Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe has been let off the hook after the country’s parliament said he must be recused from appearing before a parliamentary committee to answer questions relating to alleged looting at the Marange diamond fields.
The directive by parliament, whose speaker, advocate Jacob Mudenda, is a top official in the ruling Zanu-PF party, blocked an attempt by MPs to force to Mugabe to account for the first time for his actions while in charge of the country. The former president ruled the country for nearly four decades before being forced from office in November last year. His replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has pledged to crack down on corruption.
When the mines and mining development committee first announced that it had resolved to summon Mugabe, analysts at the time said the prospect of Mugabe being interrogated by members of parliament represented a decisive break with the past.
The move was seen as unprecedented, as impunity for top officials was a key characteristic of Mugabe’s regime.
Temba Mliswa, the chairperson of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary committee on mines and mining developmen,t tabled a report in Zimbabwe’s parliament last Thursday stating that they had been directed to leave Mugabe alone.
“The former president His Excellency Cde RG Mugabe was unable to attend at the appointed hour and the committee was due to meet to consider summoning him as a measure of last resort but after further consultations with the Hon. Speaker, he was recused from attending,” said Mliswa.
Late last month, the committee said it was summoning Mugabe for the third time as he had not bothered to come to parliament after he was summoned. Mugabe did not excuse himself or give reasons why he was not availing himself to face questions.
Zimbabwe’s vast diamond wealth has been largely squandered through mismanagement and corruption. Even Mugabe himself once admitted that some $15-billion in diamond revenue remains unaccounted for.
Political analyst and Tshwane University of Technology senior lecturer Ricky Mukonza said that it was no surprise that parliament refused to take further action to force Mugabe to account for his actions.
“This was an expected turn of events because it is in line with the known Zanu-PF way of doing things. One of hallmarks of the Zanu-PF rule is impunity, public officials were hardly called to account for their actions or inactions. Had Mugabe appeared before parliament, that would have been a complete departure from this known Zanu-PF tradition,” he said.
But there may have been more to it than just that, Mukonza said. “There could be other reasons reasons for this development, firstly, by bringing Mugabe before the parliamentary committee, this would have afforded him a public audience to say certain things that the current regime may not be comfortable with. The powers that be could not take this risk. Secondly, there may be behind the scenes negotiations that culminated in the latest development. Maybe Mugabe promised his silence in exchange for this pardon. All the same, this is a clear sign that the Mnangagwa administration is a continuation of the Mugabe one, the way of doing things is the same. This gives credence to the saying that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’.”
Since his ouster, the former president has largely kept out of the private eye, staying at his official Blue Roof residence in Harare. In December the new administration approved a lavish retirement package for him, which included the residence, private air travel, a fleet of vehicles, and a staff of at least 20 people.