A new interview has revealed that it was the Catholic cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori who advised Zimbabwean former president Robert Mugabe to finally take a rest from the office he had presided over since the 80s.
In an a new piece ran by Russell Pollitt, S.J. of America Magazine, the Jesuit Father who was the key negotiator between the generals who led Zimbabwe’s military and President Mugabe during the ‘coup’ said that to him the outcome was obvious and that he told Mr. Mugabe that it was “time to rest.”
The article also shows how he got involved in the negotiation process in the first place. Just two hours after army tanks rolled out onto the streets of Harare in November, Father Mukonori got a call asking him to go to the army barracks to meet with the generals. He explains:
“They told me that what was happening within ZANU-PF [the ruling party] was not acceptable. The issue of corruption, the purging of war vets, the mudslinging against soldiers, especially generals, was not acceptable.”
He was asked to go and tell the president what he had heard. Father Mukonori quickly became a mediator between the president and the generals over the next days as Zimbabwe began an unexpected but peaceful transition from Mugabe’s rule.
This is a role he had become known for in Zimbabwe and he has been doing it for a long time. Not only has he been doing it, but now he feels entitled to it.
“My business is to get people together and to get them talking…. I engage government, I engage parties and I engage individuals—the president included,’
And a selfless man he’s, he does not need acclaim from the media, rather he does it for the good of the general populace.
“Whether opposition or ruling party, they all come to me. I don’t look for popularity in the media or amongst Zimbabweans; I look for what I believe is just for individuals and the nation of Zimbabwe. I deal with things below the ladder, not for publicity.”
It is also established in the interview that he also facilitated talks between Mr. Mugabe and incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa, immediately after he got fired as Vice President and during his short-lived stay in South Africa. Father Mukonori explains that he got Mr. Mnangagwa on the phone while he was with Mr. Mugabe. He says that Mr. Mugabe asked Mr. Mnangagwa where he was if he was OK and repeatedly told him to come back to Zimbabwe.
Mr. Mugabe and Father Mukonori’s friendship dates back when they first met in the early 1970s and they became so close from then and they could regularly speak about “deep issues.” He says over the years he has discussed life, land, joy, sorrow, good governance, bad governance, evil, sin, hell, and heaven with Mr. Mugabe.
We learnt that in the midst of the November political crisis they “started breaking into anthropology…and sociology,” whatever that means.