At a bar somewhere a guy – possibly some political party panjandrum or activist – was shouting knowingly and betting his last dollar that in the few weeks to come we were going to see former president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, address the opposition MDC Alliance rally and endorse Nelson Chamisa for president in the forthcoming elections.
The elections will be held on July 30.
It was beer speaking. Maybe. Maybe not.
It is a sure interesting prospect.
Let us indulge in possibilities.
Robert Mugabe is a free man, retired by his party last November, in a less than happy circumstance.
If he had his way, he would have gone to up to 100 years of age still running the show. (His wife was adamant he would run the party from the grave.)
He confessed that a few years back, and he was in the habit of boasting that his bones were as strong as those of a 30- year-old (or some such young, sprightly age) and that he felt as though he were in a race – a race to reach 100.
“Zana” is the indigenous Shona language for a century. That’s what he wanted, leading to some cynics within the party pejoratively calling him by that moniker.
He may not have known.
November stopped him a whole seven years before zana and we know he was upset about it and the events surrounding his forced retirement and the treatment of his wife whom he appears to think was just an innocent “girl”, and other lieutenants.
Even if retirement were to become something to live with, Mugabe would have wanted to hand over power “properly” and also have time perhaps to say goodbye to his peers and mates across the globe.
Perhaps have a good parting shot at the United Nations.
But things happened so fast.
Operation Restore Legacy happened.
Tanks rolled. People marched. Zanu-PF, Mugabe’s party, recalled him before Parliament sat to invoke the dreaded “I” arsenal – impeachment.
Mugabe dictated a letter, which letter was taken to Jacob Mudenda, the convener and Speaker of Parliament.
Mugabe had thrown in the towel. Resigned, in terms of the laws of the country.
We do not know just quite what he felt at that moment: we were told once that he heaved a huge sigh of relief, like he had let go of an enormous burden.
But then he may have changed, or caused to change his mind later. We do not know.
It is not unconscionable that a man who might be nursing a hurt ego – and a big ego like that of our dear former leader – could entertain ideas of a comeback against his rivals.
We have heard stories, have we not, about the young Robert who in his childhood would nurse grudges against contemporaries which unhappiness he would express by withdrawing from communality in herding cattle whereupon he would go somewhere alone and angrily hide his face and anger in books?
Now, it is not impossible for this to happen again, surely!
Yet it is all conjecture, in this case with a basis on some pontifications of an unknown merrymaker.
But hold on for a second. It may not be smoke without a fire.
In the past couple of weeks there have been stories of Mugabe’s wife Grace being linked to the MDC Alliance not only as a funder but also in a position to assume the role of vice president of the opposition.
It sounds incredible enough but the story has actually had some legs to both stand on and move around.
It is something that has not been helped by Nelson Chamisa himself saying that the former First Lady was free to join the party.
Those with knowledge of political communication may suggest that this is called flying a kite.
The stratagem involves releasing some information or prospect to gauge public reaction and inform the advisability or otherwise of a particular course of action or policy.
So, has Grace Mugabe been flown as a kite for Mugabe throwing his weight with the opposition as his ultimate revenge mission against those who caused his forced retirement last November?
What are the implications of Mugabe walking from the grave of November 2017?
It is known that he has been involved in some underground and not-so-clandestine activities as he turned his Blue Roof residence into some kind of opposition cell where he has attempted to midwife a political party.
Names such as Joice Mujuru and Ambrose Mutinhiri – and even Thokozani Khupe – have been bandied about.
The project has not quite taken off.
Can Mugabe go it alone?
Can Mugabe become a factor or bogeyman in these elections?
There are mixed reactions to this. On one hand, Mugabe and his backers may entertain the idea of spoiling it for President Mnangagwa by confusing the Zanu-PF electorate.
It will be “bhora musango” all over again – perhaps even more dramatic now that the stakes are so high with Zimbabwe having thought it was undergoing a successful transition.
Such an action can only be motivated by pique, and some vengeance served really cold.
On the other and, can Chamisa accept Mugabe’s helping hand?
Some believe that he could as well take a poisoned chalice.
MDC supporters have fought Mugabe for two decades and some will really be upset at Mugabe being one of their number.
Except, as in football, supporters have been known to embrace former rivals to their teams with the hope that they can help them score goals, literally.
Chalton Hwende, MDC top official, has been uncharacteristically sympathetic with Mugabe these past few weeks.
In politics we are continuously reminded that there are no permanent friends but permanent interests.
Friends have surely changed in the past few months.
As for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, one can say with absolute certainty that his interests have never changed one bit or shade.
It’s vintage Mugabe.
Yet, only time will tell.