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Sunday Opinion: Happy birthday, Comrade President

You turn 92 today; amid unprecedented turmoil in the country, especially in the party you lead. Your birthday comes on the back of the cruel irony of both party and country firmly stuck in a post-Mugabe era even though you are still physically occupying the office of State president.

LUKE TAMBORINYOKA

Your birthday comes amid unprecedented national poverty to which no one is paying attention. The people of Zimbabwe are staring starvation in the face in the wake of the El-Niño-induced drought enveloping the vast swathe of the countryside. With no iota of guilt, you will next Saturday throw a $1 million birthday bash in Masvingo — one of the worst affected provinces where thousands of people and livestock might not make it to the next season.

mugabe-(95)

Surely, throwing a million-dollar birthday bash in such a drought-ravaged province is akin to throwing a party at a funeral, a taboo in our culture.

And none among your minders, including your wife, is bothering to think of the callous insensitivity of it all as everyone in your party is jostling to succeed you. At the recent African Union summit in Ethiopia, you told the world you will rule until God takes you. You had everything mapped out long ago — from State House to the Heroes’ Acre!

It is enough national calamity that at 92, you continue to slug it out, literally huffing and puffing towards an ignominious end to your career. At some point in your protracted and tumultous career, you had some rich legacy, but over the past 20 or so years, you have gnawed away a large chunk of your own golden years through acts of omission and commission.

Your Cabinet ministers and Politburo members, Comrade President, are not helping matters. Instead of debating policy; telling us how they wish to fulfil the promises your party made to the people in 2013, they are accusing each other of having spent a whole struggle stealing petticoats and underwear during the war of liberation.

Given your age, we have the misfortune of being mis-served by an analogue president in this digital age. Consistent with your analogue status is your equally analogue behaviour of elevating your birthday to a national event. This is a purely archaic culture inconsistent with the dictates of this brave 21st century.

Before we claim to be digitising anything, Comrade President, we must first digitise your analogue office by putting in a fresh, modern human resource capable of comprehending and dealing with the challenges of our time.

In this day and age, we cannot be deifying individuals to the level of creating national holidays out of the birthdays of individuals.

And again, Mr President, your 92nd birthday is coming when the national consensus is that the centre is no longer holding. I beg to differ on this biggest understatement of our time.

There is no longer any centre to talk about. You have been pushed to the periphery by your own wife — herself an unsophisticated woman who spits out coarse, unprocessed messages.

Grace Mugabe, Comrade President, reminds one of the all-too common character in Shona folk-lore; the fictitious, acerbic and uncouth woman called Marujata, an all-too-common character in folklores narrated to us as we sat by the fireside under the full-moon, late at night in the village.

As you well know, Your Excellency, Marujata was the loose-tongued woman who would dress down fully grown up men at a village beer-drink, or strip naked at the village well. Only that our very own is not fictitious; she is real and is now playing a central role at State House, while you have been relegated to the insignificant extras among the dramatis personae of our national story.

In our Shona folklore, Marujata was never a character associated with royalty but was part of the cast whose roles were drawn up to be far away from the citadel of power; a character invented to give folklore audience some comic relief during bed-time story-telling.

It is sad, Comrade President, that you have been consigned to the periphery as your very own Marujata takes centre-stage, far from her usual fringe position in Shona folk-lore. Marujata and her kleptocratic cohorts have raided royalty and begun doling out executive power to each other.

The under-fire secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda put it so succinctly in an interview with The Herald last week. He did not mention any names but we all knew who he was talking about!

“We have one centre that should be holding but vanhu vari kuenda vachinotanhaura masimba ecentre vachigovana zvavo.” [Some people are stealing the power of the centre and dividing and partitioning it among themselves].

You have become a tragic sight Comrade President, a small figure huddled in the corner of the national narrative; the glory and executive aura of your role usurped in broad daylight by Marujata and Ngwena — the two characters dominating the sunset discourse on the eve of your imminent departure, whether by natural or other means!

So stolen and effectively pick-pocketed has become your space that even I, the writer of this script, am expending all these paragraphs talking about Marujata at the expense of you, who is supposed to be the star player of February 21 in our national discourse. You have become a passenger in the car you ought to be driving, indeed one of the insignificant extras in your own story!

Your 92nd birthday today comes after several heart-rending episodes that must put your birthday in its proper context. Your birthday today follows your much-reported public fall at the Harare International Airport last year. It comes after the incessant mixing of lines that continues to betray your age as typified by the mother of all boobs when you thundered “Pasi neZanu PF” at the Zanu PF congress in 2014.
But perhaps the real mother of all boobs was when you read the same speech on two different occasions.

Indeed, Comrade President, you must rest and enjoy roasted nuts at Kutama!

As Morgan Tsvangirai often tells us; yesterday’s men can neither understand nor solve today’s problems. Today’s problems need today’s people, and you are certainly a man of yesterday.

It could be the reason you have creatively chosen Masvingo, specifically the Great Zimbabwe, as the venue of your birthday bash next week. You have decided to hold your bash at the Zimbabwe Ruins to capture the true state of the nation and how far down you have taken the country; the chevrons and lack of mortar on our treasured national monument themselves a creative depiction of how the party is no longer glued together.

You are now too old, Comrade President, and you cannot even grasp or comprehend the fallacy of your party’s message in the last election.

Bhora mugedhi!

Sadly, Comrade President, it is not just the ball that is in the nets. The players, the referee and the spectators are all now crowded in the Zanu PF nets of poverty. Mugedhi renhamo nehurombo!

We would have wished for the promise and message of Dhora mubhegi than Bhora mugedhi because whole families are now surviving on less than $1 a day.

But then, maybe we are expecting too much from a party led by a nonagenarian. With half your Politburo stuffed with old men and women over 70 years of age, we are effectively under a gerontocracy. It is a leadership of geriatrics!

Happy birthday, Comrade President!

Luke Tamborinyoka doubles as spokesperson to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as well as the Director of Communications for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He writes here in his personal capacity.

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