Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has described his departure from office in November last year as the result of a “coup d'état” that must be undone, potentially setting the stage for renewed political violence in the African country.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 30 years — from 1987 to 2017. He resigned in November last year under pressure from the military and his own ruling party over concerns that he aimed to install his wife as president after himself.
He has largely stayed away from the public eye since his loss of power. In his first public remarks since then, and from an office in Harare, he told South Africa’s SABC broadcaster on Thursday that he considered his ouster a coup.
“I say it was a coup d'état — some people have refused to call it a coup d'état,” said the 94-year-old Mugabe. “We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it... Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.”
Political tensions emerged in Zimbabwe last year after Mugabe fired his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft.
That led to political tensions and a brief military takeover, ultimately leading to Mugabe’s resignation.
He had already been ousted by his ruling ZANU-PF Party.
In his new remarks, Mugabe said he did not hate Mnangagwa but suggested that his presidency was “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
“People must be chosen in government in a proper way. I’m willing to discuss, willing to assist in that process — but I must be invited,” he said.
Mnangagwa responds: Country has moved on
Later on Friday, and responding to Mugabe’s remarks, President Mnangagwa said the country “has moved on.”
Mnangagwa wrote briefly on his Twitter account that Mugabe “is entitled to express himself freely, as is the case for any private citizen.”
“The nation has moved on. Our focus at this time shall remain on preparing for free, fair, and credible elections in 2018.”