HomeEditorial CommentUnpacking the Mugabe dictatorship

Unpacking the Mugabe dictatorship

“We have the power. Now our gigantic work begins.”
These were the words of Adolf Hitler, the ruthless German dictator who committed genocides and caused a lot of suffering among his own people.

SUNDAY OPINION BY ADMORE TSHUMA

If these words, uttered on January 30 1933 surely, represented the Germans’ love for Hitler by then, they must be read as an incredibly understated hint, particularly in a study to try and understand how dictators usually control a human mind.

Hitler’s “rousing” declaration appears to have manifested in Zimbabwe on Africa Day, when President Robert Mugabe — listed as the world’s top seven worst dictators — declared: “I am at the service of my people”.

Mugabe said this on May 25 2016, 83 years after Hitler’s declaration.

Against Mugabe’s shameful declaration, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that about 2 million Zimbabweans — 16% of the population — are projected to be food insecure.

Nearly 28% of children under the age of five in Zimbabwe are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

More than half (56%) of all children between the ages of six and 59 months suffer from anaemia, according to WFP.

What problematises Mugabe’s sign of defiance is that the former African breadbasket, now a begging bowl, has an unemployment rate that is between 80% and 95%, according to the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango).

Furthermore, Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the world ever to abandon their own currency after printing a historic but valueless multi-trillion dollar note.

Mugabe blames this on Western interference. He either denies or absolves his gruesome human rights record. To quote from the Zimbabwe Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace: “People have been tortured, seen their loved ones murdered or abducted, had their houses burnt. No efforts have been made to alleviate their plight and those who caused the damage have not been made answerable.” (p30) 

Mugabe says he is “in service of his people” — and the people allegedly love him.

Political scientists would agree that Mugabe’s Zimbabwe falls under dictatorship.

A dictator can be defined as a person who has ruled a country alone for a long time and has exercised various mechanisms to ensure his stay in power remains strong.

For instance, the study of Stalinism and fascism of the 20th century dictatorships shows that the masses are indoctrinated and psychologically blindfolded to love ruthless dictators.

This is how dictators like Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and now, Mugabe have been able to maintain power over their people. They control masses through fear and deprivation.

It can be argued that the political behaviour of Zimbabwean masses is still affected by the horrors of the colonial era, which Mugabe has manipulated to establish a dictatorship.

It is not difficult to understand why the so-called million-man march was successful. The pervasiveness of the Mugabeism notion perpetuates the perception that those who bond and become loyal to him will one day be fully rewarded. 

To the marchers, it is an achievement to bond with a “powerful man” like Mugabe. This can also be contextualised from the perspective of the Darwinian evolution where those who bonded with the leader survived.

This is the same instinct that may have been influential in the so-called success of the Harare million-man march, clinical psychologists may suggest.

After the Second World War, Africa was characterised by the emergence of dictators in the several new decolonised states.

This was exacerbated by the failure of the constitutions inherited from the colonial powers. It has been noted that the reason why colonial constitutions failed in newly independent African states was because of the lack of a strong middle class against the pre-existing autocratic rules.

Some elected prime ministers and presidents took power by suppressing the opposition and installing one-party rule, just as Mugabe did, by stifling Zapu led by Joshua Nkomo.

Thereafter, Mugabe set a dictatorship that plundered the country’s resources. At the moment, it is estimated that $15 billion worth of diamonds are missing, which is a typical story with all dictatorships. 

For instance, Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997, allegedly embezzled more than $5 billion from the country.

Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines allegedly stole between $5 and $10 billion from his country while Nigeria’s leaders allegedly stole more than $400 billion from the country’s treasury between 1960 and 1999.

Those upon the critical margins of political science and sociology’s disciplinary boundaries are becoming intellectually inquisitive and would want to know: What really was Zimbabwe’s Africa Day million-man march about? It was a protest to demonstrate support for the strongman.

Political scientists and sociologists have long discussed the unforeseen deceitful approaches largely utilised by dictators around the world in literally controlling the “human mind”.

These mutterings are invariably prompted by the public’s inability to resist dictatorship and I wish to argue that this irregularity falls outside of the remit of political science, maybe psychology.

As a scholar around the subject, I would endeavour at some point to gather a group of political scientists, sociologists and psychologists — to try to understand the bankruptcy of a human mind under a dictatorship.

the so-called million-man march that happened in the Zimbabwean capital on Africa Day, is to many critics a crushing blow to democracy; but to me, it is a desperate responsibility by a suffering and hungry populace.

Understanding the bankruptcy of a human mind and morality of Mugabe’s administration may help resolve the current misunderstanding over thousands of Zimbabweans who allegedly gathered in Harare this week to express their support of one of Africa’s longest rulers.

Also, social science stands to benefit.  It will also help ground policy debates in a level of a fair and evidence-based sociological eye, which may be extremely intellectually provocative.

Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political struggle of indoctrination has lasted 36 years now.

He is now old and frail at 92, but during his healthy and stronger days — that is in the peak of his career — he entrenched power through communist political indoctrination and won over millions of Zimbabweans whom he organised into Africa’s most dangerous political parties, — a party girded by a human blood of hundreds of innocent civilians.

Mugabe has been extremely shrewd to make hungry stomachs toyi toyi and shout his praises.

Those who had dared challenge him have all been vanquished, one after the other.

Over 35 years after he launched his reign of terror, few people understand the crisis Zimbabwe is facing today.

Seeing the million-man march, it is easy to assume that Zimbabweans are well-fed and even flourishing, yet they have inherited virtual skeletons.

l Dr Admore Tshuma is an expert on transitional justice. He completed his PhD at the University of Bristol, UK, where he was externally examined by a University of Oxford professor. 

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