Julius Malema accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of attempting to ride on the legacy of former President Robert Mugabe even though they tormented him until his death.
Malema, the leader of South African opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, told journalists in Harare after paying condolences to Mugabe’s family that the manner in which he was ousted from office in 2017 was brutal, even though his time to leave office was long overdue.
He also said the Zimbabwe government should “respect Mugabe’s last wishes.”
“There are certain things that the family had agreed about how President Mugabe was to be treated after office, including the provision of medical care, commitment to certain benefits of a former head of state and many of those didn’t take place,” Malema said following a meeting with Mugabe’s widow, Grace.
“We shouldn’t be a type of society that celebrates our leaders when they’re dead. We must be able to take care of them when they’re no longer in a position to lead. We must not be that type of people who when our leaders are no longer in position we start to look aside and behave as if we have never sang songs about them.”
Mugabe died in a Singapore hospital on September 6 at the age of 95.
Malema said Mugabe should have not been removed through a military coup but a peaceful path ought to have been explored within the ruling Zanu PF party to protect his legacy.
After arriving in Harare on a small private jet Monday morning, Malema went into a closed-door meeting with Mugabe’s widow, and later had lunch at Mugabe’s sprawling mansion known as the Blue Roof.
“We were giving her support. We respect the last wishes of the former president and in our African tradition, we must respect the last wishes of the deceased. We salute her for being a courageous woman. She inspires many,” Malema said.
Malema did not explain what were Mugabe’s last wishes, although this is believed to refer to a wrangle between the government and Mugabe’s family over where he will be buried. It has been widely reported that he wanted to be buried in Kutama, where he grew up, to stop Mnangagwa and the generals who ousted him from power from “pontificating over his dead body.”
Under pressure from the government, the family finally agreed to bury Mugabe at the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop monument in Harare where leading veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s bush war for independence are buried. The burial has been pushed back by at least a month while a mausoleum is constructed.
Malema was accompanied on the one-day trip by EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and the party’s treasurer general Leigh Mathys.
Here is some of what Julius Malema had to say:
“She (Grace Mugabe) must protect President Mugabe’s legacy with everything, against any form of opportunism which will want to ride behind the legacy of President Mugabe even when they tormented him to the last day.
We were giving her our support, that we really support her and the family and we respect the last wishes of President Mugabe. In our African traditions the words of the deceased cannot be undermined by anyone, it doesn’t matter how powerful you think are.
I think there are others who envy him, and there can only be one Mugabe, these are chancers so they shouldn’t even try and want to be like him, they won’t even come anywhere close to him.
It’s those who believe in what he stood for who should protect his legacy. If the current dispensation here believes in President Mugabe, they should protect his legacy. Part of protecting his legacy is first and foremost to respect his last wishes and to respect the wishes of his family.
It’s an absolute nonsense that you think declaring a person a national hero takes away the right of the family over the deceased. The family, especially the surviving spouse has got the last word. It doesn’t matter whether you have declared a person a national hero, whether you are doing a state funeral, every little detail of what you want to do around a dead body should be consulted with the family particularly when we are Africans.
There’s a very strong surviving spouse here who’s not easily shaken by arrivalists, so they ought really to respect her and respect the family’s wishes.
On African leaders holding each other to account at regional bodies
There’s no such a thing. SADC? There’s no such a thing. African Union, there’s no such a thing. It’s a group of old people who protect each other, they don’t protect the interests of their people. It’s a club, a gentleman’s club. They don’t care, they don’t call each other out. They are unable to say to each other ‘you’re wrong here, you’re wrong there and therefore this is how we need to fix it.’
The way forward is that the youth must take politics seriously, the youth must participate in politics, the youth must lead. Most young people have left politics in the hands of old people who have nothing to do with us. AU has a plan called 2063, and those people won’t be there in 2063 that’s why they can say 2063 because they won’t take responsibility.
We, the youth, we must stop suffering from political apathy and take the future into our own hands. That’s how these structures are going to function because we know that if we say 2063 now and we fail, we’ll be held accountable in 2063 because we will be there but our leaders won’t be there at that time.
Young people must start reawakening themselves and take politics seriously. When it comes to voting, they don’t vote. When it comes to political participation, they don’t participate. They have given themselves into other things other than what matters, which is politics. If you go to America and other developed countries, they take voting very seriously. Here, we have to beg people with material to go and vote. If you don’t cook, if you don’t give them T-Shirts they will never go. What type of an attitude is that when you know that this is going to decide whether I’m going to have a clinic or not, whether I’m going to have a school or not. That affects your daily life, but you treat it as ‘by the way’.”