HomeEditorial CommentMugabe vs war vets — The danger of making leaders little gods

Mugabe vs war vets — The danger of making leaders little gods

President Robert Mugabe’s verbal slaughter of war veterans on Friday confirms the incurable contamination that bootlicking and power brings upon otherwise good leaders.


I have opined in this space several times that the danger of routinely exposing leaders to deitising and over-the-top praise-singing is to transform them into incorrigible dictators who become blind to danger, deaf to advice and impervious to common wisdom.

Who would have thought Mugabe, who owes his position in the party and government to war veterans, could stand up and threaten to throw the same people out of the party? Mugabe told the war veterans that they should not think they are a special class of people in Zimbabwe — “after all, we were there in the bush together” — and that in any case they were getting old and fewer by the day as they were dying.

His beef with the ex-combatants was their reluctance to be led by youths in the planning and organising of the proposed “million-man-march”— a project which they view with suspicion and whose purpose they don’t see. Mugabe, however, wants the march because it presents another platform for his bootlicking and immortalising.

Mugabe says war vets are old and should give in to youths. He is curiously silent about his own age and the need to give in to new blood!

In the days of old, Mugabe would never have dared open his mouth to say such things to the war veterans. He crippled the economy in 1999 when the ex-fighters demanded that he gives them huge gratuities.

But constant bootlicking and sycophantic flattery has emboldened him over the years and he can now easily tell the former king-makers to go to hell.

Respecting leaders and speaking good of them is fine, but it is always dangerous to make it tomfoolery as that creates “brothers to the moon and cousins to the sun” out of mere mortals.

In Gutu on Friday, Mugabe spoke about factionalism and the threat on his power from war veterans and factional wars. The factions are believed to be a product of his political survival tactics and the same strategy appears to be under employ again.

The fight over the “million-man-march” idea appears to have presented itself as another opportunity for the sly Mugabe to set up war veterans against the youth in a clever and subtle divide-and-rule strategy. The purpose of the march at this juncture in Zimbabwean politics is not clear.

The last time Zanu PF called for the so-called “million-man-march” was in 2007, during the 2008 election campaign. Many thousands of people — needless to say, far less that the said million — converged at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, the venue of the event.

The aim of the march was clear — to campaign for Mugabe and the party, Zanu PF. The result was Mugabe’s 43-47 defeat to MDC-T Morgan Tsvangirai. Zanu PF suffered its heaviest defeat ever, losing its parliamentary majority for the first time.

Now, a section of Zanu PF, the youth league, wants to hold another “million-man-march”, reportedly “in solidarity” with Mugabe. The event is scheduled for Wednesday next week, May 25, which is also Africa Day.

It is not clear what Mugabe has done or what challenge he faces that the youth want to show their solidarity with. It cannot be his selection to represent the party as its president in the next elections which are two years away because Mugabe does not face any challenge in that regard.

His endorsement was unanimous.

In fact, the endorsement was so unanimous cadres are tearing each other apart as factions accuse each other of not being “unanimous enough!”

So there is virtually no new endeavour or challenge for which Mugabe may need solidarity. This is the argument presented by war veterans who now view the “million-man-march” with suspicion. They see “sinister motives” behind the march and had refused to participate until they were arm-twisted into being part of what they said would not be termed a “march”, but a “parade”.

Whether or not they are going to “march” to the “parade”, or will find their own way to the venue of the “parade”, remains to be seen.

But, much as they have been coerced to partake, through ear-pulling by Mugabe, the fact that the war veterans do not believe in the march or whatever it is, remains.

“The march is not going to bring food on the table. It is not going to mobilise people to support the party. It is not going to make contributions in as far as the resuscitation of industries is concerned,” said the ex-combatants spokesperson Douglas Mahiya before their association was bullied into seeing what they did not see.

Other than seeking non-existent relevance for their G40 faction, the organisers of the so-called march have failed to convince anybody about the real purpose or usefulness of this charade. Speeches at the event are predictably to bolster Mugabe’s ego and to make him believe the citizens of this country want him to rule them until he drops dead.

It is going to be a no-holds-barred bootlicking contest and a bare-knuckle ravaging of the rival faction led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. It will be a day for the likes of Sarah Mahoka to let out their verbal diarrhoea with reckless abandon, lapping out of the First Lady Grace’s bucketful of bile.

But besides being in aid of nothing beneficial to the nation, this Mugabe bootlicking adventure may also be a threat to the peace that government has always put forward as reason to crash genuine peaceful demonstrations. And the threat is not coming from anywhere but from Zanu PF’s own innards.
The party’s disgruntled former youth leaders have openly threatened to take matters into their own hands — including even violence — to stop the march. Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West former Youth League chairpersons, Godfrey Tsenengamu and Vengai Musengi said last week that they would mobilise people to block the march. It would be foolhardy to ignore or dismiss such threats.

Although Mnangagwa has openly dissociated himself with these “explosives”, the likelihood of him and his faction being smeared with the sludge of the renegades’ handiwork come May 25 is high.

Anything that will go wrong with G40’s million-man adventure will find its home on Mnangagwa’s doorstep because that is the agenda of that day.

Predictably, Tsvangirai should not expect to receive any of the limelight that he has always stolen on such events. As it was with “miniskirt” Joice Mujuru and the black water beetles nyungurugwi witching battles, it will this time be about VP Mnangagwa toppling Mugabe and killing his children by use of the military armed with petrol bombs!

The fact that the march will not benefit the country or its staggering economy will not make Mugabe advise against it. There are power-hungry people who want to use his name to fight their foes and because his wife Grace supports them, and he cannot do anything.

Besides, our president too has a huge weakness for patronage and has not yet realised that behaving like a god is a costly adventure.

l Feedback: tchipangura@standard.co.zw

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