Former president Robert Mugabe has just appeared in latest photographs with his wife Grace on the eve of his 94th birthday celebrations.
The former head of state appears in the pictures amidst reports that the government has reduced the number of security officers protecting Mugabe’s family as the fallout between incumbent leader Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor gathers momentum, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
The local weekily Independent reports that Mugabe buckled under heavy pressure and resigned on November 21 after he was placed under house arrest by the military, recalled from the ruling Zanu PF party and threatened with impeachment.
The reduction of security personnel and whittling down of allowances paid to Mugabe follows a recent meeting between the former head of state and ex-vice-president and National People’s Party (NPP) leader Joice Mujuru at his Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale. The visit has also raised eyebrows within the military with Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda ordering servicemen to be wary of politicians offering financial incentives to influence the military ahead of this year’s elections.
Security sources familiar with the developments told the Independent this week that Mugabe’s aides were drastically reduced last Thursday, while allowances paid to his wife Grace’s security team were also scrapped. It is also understood that security details manning Mugabe’s daughter Bona’s house were also withdrawn recently.
The sources said the former leader appealed to the new administration to either reinstate one of his aides into the system or allow him to pay the aide. Mugabe cited his deteriorating health. Early this month Mnangagwa fired 17 top state security operatives, including Mugabe’s head of security Albert Ngulube and close aide and nephew Wonder Nyakurima respectively.
From the VVIP police protection unit, Mugabe is now left with senior assistant-commissioner Martin Kwainona and assistant-commissioner Vincent Mariga, sources said.
“The old man appealed to government to keep police who were manning his property and escorting him during his travel, but this was turned down. This came after one of his aides de camp, superintendent Chiringa, was redeployed from Mugabe’s residence and is now awaiting further transfer. He then asked if he could keep Nyakurima and this is being considered,” a source said.
“Out of the four agents he had from the Central Intelligence Organisation, only two are now working for him. Agents working for his wife have also been equally reduced while the number of soldiers manning his residence has also been reduced.”
Contacted for comment, government spokesperson George Charamba referred all questions to the Civil Service Commission chairperson Mariyawanda Nzuwa. Nzuwa could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.
Last December, the Police Protection Unit, which provides VIP protection, withdrew its team from Mugabe’s motorcade.
Officials close to the situation also revealed the former leader’s security team at his Borrowdale “Blue Roof” mansion was also reduced from 85 to 20.
The government, another source said, also ordered its transport and logistics company, CMED, to stop providing vehicles to Mugabe’s aides and family.
According to sources, some of the police who will no longer be entitled to foreign travel allowances when Grace travels include chief superintendent Matsika, superintendent Fero and superintendent Mahala, only to mention a few.
Details of the long-time leader’s exit package were published in the Government Gazette in December, in terms of Section 3(1) of the Presidential Pension and Retirement Benefits Act. Last month, Mnangagwa assured leaders at the African Union summit that Mugabe is well and safe.
“May I inform this august chamber that, your brother President Mugabe is safe, secure and well,” Mnangagwa told continental leaders.-