HARARE – Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa — who has admitted to be struggling to make ends meet following his dramatic exit from Zanu PF and government about three years ago — is desperate to meet with President Robert Mugabe.
In seeking an audience with Mugabe, the country’s first black Speaker of the National Assembly does not wish to discuss his personal circumstances, but the Zanu PF leader’s legacy.
Mutasa told the Daily News yesterday that he, along with other like-minded opposition leaders, want to impress on Mugabe that by not being a good steward of the country’s economy, he has caused untold suffering among the generality of the population.
He said Mugabe should realise that his continued stay in power was detrimental not only to the country but his legacy as well.
Ever since he was stampeded to leave government in 2014, Mutasa claims to have attempted on several occasions to book an appointment with the Zanu PF leader, without success.
Before his fallout with former vice president Joice Mujuru, he tried to enlist the services of a cleric seen as very close to Mugabe — Father Fidelis Mukonori of the Roman Catholic Church — whom they wanted to help them talk to the president and “let him see sense, to see that he is destroying his own legacy and that he should not do that”.
At the time, Mutasa was the convener of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — a grouping of 19 opposition parties pressing for electoral reforms before the 2018 harmonised polls.
After breaking ranks with Mujuru last year, Mutasa could not continue to pursue his discussions with Mukonori, because Nera began to sideline their faction of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, in favour of Mujuru’s National People’s Party.
He is not giving up though.
Now that he is no longer the convener at Nera, the ZPF elder has been tasked by his party to consult with other opposition parties in the hope of engaging Mugabe.
“We still want to meet him so I will soon call him once we have had discussions with other opposition parties so that we engage him on what we think should be done to get the country working again; to come up with a new vision that is in line with what we fought for because, clearly, this is not what we went to war for,” Mutasa told the Daily News.
Mutasa worked with Mugabe at the height of the liberation struggle, and both were part of the team that negotiated for peace at Lancaster House.
Upon the attainment of independence in 1980, Mutasa became the first black Speaker of the National Assembly. He was to work in Mugabe’s Cabinet in years that followed until 2014 when he was given his marching orders for hobnobbing with Mujuru, who was also fired from Zanu PF and government for allegedly plotting to topple Mugabe.
During his time in government, Mutasa was known for being one of Mugabe’s staunchest backers, whose only crime became his support for Mujuru to succeed the ageing Zanu PF leader.
While Mutasa has now turned into one of Mugabe’s fiercest critics, his condemnation is often dismissed as sour grapes.
Mutasa, however, claims to have had his Damascene moment and wants to be part of efforts to create a better future for Zimbabweans through turning a new leaf on how they are governed.
Zimbabwe is currently going through its worst economic crisis in decades with poverty and unemployment spiralling out of control.
Mutasa regrets that he could not drive the negotiations with Mukonori to their logical conclusions following the split within ZPF.
“During the period that Nera was involving us, I went to see Father Mukonori because you know that he is very close to the president and we wanted him to help us to talk to the president and let him see sense, to see that he is destroying his own legacy and that he should not do that,” he said.
“The conversation around that was going on very well until there were changes in Nera and someone else took over from me as convener. We then stopped but it’s something that people in this country must understand, that you cannot fight a person in power, you can only persuade him to see your point of view and let them use whatever you will have told him as if it is his own idea”.
Leaked WikiLeaks cables cite Mukonori’s ties with Mugabe and other senior Zanu PF figures as going back to the liberation struggle in the 1970s.
He is said to have been involved in brokering an end to the Zanu-Zapu conflict in Matabeleland in the early 1980s and was involved in putting together the Unity Accord in 1987.
He reportedly has served as a Mugabe emissary on other occasions.
When he was the convener of Nera, Mutasa torched a storm when he made a phone call to Mugabe, requesting to see him.
This only came to light after Mugabe had revealed during his address to war collaborators in the capital on his arrival from Morocco that his former State Security minister had called him and that he suspected Mutasa had something big to say.
“He asked over my health and that of my family and I in turn asked over his health and that of his family. I also asked over the health of his mother in-law who I heard was not feeling well,” Mugabe revealed.
“I asked if it was all he wanted and he said yes, it’s all but I am not stupid. I know there was something he was looking for”.
Mutasa later explained that Nera leaders, including MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, had tasked him to make the call to Mugabe to discuss the need for electoral reforms.
The former Zanu PF secretary for administration said Nera leaders also wanted to meet State security chiefs, who were critical in the administration of polls as they normally campaign for Zanu PF.