Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe described his departure from office in November as a “coup d’etat” that “we must undo” in his first TV interview since then, aired on Thursday.
Mugabe, 94, spoke slowly but clearly to South Africa’s SABC broadcaster from an office in Harare, dressed in a grey suit, sitting in front of a portrait of himself and his wife Grace.
“I say it was a coup d’etat — some people have refused to call it a coup d’etat,” said Mugabe referring to the brief army takeover which led to Emmerson Mnangagwa assuming power after Mugabe’s resignation.
“We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it… Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.”
Mugabe said that he did not hate his successor President Mnangagwa, 75, but insisted he would not work with him and 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.
Mugabe’s media appearance was apparently organised by the new National Patriotic Front (NPF) party which hopes to unseat Mnangagwa’s government in polls expected by August.
Mugabe sent shockwaves through the ZANU-PF ruling party when he recently met with the NPF’s leader, retired general Ambrose Mutinhiri.
In response to a widely-shared image of the two, ZANU-PF Youth League supporters chanted “down with Mugabe” at a rally, a rare outburst from the normally disciplined party that Mugabe led for nearly four decades.
Mugabe was forced to quit the political scene he had dominated since independence from Britain in 1980 when the military stepped in and ZANU-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader.
Since his dramatic reversal of fortune, he has largely stayed out of public life — until breaking his silence Thursday.
Despite widespread jubilation following the army’s seizure of power, many Zimbabweans are now disenchanted by what they see as a mere changing of the guard at the top of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian system.
“It was a coup with a script to turn this into a military state. The people wanted a change of the entire ZANU-PF system — not just one individual,” businessman Munyaradzi Chihota, 40, told AFP as he travelled home.
“The situation has not changed since they removed Mugabe. If anything, we are worse off. (Mugabe) is 100 percent right that this was a military coup, that this country has been turned into a military state — and that this has to be undone.”