Deposed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are to receive £7.5m as well as immunity from prosecution as part of a reported “golden goodbye” package.
The 93-year-old autocrat, who finally bowed to pressure to resign after 37 years in power, is said to have struck a bargain with the military to allow him and his wife to enjoy their retirement in the lap of luxury in Zimbabwe rather than being forced into exile.
Although ousted by a military takeover, Mr Mugabe will continue to enjoy full military protection as a former head of state as well as his full presidential salary of £112,500 a year until his death, local media reported.
Dubbed “Gucci Grace”, Ms Mugabe is known for her extravagant shopping habits, particularly her love of designer shoes. More than 40 years younger than her husband, she will continue to receive half of his salary after his death.
According to reports, Mr Mugabe negotiated the exit package for himself and his 52-year-old wife through a team of mediators who included a Catholic priest.
An unnamed source told the Zimbabwe Independent: “Government will give him a £3.75m lump sum and then the remainder will be paid out in instalments.
“Mugabe will also enjoy full medical cover as well as his monthly salary. In the event of his death, his wife will be given half (of his) salary per month.”
Sources claimed that shortly after Mr Mugabe tendered his resignation following the takeover and impeachment proceedings against him, Commander of the Presidential Guard, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, called for an emergency Joint Operations Command meeting with uniformed officers.
“We were told that the President had resigned, but that he was granted full immunity. Sanyatwe informed us that Mugabe will continue to enjoy protection as a former head of state,” the unnamed source reportedly told the newspaper.
Mr Mugabe’s 37-year rule, characterised by corruption and oppression, left Zimbabwe with an impoverished population, an unemployment rate of 80 per cent, a virtually worthless currency and crippling debts.
His successor, 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time Mugabe ally in the ruling Zanu-PF party, was sworn in on Friday promising a new era, despite widespread fears he will offer more of the same.
He has urged Zimbabweans not to carry out any type of “vengeful retribution” against the former president and praised the “immense contribution” Mugabe had made to the country.
Opposition politicians blasted the deal which will allow the Mugabes to remain in their sprawling mansion, known as the Blue Roof, in Harare, complete with domestic and security staff.
“We are not privy to any deal reached with Mugabe, and if there is any deal on money or anything else it is unconstitutional,” said Douglas Mwonzora, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party.
“In terms of the constitution, Mugabe is a retired president and does not have immunity to criminal or civil wrongdoing committed while in office. In Zanu-PF, they can grant each other immunity, but the law does not authorise that.”
Ms Mugabe, her husband’s former secretary who married him and became First Lady in 1996, recently spent millions of dollars buying property and luxury cars in her native South Africa.
Although there remains a certain level of respect for Mr Mugabe among some people in Zimbabwe, particularly for the contribution he made to the country’s wars of liberation in the 1960s and 1970s, there is widespread disgust for his wife and their children due to their lavish spending.
The couple’s son, 25-year-old Bellarmine Chatunga, recently posted a clip on social media taken in a Johannesburg nightclub showing him pouring a £200 bottle of champagne over a £45,000 watch, bragging that “daddy runs the whole country”.
Ms Mugabe’s ambitions to succeed her husband as President finally led to his undoing, triggering the military overthrow after the First Lady and those around her orchestrated the firing of Mr Mnangagwa as Vice President.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Mr Mnangagwa vowed to hold “free and fair” elections by next August, telling the cheering crowds: “The people’s voice will be heard.” (The Independent)