President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed that he stopped giving too much regard to Grace Mugabe’s angry public rants against him, having concluding that she was likely struggling with mental health problems.
Mnangagwa made the revelation in his recent interview with the UK-based Financial Times (FT) – his first with international media after taking over power last year.
Ahead of that dramatic November power transfer, the new Zimbabwean leader had been subjected to savage attacks at rallies by Grace as the Zanu PF rivalry over her husband’s succession took a deadly turn.
However, Mnangagwa told the FT that each time Grace attacked him at the rallies, he would shake her hand and say – thank you; which further infuriated the explosive tempered first lady.
“After the First Lady castigates me (at a rally), I shake her hand. I said thank you very much. She becomes even more annoyed,” said Mnangagwa.
“Then the next day there was a rally. I didn’t go to that one, but I listened. So, I was being castigated there as a snake. And to deal with this snake you must crush the head. And this snake is Mnangagwa, we must crush the head, not beat the tail or the body.
“She went berserk on that one. At that stage now, I believed she was not mentally OK. Then the next day I was fired at about four o’clock. I got a letter. In the terms of section so and so, you are fired with immediate effect.”
The then first lady was used as a battering ram by the G40 ruling party faction which was determined to stop Mnangagwa taking over from the 93-year-old Mugabe.
Rallies were organised around the country where Mnangagwa was almost exclusively the subject, even as the country struggled with an economic crisis that has left unemployment at around 90 percent by some estimates.
“This group called the G40 group (was) using the former First Lady as their means to achieve their objectives,” said Mnangagwa.
“But the man who was an obstacle to their agenda was myself. I was the most senior person after Mugabe in the party … and they knew they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve with me in the party and with me on my feet.
“So, this is what happened. Then they mooted an agenda of rallies. One thing emerged very clearly: that the only two people who would address the rallies, that is the First Lady first, the former First Lady, and then the president.
“The First Lady began just attacking me from nowhere: that my body language shows that I’m ambitious, the way I dance … At the Gwanda rally, I was taken ill.”
G40 nearly succeeded in preventing a Mnangagwa succession after the then vice president was fired by Mugabe and escaped into exile fearing for his life.
However, the military intervened forcing Mugabe to resign, leading to Mnangagwa returning home from South Africa and taking over power.