HE FALLS asleep in cabinet meetings, keeps files on all his ministers in case they go against him and is losing control to his own wife.
For the first time, one of Robert Mugabe’s inner circle has spilt the beans on life inside one of the world’s last totalitarian regimes.
Joice Mujuru, Mugabe’s deputy for 10 years until 2014 and a cabinet minister since 1980, gave the details to The Sunday Times Magazine in her first significant interview as she launches a new party to take him on.
“People want change,” she said as she unveiled the People First opposition movement. It is part of a growing power struggle as Mugabe turned 92 on Sunday. He will celebrate with a party costing a reputed $800,000 — just as the country appeals for $1.5 billion in food aid with a third of the population facing starvation.
Mujuru — known as Comrade Spill Blood when she was a teenage guerrilla during the country’s fight for independence — was sacked as vice-president in December 2014 after Mugabe’s wife, Grace, accused her of trying to hire witch doctors and Israeli snipers to kill him.
According to Mujuru, Mugabe has lost control and his wife is now running things. “She’s just a housewife, a typist. What does she know?” Mujuru asked. “How can she be head of state?”
At a rally last week in Masvingo, Grace Mugabe told crowds: “I am the one who is firmly in charge; in fact, I have always been in charge.”
In an appearance on state television on Friday night, Mugabe denounced the “dogfights” to succeed him.
“We are all being abused — the president, his wife — in a manner that is very disgraceful,” he said.
Elections are scheduled for 2018 and Mujuru is hoping to build a “grand coalition” including Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change.
“People are saying we would be a strong combination,” she said. “We are both national democrats and I would have no problem working with him.”
Mujuru said one of her priorities would be to repair relations with the West, ending years of isolation.
“Why are our kith and kin going to [the] UK and other countries to seek refuge and work?” she asked.
Mujuru said Mugabe would do everything he could to stop her. “He keeps files on everybody,” she said. “He has hired top people to find dirt on me.”
That may be the least of her worries. Mugabe has always been ruthless in disposing of enemies and Mujuru said she had already had threats from his intelligence service.
“I am not fighting anyone, I am just expressing what people are expressing, so what threat am I to them?” she asked. “I don’t even have a stick in my hand.
“One day I will die, one day he will die.”