Robert Mugabe’s imaginary assassins

President Robert Mugabe clearly suffers from advanced paranoia. Over the years, he has accused a whole battalion of people of trying to assassinate him. Nothing has stuck on any of those accusations.

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By Tawanda Majoni

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The late Ndabaningi Sithole

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His paranoia must have started in the post-ceasefire period when white Rhodesian agents did indeed tried to snuff him out. This relates particularly to the period between January and March 1980 when the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia transitional government was preparing for and holding majority-rule elections, following a ceasefire in late 1979. At that time, there was much resentment towards Mugabe and Zanu on the part of Ian Smith and his colleagues, who could not forgive him for forcing them to negotiate a settlement at Lancaster House in 1979.

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Worse, they regarded him as a hard-line communist terrorist, who was likely to kill and/or drive out all white people once he got into power. They had seen that happening in Mozambique in the 1970s when Frelimo won independence from Portugal. It was not surprising, therefore, that there were at least two attempts on his life during that period. These failed assassination attempts probably scared the wits out of him and made him a jittery politician. They also appear to have developed an undying conspiracy theory in him.

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Bishop Abel Muzorewa was the first to be arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe soon after independence. He was found not guilty by the High Court and released.

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With the post-independence dew hardly gone, Joshua Nkomo, Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku were the first victims of his conspiracy theory. He accused them of planning an insurrection, hence the Gukurahundi clampdown in southern Zimbabwe that left the country with more than 20,000 civilian corpses lying around or buried in shallow pits.

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As in subsequent cases, Mugabe and his socialist-communist government found no evidence to nail Nkomo, Dabengwa and Masuku. The problem, though, is that there was a continued onslaught on the three innocent people mostly from the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. Masuku died in prison despite the courts ruling that he was not guilty of insurgency. Nkomo had at one time to jump the border dressed as a woman to escape Mugabe’s wrath, while Dabengwa remained jailed in spite of court orders to the contrary.

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Next was the late Ndabaningi Sithole, from whom Mugabe took over during the armed struggle. Mugabe’s agents accused Sithole of lining up powerful arms to torpedo his motorcade. The former Zanu leader was jailed but, again, nothing stuck on him. He was released after some time and his trial went on for a long period. What could explain the assassination claims against Sithole? Mugabe is a retributive and vengeful person. The charges against Sithole must therefore have been made up partly to fix him as a political opponent. In the eyes of many Zimbabweans, Sithole was no longer a significant political player and did not warrant the kind of attention he received from Mugabe. The fact that much effort and resources were wasted on his case also shows Mugabe’s paranoia.

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In 2002, Mugabe took his conspiracy theory a gear up when he charged Morgan Tsvangirai with treason. The two were bound to lock horns in a presidential election in March of the same year when, from the sky, state agents claimed Tsvangirai had voiced a plan to “eliminate” Mugabe during a grainy interview with a Canadian businessman called Ari Ben Menashe. It turned out Mugabe’s securocrats had agreed to pay Menashe $1 million to set up Tsvangirai. Mugabe used assassination claims to play a political game. The case, like all those before, collapsed and Tsvangirai was acquitted after a lengthy trial.

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It is clear that Mugabe just wanted to undermine Tsvangirai’s chances at the March 2002 polls,, which Mugabe officially won but which many say were rigged. Then MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James and Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett were next – accused and tried for attempted assassination and again found not guilty.

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The aging yet still paranoid president used the same strategy last year when his excitable wife Grace convinced him that Joice Mujuru must go.

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Mugabe accused Mujuru, his deputy for 10 years, of trying to topple him and using black magic in an attempt to kill him. Needless to say, no evidence whatsoever has been produced and nothing has been done to Mujuru.

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The assassination claim, which he has repeated several times publicly, was intended to undermine Mujuru politically. All in all Mugabe cannot be taken seriously whenever he accuses someone of trying to kill him.

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He is either scared of actual or potential enemies or is just making up the charges in order to handicap his political enemies – tying them up in lengthy, complex and expensive treason trials where they are forced to fight for their lives. – To comment on this article, please contact majonitt@gmail.com