NAIROBI — Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has described the military takeover that led to his resignation last year as a coup d’etat, in his first TV interview since he stepped down.
Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, also said that the means by which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former vice president, came into office were improper and illegal.
In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), filmed from an office in Harare, Mugabe discussed how drastically his relationship with Mnangagwa had changed in the past few months.
Speaking slowly but in a measured tone, the 94-year-old said that he “never thought he whom I had nurtured and brought into government, and whose life I’d worked so hard in prison to save as he was threatened with hanging, would one day he would be the man who would turn against me.”
Mugabe and Mnangagwa had worked together — as freedom fighters and then as politicians — for the past 40 years. But Mugabe abruptly fired Mnangagwa as vice president on Nov. 6, accusing him of being disloyal.
In the two weeks that followed, the military took control of the state and placed Mugabe under house arrest, and thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets to demand that the embattled leader step down. Mugabe eventually gave in to the pressure, both from the public and from within his own party, and announced on Nov. 21 that he would step down.
Mugabe said Wednesday that Mnangagwa’s presidency was the result of a coup.
“He was assisted by the army. I said it was a coup d’etat,” he said, adding that Zimbabweans “have not experienced such an environment before. We’ve prided ourselves on being very democratic.”
“I don’t hate Emmerson Mnangagwa,” Mugabe continued. “But he must be proper. He is improper where he is, illegal.”
Mugabe added that he’s open to discussing with Mnangagwa how to correct the so-called illegality, as long as he receives a formal invitation from the president.
“We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves.”
Watch the interview here.