Robert Mugabe takes swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa

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It was a startling bit of news and it came via a ‘direct message’ on Twitter.

The friend of a man called ‘Jealousy’ informed me that Zimbabwe’s long-time dictator, Robert Mugabe, would be holding a press conference at his ‘Blue Roof’ home.

That is the name given to his Chinese-style mansion in a wealthy suburb of Harare and the messenger told me to hurry.

When we arrived at the muscular front gates of the Blue Roof complex, it was clear we were not the only ones being summoned to see the former president.

I saw an ever-growing group of journalists clamouring for entry passes – and the Sky News team joined the scrum.

Robert Mugabe speaks with his wife Grace by his side  Robert Mugabe takes swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa skynews robert mugabe zimbabwe 4374965
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Mr Mugabe pictured with his wife, Grace

With these precious passes secured, our team drove in through the side entrance and parked on the expansive lawn which surrounds Mr Mugabe’s sprawling abode. But we weren’t directed inside.

Instead, the 94-year old’s minders moved us to a building on the outskirts on the property, well away from the faux-pagoda where he would later address the press.

It was clear what Mr Mugabe’s people were trying to do. The former head of state is weak and immobile and he would take his place in front of the world’s media without us documenting how he planned to get there.



Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe pictured with his wife, Grace  Robert Mugabe takes swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa skynews mugabe grace zimbabwe 4374853




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Video:
Mugabe turns on Mnangagwa in surprise pre-Zimbabwe election speech

After 30 minutes or so, this motley pack of journalists were released from the outbuilding and raced across the lawn towards the pagoda – each one intent on securing the best position to capture and question a man who won Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain, then ruined it in a 37-year reign of authoritarianism and economic incompetency.

Mr Mugabe sat in high-backed chair, his head resting on the green leather. I could barely see him above a forest of microphones and we struggled to hear him as he spoke.

Yet Zimbabwe’s former dictator, who was deposed in November by his right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the spotlight on the last day of the country’s election campaign. This the day, when rallies, speeches and pamphleting are prohibited.

Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe pictured with his wife, Grace  Robert Mugabe takes swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa skynews mugabe grace zimbabwe 4374853
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Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe pictured with his wife, Grace

He began with a meandering one-hour statement.

“I will not vote for those who have illegally taken power,” he said in a swipe at his nemesis and usurper, President Mnangagwa.

“I cannot vote for those who have tormented me… I cannot vote for ZANU-PF.”

Mr Mnangagwa now leads the ruling ZANU-PF – the party Mr Mugabe founded 30 years ago – and in a clear attempt to sabotage his chances, Mr Mugabe indirectly endorsed the president’s biggest rival, the leader of the MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa.

“He seems to be doing well at his rallies,” he said. “I wish to meet him if he wins.”

At times Mr Mugabe appeared to be drifting into sleep and he started to lose his audience when the press conference veered towards its third hour.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during the final rally of ZANU-PF ahead of the Zimbabwe elections on Monday at the National Sports Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans go to the polls on July 30th to vote for a new president in the first election since Robert Mugabe, who led the country for 37 years after it gained independence in 1980, was ousted from power last year.  Robert Mugabe takes swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa skynews mnangagwa zimbabwe 4373988
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President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during the final rally of ZANU-PF on July 28

Finally, his assistant Jealousy called time on this impromptu event and started to hustle the world’s media away from the blue-tiled pagoda.

As we prepared to depart, we could see Mr Mugabe’s 53-year old wife Grace with her arm draped around the old man.

More from Emmerson Mnangagwa

Last year, she seemed destined to take over from her husband as the president of Zimbabwe – but on the eve of this momentous poll, she looked happy just to have her photo taken.

With Jealousy still shouting in my ear, we left Mrs Mugabe and her assistants to place her aging husband in the back of a grey mini-van and drive him up to the main house.



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