President Robert Mugabe seriously considered fleeing Zimbabwe for the Far East as he learnt of his shock defeat after the 2008 general elections. This is despite his oft-repeated public statements that he would never run away from Zimbabwe.
The MDC T presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, handed Mugabe his first officially acknowledged electoral defeat at the March 29 2008 elections. Intelligence operatives who manned State House when the results trickled in, in late March 2008, said a close team from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) comprising the military, intelligence and police brought news of Tsvangirai’s election victory to Mugabe.
“There had been signs that the MDC T was headed for a victory, so security units were put on high alert and State House was fortified. All the generals were there. The JOC team arrived some time towards midnight on 30 March and immediately went into discussions with the president and the generals,” said one of the intelligence contacts.
After about an hour, Mugabe emerged from State House and started pacing to and fro on the pavement, clad in a dark cloak, for about 30 minutes said the sources. The security chiefs kept a close eye on him as he seemed lost in thought.
“We learnt that the first thing he asked after being briefed on the results was if it was safe for him to remain in the country. The initial position seems to have been that Tsvangirai could not be trusted and Mugabe asked if plans were being made to evacuate him. He suggested going to the Far East but, as time went by and more discussions followed, that was apparently reversed,” said the source.
Shock and confusion
Mugabe was in apparent shock and confusion at the news of the poll results, said another source.
“He challenged the security chiefs on why they had been feeding him with wrong information regarding the outcome of the elections. Intelligence reports had written Tsvangirai off prior to the elections, maintaining that the crowds attending the MDC T rallies were swelled by either unregistered voters or Zanu-PF supporters,” he added.
The sources confirmed a recent claim by former national security minister Didymus Mutasa, who has been fired from Zanu-PF for his links with ex-vice president Joice Mujuru, that he drove in a rush from his home in Rusape to State House “to protect the president”.
They said Mutasa had been summoned to a meeting to strategise on the way forward in his capacity as the state security minister.
Mutasa, who was the senior minister in Mugabe’s government before being fired, has announced that he has evidence of how Zanu-PF rigged the March 2008 elections and says he is waiting for the MDC to approach him.
Besides the security chiefs, other key cabinet ministers like Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence), Ignatius Chombo (Local Government) and Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs) were also present, said the sources.
From the beginning of April, Zanu-PF strategists, who included JOC and security personnel, entered into marathon meetings to counter the results.
The sources said legal brains like Patrick Chinamasa were the ones that notified the strategists of a clause in the electoral act that gave possibility to a run-off in the event that none of the presidential candidates garnered at least 50 percent and one vote.
Following that, vote counting became a closely guarded secret, opposition members were threatened with arrest if they publicly announced the outcome and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) went for more than a month without announcing them.
ZEC announced the results on May 2 2008, saying Tsvangirai had amassed 47.2 percent of the votes against Mugabe’s 43.2 percent. Key members of the MDC were barred from visiting the national command centre where the presidential ballots were being announced.
Obert Gutu, the MDC national spokesperson, recently insisted that Tsvangirai won the 2008 election with 73 percent, a figure that Mugabe acknowledged as his winning tally in an apparent slip ahead of his party congress late last year.
Win or war
Zanu-PF mounted a systematic terror campaign under the slogan “June 27: Win or War!” that resulted in some 400 deaths, according to the opposition and human rights defenders.
Tsvangirai, who at one time fled to Botswana fearing for his life, was forced to withdraw from the race, leaving Mugabe as the sole runner and technical winner.
The international community, including SADC, condemned the violent elections, leading to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) bringing together the major political parties later in the year that gave birth to the 2009-2013 Government of National Unity (GNU).
At one time, according to Tsvangirai, Mugabe conceded defeat and was prepared to enter into a political deal with him. Source: zimbabwean