Now former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe was told he would be exposed as a corrupt mass murderer by Zimbabwe’s military leaders unless he ‘volunteered’ to resign.
The 93-year-old was warned that his reputation would be destroyed with the release of secret police files containing records of his personal orders to slaughter thousands in the early 1980s.
More than 20,000 members of the Ndebele tribe were killed, with pregnant women bayoneted and disembowelled, in the 1980s because they supported a rival party opposed to Mugabe.
Details of the despot’s direct involvement – said to be confirmed in telegrams and telephone records obtained by the secret police – would have left him open to war crimes charges.
Hours before he resigned on Tuesday night, prompting euphoric scenes as thousands poured onto the streets, Mugabe received a chilling visit from General Constantine Chiwenga, the military leader of the coup.
In talks all week at the Blue Roof Mansion – Mugabe’s sprawling 25-bedroom palace set in 44 acres of perfectly manicured grounds – the despot had argued about complex legal and constitutional issues. after he was seized last Tuesday.
The military coup leaders made ‘generous offers’ in the following days to Mugabe that he could retire with his full state pension and all other benefits as long as he stepped down.
But when Mugabe broke an agreement to resign on lived television on Sunday, Chiwenga turned ruthless.
He and his officials confronted Mugabe with these sheaves of intelligence files relating to his orders to kill innocents during the so-called Gukahrundi massacres, which means the ‘spring rain that clears the chaff’, as well as details of massive corruption behind his £3 billion fortune.
‘We tried to be kind,’ one official involved told me last night. ‘He is an old man. He would talk for hours, then fall asleep mid sentence. He can’t walk without help and has to wear special nappies. He could not continue in power.’
Mugabe was told that ‘if you are staying defiant and arrogant we will release all these documents. You will be humiliated, prosecuted and jailed. Your legacy will be in tatters. The law will be allowed to run its course.’
The documents would be handed to parliament during impeachment proceedings to remove him from office, and published around the world.
Furthermore, Mugabe was told that his wife Grace, who was held in military custody since shortly after the coup, would ‘not be protected’ from either persecution or violence ordinary people bent on vengeance.
Described as ‘spent and broken,’ Grace was held for four days in custody separately to her husband. She was ridiculed by her captors, who made her chant slogans she used at rallies held in a bid to take over from her husband.
‘Mugabe was told that the full force of the law would be used against her, there would be no immunity from prosecution and she would end up in jail for a very long time,’ the military official added. ‘He knew the writing was on the wall and agreed to quit.’
Grave and Mugabe, who was reported last night to be ‘deeply unhappy’ and ‘depressed’ after being forced out, have been given immunity from prosecution.
Mugabe stepped aside in favour of Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former loyal deputy, who last night arrived in Harare, the capital, to an ecstatic reception by thousands still celebrating the end of Mugabe’s 37-year rule.