Former President Robert Mugabe limped home to the humiliation of being consigned to watching his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s reception party wait to receive him complete with a spread out red-carpet.
Mugabe, according to eye witnesses, quietly slipped out of the country’s biggest airport named after him only last year, weeks before he was forced out of power following a military intervention. The former Zanu PF leader arrived around 7:45am just about an hour before Mnangagwa landed to an executive welcome that Mugabe monopolised for the greater part of four unbroken decades.
“It was sad to watch him arrive silently accompanied by his wife (former First Lady Grace). Preparations were already underway to receive the President (Mnangagwa). He (Mugabe) was consigned to the periphery of the runway and made his way out without a word.
“He just watched as security details and other officials ran around preparing for He (Mnangagwa)’s arrival,” an eyewitness said. “His travelling party was made up of about 20 people including his security.”
On the other hand, Mnangagwa seems to have trimmed the size of his entourage as part of his campaign to cut unnecessary State expenditure, although reports indicate he continues to charter private foreign jets for his trips.
“He does not have a large delegation. It’s around 20 officials, including his security. The only ministers with him are (Industry and Commerce) Mike Bimha and (Foreign Affairs) Sibusiso Moyo,” NewsDay heard.
However, other members of Mnangagwa’s delegation on various foreign trips have travelled on separate planes reportedly because he has been hiring a “small aircraft”.
Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo confirmed Mnangagwa was due home yesterday, but claimed he was in the dark as regards Mugabe.
“I am in Plumtree campaigning. I was aware that the President was due to arrive today, but I am not sure of the time,” Khaya Moyo said.
Mnangagwa was returning from an African Union summit in Mauritania, while Mugabe has been in the Far East for about three weeks for scheduled medical check-ups.
Regarding Mugabe, Khaya Moyo said: “I don’t know. Check with (George) Charamba (Mnangagwa’s spokesperson.”
Charamba for decades also served as Mugabe’s spokesperson, but Zimbabwe’s first democratically-elected leader seems to have been cut off from the establishment since his removal. The presidential spokesperson was not available for comment with his mobile going unanswered.
Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as Vice-President on November 6 last year as tensions in Zanu PF threatened to engulf the country during a brutal power struggle that could have exploded into civil strife.
Mnangagwa escaped into exile, but returned to take charge of the ruling Zanu PF party and government two weeks later following the military intervention that scattered Mugabe’s supporters turning Zimbabwean politics on its head.