Zimbabweans react to the Mugabes’ ‘golden handshake’

Former President Robert Mugabe and his wife to receive $10m, immunity and protection of their vast business interests.

FILE PHOTO - File photo of Zimbabwe''s President Robert Mugabe seen upon his arrival at the Franco-African summit in Paris
Robert Mugabe resigned as president last week [Reuters]

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s recently retired President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, are set to receive “a golden handshake” worth millions of dollars, immunity from prosecution and protection of their vast business interests.

News of Mugabe’s immunity has sparked criticism from activists, including activist pastor Evan Mawarire, who has called on the 93-year-old to face trial for alleged human rights abuses that date back to the beginning of his premiership in 1980.

After staging the largest anti-government protests the country has seen in almost a decade, Mawarire faced charges of subversion and inciting violence, but under a new dispensation, the charges against Mawarire were dropped on Wednesday.

Mugabe resigned as president on November 21, following a military takeover on November 15 that saw the veteran leader largely confined to his private residence by the army.

According to emerging details, the deal could see the former first family receiving a total of up to $10m on top of their annual salaries, complete with medical and travel benefits.

Although Zimbabwe is in a post-Mugabe era, most people are still fearful of publicly sharing their opinions on the former leader.

However, Al Jazeera has gathered some views from the streets.

Joseph Mutisi, 61, guard

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

President Mugabe deserves the money because he worked for this country for a long time, but I don’t really know why his wife should get anything.

She never did anything for Zimbabwe except to insult people and make Mugabe fight with his comrades.

Mugabe is someone who grew up with this country, right from [its] birth and we cannot forget that, but the mistake he made was to think his wife could rule forgetting his comrades from the war.

It’s only that Zimbabweans are a forgiving people, otherwise she should be in jail because she’s done a lot of corrupt things and abused her husband’s power.

Many people still respect Mugabe so he should get the benefits, but that wife has never served this country, she deserves nothing.

Delroy Oloka, 24, DVD seller

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

In school, we were taught that no matter what, no one is above the law and if someone does something wrong, then the law should take its course.

That’s what must happen in this case.

The Mugabes have done so much wrong to this country that we can’t just allow them to get away with it.

Everyone must be accountable for their actions, especially as a leader, so they can’t let Mugabe go just like that.

What does that say about the future?

If those who are in charge today do wrong, will they just be excused and give each other immunity because that’s the standard?

I believe in justice, not immunity, everyone who is guilty must be brought before the law. It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are.

Doreen Bopoto, 51, IT administrator

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

Only God can judge someone, so it’s not up to us, the people, to say that President Mugabe must be taken to court and prosecuted.

Even with his age, you can’t take someone so old to court so we have to make peace with the past and as a nation we have to learn to forgive.

If he’s getting “the golden handshake”, there’s nothing we can do about it, we are not the ones who can decide how much he should get or expect to have a voice in those issues.  

Michael Mangodoza, 21, student

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

After 37 years of service, he has to get something and maybe a $10m payout is fair, but only on condition.

He and his wife must return all the things they acquired through illegal means, all the properties, the farms here, the offshore bank accounts and investments must come back because it doesn’t belong to them.

If we could get back the $15bn that Mugabe said was stolen in corruption in the diamond sales then it’d do so much for this economy, we have a $6bn budget, we are struggling to finance, but $15bn would make such a difference.

But I really don’t feel he should be prosecuted because that’s like putting my great-grandfather in jail, but his wife has many questions to answer, she shouldn’t get the immunity cover.

Cynthia Mukombero, 36, student chef

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Things started to go bad towards the end, but we can’t blame only him for that, he was not alone.

We can’t punish him for the suffering the country went through because it doesn’t make it better. What will we gain if we do that?

If I look back on my life, I can’t hold any bitterness towards someone like President Mugabe because I grew up in a peaceful country and in a Zimbabwe that was on the right path, it was a prospering country.

I’m really grateful for that, but now as Zimbabweans, we must look forward and not be a country of bitter people.

Edgar Mangwende, 35, taxi driver

[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera] 
[Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera] 

The Mugabes may get immunity, but this seems like a trap.

How can the President [Mnangagwa] give immunity to the Mugabes then the next day the President says everyone has [90 days] to bring back the money they took out of the country or else.

If the Mugabes don’t bring it back, will they be protected from being prosecuted?

They were some of the biggest thieves in this country and they have properties all over the place so if they continue to have their properties and their money outside after 90 days surely they will be doing something wrong.

Their immunity can’t protect them in that case because it only applies to the time Mugabe was president not now.

I hope they’ll be trapped by this new law, because it’ll be a good way to make them answerable, especially the wife.

Follow Tendai Marima on Twitter: @i_amten

Source: Al Jazeera