HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa returned home on Monday night, walking into a raging storm over the excesses of security forces hunting down his opponents, and a reported internal plot to oust him.
Mnangagwa left the country on January 13, a day after announcing a shock 150 percent increase in the price of fuel, making Zimbabwe’s the most expensive in the world.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) shut the country down for three days after urging workers to stay away. On the first day of the job boycott, youths across the country staged street protests – blocking roads and denouncing Mnangagwa’s regime. In some areas, particularly in Bulawayo, shops were looted by some criminal elements.
Mnangagwa, landing just after 11PM, was met at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, who is reported to have backed a plan to impeach the Zanu PF leader in Parliament. The palace coup was “foiled”, according to Mnangagwa loyalist Justice Mayor Wadyajena, one of the MPs who had been approached by the rebels to vote with them.
Travelling between Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Mnangagwa faced growing demands to return home and deal with the crisis, but appeared intent to go onto Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF) which gets underway on Tuesday.
But after nearly 60,000 people signed an online petition asking organisers of the WEF to ban Mnangagwa; growing international condemnation of the military-led crackdown targeting youths, opposition leaders and unionists, and reports of the plot to impeach him, he finally announced that he would forego the Davos trip and return home.
Mnangagwa flew on the world’s only Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a VIP configuration – a five-star hotel with wings that can carry 40 passengers.
With the callsign 2 DEER, the aircraft is the flagship of the Chinese company Deer Jet, which flies its VIP air fleet out of Dubai.
On board is only the most expensive crystal glassware, silver and porcelain.
In the past few months the aircraft has been leased by the presidencies of Angola and of Congo-Brazzaville.
The total bill for Mnangagwa’s trip could reach US$20 million.
Mnangagwa is expected to chair a meeting of the Joint Operations Command – made up of senior military and police commanders – on Monday at which the security forces’ crackdown which has left over 12 people dead and a further 250 others maimed is expected top the agenda.
Mnangagwa, who needs international financial support to kick-start the economy, is facing international isolation and growing demands from within his own party to quit. Rebels say he has failed to unite the country, and accuse him of promoting clansmen to key government positions.-Zimlive