiri.

In response to a widely-shared image of the two, ZANU PF Youth League supporters chanted "down with Mugabe" at a rally, a rare outburst from the normally disciplined party that Mugabe led for nearly four decades.

'The man who turned against me'

Mugabe was forced to quit the political scene he had dominated since independence from Britain in 1980 when the military stepped in and ZANU PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader.

Since his dramatic reversal of fortune, he has largely stayed out of public life – until breaking his silence on Thursday.

The military moved against Mugabe after he sacked his then-deputy and heir-apparent Mnangagwa, seemingly fearing the nonagenarian was grooming Grace to succeed him as president.

The former first lady had cultivated her own factional support base within ZANU PF known as "G-40" that was seen as hostile to the security establishment – Mnangagwa in particular.

"I never thought ... he would be the man who turned against me," said Mugabe.

"It was truly a military takeover, there was no movement visible unless that movement was checked and allowed by the army."

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