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Africa

Zimbabwe’s coffers may be dry but Mugabe's payout ensures his are full

© Jekesai Njikizana, AFP | This file photo taken on April 18, 2017, shows President Robert Mugabe kissing his wife Grace Mugabe during the country's 37th Independence Day celebrations.

Text by Monique EL-FAIZY

Latest update : 2017-11-28

As Robert Mugabe has shown, being a dictator in Africa (as elsewhere) can be a very lucrative endeavour.

Mugabe’s cushy exit deal may be better than most, but out of an AfricanVault.com list of the 20 most brutal and ruthless African dictators, only five were prosecuted or killed. A whopping 75 percent of them are either still in power or are going about living their lives, albeit with several of them in exile.

Mugabe, for his part, seems to have cut the mother of all deals, to steal a phrase from a now-deceased autocrat on another continent. Not only will the 93-year-old get a reported $10 million golden parachute to mark the end of his 37-year tenure (a $5 million lump sum up front and the remaining $5 million in tranches) but the government will continue to pay his $150,000 salary and his medical care, according to several media reports. He will be allowed to remain in “Blue Roof”, his 25-bedroom home in Harare, will continue to receive security protection and has been guaranteed that his private properties will remain his. His domestic staff and foreign travel will be paid for by the government, according to media reports.

All that and full immunity to boot.

There are some who assert that Mugabe deserves some recognition for his role in securing Zimbabwe’s independence. In his inaugural address on Friday, Mugabe’s successor and former ally Emmerson Mnangagwa paid tribute to the outgoing leader, describing him as one of the "founding fathers of our nation".

The merits of that point of view will likely be debated for many decades to come by those who point to Zimbabwe’s worthless currency, huge government debts, estimated 80 percent unemployment rate and failing infrastructure.

The Zimbabwean population is far less divided when it comes to Mugabe’s widely-despised wife Grace – or “Gucci Grace”, as the 52-year-old was dubbed for her expensive tastes and lavish lifestyle. But even she is likely to have to make few cutbacks; after the death of her husband, Grace will continue to receive half of his salary for the remainder of her life.

“There has been an agreement,” Zanu-PF MP and former minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “They are elder statesmen and will be respected and given their dues. He was our president and he agreed to resign, so he will enjoy the benefits of being an ex-president, and his wife too. He is our icon.”

If he had been impeached, Mugabe would have lost his benefits under Zimbabwe’s constitution.

Mugabe is 'quite jovial'

Perhaps it is his extremely soft landing that is behind Mugabe’s reported good cheer. His nephew, Leo Mugabe, said the former ruler is in fine fettle. “I have been to see him; he is quite jovial,” said the son of Mugabe’s late sister Sabina. “He is actually looking forward to his new life, farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well.”

Leo Mugabe may have his own reasons for cheer. Part of Mugabe’s reported agreement included guarantees that no action will be taken against the extensive business interests of his family, either. Mugabe and Grace have three children together, and Grace has a son from an earlier marriage.

While relatives are safe for the time being, those who were close to Mugabe but don’t share his blood are facing a very different fate. Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo, for example, was arrested by the army during its power grab and has been charged with corruption. His lawyer said he was hospitalised on Friday for injuries he suffered while in military custody and that he had been blindfolded during the entire week he had been held.

The deal between the army and Mugabe was hammered out by a team of mediators who included a Jesuit priest and a former central bank governor. Mugabe resigned on November 21, a week after the military deployed troops in Harare.

Date created : 2017-11-27

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