In 2010, in a birthday message to President Robert Mugabe, former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa described him as “a special gift God gave to Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole”, and went on to say “even I (Mutasa) cannot afford to harbour presidential ambitions while Mugabe lives, since his leadership qualities are second to none”.
Mutasa’s ostensibly profound love for Mugabe even went as far as distorting the history of the liberation war against the white settler colonial regime when in April 2013, he claimed: “The liberation struggle in Zimbabwe would not have succeeded if comrade Mugabe had not participated.”
Yet it is on public record that Mugabe, now 91, was only catapulted into the Zanu PF leadership at the height of the liberation struggle in 1975. His launch pad into the party leadership was what became known as the Mgagao declaration, authored by young military officers at the main Zanla training camp in Tanzania.
The declaration laid the basis for the removal of Ndabaningi Sithole as leader of Zanu. It also laid the foundation for the elevation of Mugabe as leader of the party at a special congress at Chimoio two years later in 1977.
In 1998, when discontent was surging within Zanu PF over Mugabe’s continued stay in power, Mutasa stood by him amid growing calls for Mugabe to step down. Dzikamai Mavhaire was expelled in 1997 when he declared Mugabe should quit to make way for new blood.
Mutasa would have none of it: “If Mugabe is pressed to step down, then the entire cabinet and politburo should step down along with him, because, if he has truly stayed for too long and misgoverned, then those who have governed with him, including those who are calling on Mugabe to step down, must have done so as well.”
And more recently in June 2014 while addressing Zanu PF supporters in Mutare, Mutasa demonstrated his unflinching loyalty — some would say obsequiousness — by threatening to expose the private lives of those attacking Mugabe’s rule, going as far as publicly revealing government was spying on the president’s detractors and their secrets would be exposed.
“Because of the work that I am doing these days, I can tell what Kudzi (a party member) is doing these days. We have our means of seeing things these days, we just see things through our system. So no-one can hide from us in this country,” Mutasa declared.
As if to reciprocate Mutasa’s undying “loyalty”, Mugabe bemoaned that most of his peers were gone, and there was only Mutasa left of those close to his generation.
“You take my cabinet as it is, there is no one I can talk to about how we used to approach girls or we would go to this and that place, riding bicycles. There is no one. There are others like Mutasa. He comes close, but others are just children,” Mugabe said.
This was all before the monumental fallout ahead of the Zanu PF congress in December last year. In a shocker, Mutasa together with former vice-president Joice Mujuru and 14 other ministers and deputies were booted out of government. Mutasa was also dropped from the politburo.
“My relations with Mugabe have until recently been good and cordial. I had the highest respect for him. I always called him baba (father) until that day when he called me a fool,” Mutasa said in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent as he went down memory lane, revealing the intimate interactions his family had with Mugabe.
“I first met him in 1972 at the then Salisbury (now Harare) Remand Prison where we were detained together with other comrades and since then we had a cordial relationship.”
“My son Edwin was his (Mugabe’s) pilot when he worked at the Airforce as wing commander before he passed away in 2009,” he added.
Upon his returning from an extended annual holiday in the Far East Mugabe verbally assaulted Mutasa when he addressed bussed placard-waving Zanu PF supporters who had gathered to welcome him at the Harare International Airport.
“We have no time for individuals of little brains, disorganised mentally, deranged and close to being insane,” Mugabe said of erstwhile arch-loyalist Mutasa.
Breathing fire, Mugabe was particularly scathing of Mutasa’s moves to try and get the African Union and Sadc to intervene in Zanu PF’s deepening factional and succession wars. But hell hath no fury like a former loyalist scorned, so to speak. Mutasa, who is challenging his expulsion from the party, the legality of the congress and even the recent by-elections in his constituency, told the Independent he is going to “teach Mugabe a lesson”.
“My court application, challenging the legitimacy of the Zanu PF congress and my expulsion from both the party and parliament, is meant to correct the mistake Mugabe has made,” he said.
“I am not having a showdown with him. I respect him as the president of this country but I am merely seeking to correct a mistake and standing up for the rights of the people of Zimbabwe and the future of our children.”
But political analyst Godwin Phiri is sceptical. He said Mutasa has no moral leg to stand on and teach Mugabe any lesson.
“If he thinks Zanu PF is dirty and bad for Zimbabwe, it is because he has been an integral part of the process that made Zanu PF what it is. He should just spare us his crocodile tears,” Phiri said.
Following the purge of ministers and Zanu PF officials loyal to Mujuru, Mutasa indeed finds himself out in the cold, cast out of the party’s gravy train and patronage network.
As the war between Mutasa and Mugabe rages on mostly through the media, Mutasa has been exposing the dirty machinations of the party — not that most of them are any secret — to the extent of alleging Zanu PF would not hesitate to kill anyone perceived to be against its ideals.
Having served in various senior and powerful ministerial positions, including being the first black Speaker of Parliament at Independence in 1980 to Presidential Affairs minister in 2013, Mutasa has found it impossible to deny part-responsibility for the political problems and economic crisis afflicting the country.
In the build up to the 2013 elections, the two MDC formations called for the reform of the security sector which has always played a key role campaigning for Zanu PF to the extent of being branded the power behind Mugabe’s throne.
But Mutasa was quick to dismiss such calls saying “nothing was wrong in service (security) chiefs being partisan”.
That was then. Mutasa has since made a dramatic U-turn precipitated by his ouster from Zanu PF and is now singing a very different tune. Unfortunately for him, not many are singing along.