The offices of the service chiefs and the individuals that occupy them are the raisons d’être for Mugabe’s own survival. Without the service chiefs his political career would have expired quite a while ago; or put another way, it might never have taken off the ground if they had refused to accept him as their leader in the mid-1970s.
The parasitic relationship between Mugabe and the individuals that occupy those offices, therefore, goes back to the days of the liberation struggle. Indeed, Constantine Chiwenga, Perence Shiri, Paradzai Zimondi and Valerio Sibanda were at the core of the liberation war. Augustine Chihuri was there too although he once fell out with them; he was quickly rehabilitated and is not in a hurry to forget that favour.
It is wishful thinking therefore that Mugabe can sit at a roundtable with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara to decide the fate of the wheels on which his engine runs; it is to underestimate the vigour of his ultra-nationalism.
President Mugabe thrives on his extremist nationalist ideals. Only recently at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa he exhorted the same by reminding the other delegates: “We fought imperialism and colonialism and forced them out of Africa…our founding fathers did not have the means but they stood up and said no, but here we are absolutely silent.”
He was urging the AU to withdraw their support for the new dispensation in Libya that toppled the regime of his ally Muammar Gaddafi. The involvement of Nato forces led by France and Britain in the Libyan revolution, for Mugabe, was the ultimate signal that the West was preparing to re-colonise the African continent. The West had become a real enemy threatening not only Zimbabwean sovereignty but the liberation of the whole of Africa.
His ideals, he wants the world to know, are sanctified by the liberation struggle which he led together with the current service chiefs; the same who other members of Zimbabwe’s coalition government want removed. He has never hidden his contempt for his counterparts in the government mainly for the reason that they did not participate in the liberation struggle and also because he considers them stooges of the West.
Ultra-nationalist governments are necessarily authoritarian and authoritarianism can only be sustained through militarism. The service chiefs are the face of this militarism. Other important cogs in the continued existence of his ideals are demagoguery, emotionalism, populism and propaganda and for these he is helped by the monopoly over the airwaves.
The latest debacle, in which two principals to the global political agreement, had the bravado to call a press conference to announce a victory over Mugabe regarding the position of the service chiefs, particularly the openly partisan Police Commissioner-General has shown beyond any shadow of doubt that contrary to popular belief Mugabe is in charge. There are tenuous efforts in certain circles to refer to Zanu PF as the “former ruling party”. The fact of the matter is Zanu PF is ruling the roost and Mugabe is the imperious ruler.
“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world/ Like a Colossus, and we petty men/ Walk under his huge legs and peep about/To find ourselves dishonourable graves.” (Cassius referring to Julius Caesar circa 44BC).
Morgan Tsvangirai has been dishonoured. Arthur Mutambara has been dishonoured, (if he had any honour at all). They have been shown to be “petty men”. They can no longer stand in front of their supporters and tell them they have any say in the way the state is being run. If Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba stands on a pedestal and makes an announcement and Tsvangirai stands on the same pedestal and makes a contrary announcement whom will the crowd believe? Charamba, of course, because his word is Mugabe’s word and Mugabe’s word is final!
Now the world knows to what extent the government of national unity is dysfunctional.
Only last week Attorney General Johannes Tomana was quoted as saying the 2008 power sharing agreement had expired and that Mugabe was solely responsible for the appointments of service chiefs. This was such a profound statement from the government’s chief law officer. The statement must have been received with a great deal of shock from anyone interested in the Zimbabwean crisis, particularly Zimbabweans themselves.
If the power sharing has expired, then what is there? What government is ruling the country? Where does that government derive its legitimacy from?
There was a harmonised election in 2008 which was inconclusive regarding the position of the president. The run-off that followed did not produce a legitimate result. So, for all intents and purposes, if the power sharing has expired, this country ceases to have a president. The presidency cannot automatically revert to Zanu PF as Tomana seems to insinuate.
It has always been clear that in negotiating the GPA Zanu PF was never sincere; hence more three years on and there are still fundamental issues that are outstanding. Tomana’s outrageous utterances show that Zanu PF has unilaterally declared its independence from the GPA.
Tomana is hardly the only Zanu PF personage who has been working in such a manner as to show the world that Zanu PF wouldn’t care less about the GNU.
Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Ignatius Chombo has been marauding across the countryside like a hurricane firing legitimately elected mayors and councillors and replacing them with Zanu PF apparatchiks. Tsvangirai has proved to be impotent in the face of all this.
The legitimacy he had earned by beating Mugabe in the March 2008 presidential election has now been eroded by the acquiescent way he is receiving Mugabe’s hammer blows right in the face.
Zimbabweans must be watching all this with a certain helplessness. Former mediator in the conflict Thabo Mbeki made one fundamental mistake in the negotiations. By placing the fate of a whole country exclusively in the hands of Mugabe, Tsvangirai and to lesser extent Mutambara this made the whole population hostage to the whims of individuals who would want to hold on to power for power’s sake.
Ultimately, Zimbabwe’s future will be decided by those same hostages but in the meantime, with Zanu PF we are in for the long haul.