Save for the March 2008 Zanu PF electoral defeat and the subsequent bloodshed, torture and displacement in June of that year, there is no denying events of the past week have been of the greatest significance to Zimbabwe’s political landscape after independence.
The 1987 Unity Accord, the momentous 2000 “No” vote, and even the signing of the Global Political Agreement have all been eclipsed.
What happened in the past two weeks is certainly the clearest sign President Robert Mugabe has lost his 36-year grip on power. No amount of charisma or oratory prowess can get him out of the political cesspit he now squats.
This has never happened before.
His trademark arrogance, propagated Wednesday evening by his Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo following the historic national shutdown, sounded utterly comical. Declaring Zanu PF would not heed calls by Zimbabweans to stop corruption, repression and to dump policies that foment economic decay, Chombo said: “Zanu PF is quite steadfast, is focused on what we need to do and we cannot be shaken by these activities, not at all.”
“Steadfast and focused” on corruption and economic ruin indeed!
Despite this vain pretence at confidence, last week, the ruling party confirmed it is faltering and that its leader — seen as the only capable force within the party — has lost control. On Wednesday, we were left with little doubt that Mugabe and Zanu PF have completely failed and that they must now leave government.
Even as they sat in their politburo meeting on the day the nation was shutdown in their face, Zanu PF needed no better compelling evidence that their time is up and that their leader, Mugabe, now 92, must be allowed to go and rest.
It started at Beitbridge Border Post where angry citizens protested against a senseless import ban of goods imposed by Mugabe’s economically beleaguered administration, ostensibly to protect local industry. The senselessness lied in the fact that the ban was vague, ill-communicated, self-defeating and blanket.
As the fire erupted in Beitbridge, deep discontent was simmering elsewhere in the country over issues to do with government corruption, boundless plunder of national resources, political arrogance and repression, record economic mismanagement and the public misery it brought about.
So, on Wednesday, the country was brought to a standstill by a national stayaway that had been sparked two days earlier on Monday by kombi drivers demonstrating against police harassment and bribery in some parts of Harare.
They were followed a day later by teachers and nurses who downed tools countrywide, before the complete shutdown on Wednesday.
I am one of the millions that share the view that Mugabe has built a rare legacy. I am also among those that fear he is fast-discarding the legacy into the sewer with reckless abandon. Reasons for this tragedy include his personal insatiable craving for power, fear for a young family and also because certain people within Zanu PF are too afraid to lose — not him — but their selfish interests.
There is empirical evidence the world over that those who overstay their welcome will of necessity put their host in a state of perpetual discomfort.
As I have said before, the name Robert Gabriel Mugabe features strongly among prominent men in history — names like Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, George Washington, Tshaka Zulu, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Kwame Nkrumah, Mao Tse Tung, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel, Kamuzu Banda, Muammar Gaddafi — men whose fortunes blossomed, but had doors of those fortunes unavoidably closed when time came.
Leaders like the legendary Mandela, left the throne even when millions all over the world wanted him to stay on.
Yet others like Adolf Hitler took their lives because they feared they would be killed by their own people.
Others too, like the old tearful Kaunda of Zambia, Malawian geriatric, the not-so-popular Banda and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, had their political sunbeams obliterated by winds of democratic change.
Mugabe, however, appears stuck in the club of a tiny minority of leaders, a league of power cravers so tiny to the point of invisibility, who by reason of either bootlicking overdose or deliberate mischief, fail to acknowledge the principle of political diseconomies of scale.
There is no doubt at all that Mugabe has individually contributed invaluably towards the independence and well-being of Zimbabwe. But then again, it remains a fact his contribution towards the collective pain and suffering that the people of this country have endured in the time of his reign outweighs his erstwhile achievements.
Zimbabweans, including Zanu PF’s “million-man-marchers” who are demonstrating their disgust against Mugabe’s misrule, cite what he has done in the past decade, particularly between 2005-8 and in the post inclusive government era to date.
Besides the Murambatsvina of 2005, the misery wrought by the economic decay and electoral bloodbath of 2006-8 and the obtaining gloom brought about by his incompetent, corrupt, greedy and arrogant government, the people — including those close to him — are convinced age is even a stronger case for his departure.
Except perhaps in a monarchy, intellectual and biological reason makes it universally unacceptable that a 92-year-old could still be running a country in an executive position.
All human beings, even those that claim to be in their positions on an election ticket, are subject to deteriorating mental and physical capacity with age.
It is very difficult to convince anyone, Your Excellency, that at such an advanced age, your capacity for good judgement can still satisfy the demands of millions of young Zimbabweans.
Yet, it is an undeniable fact that the person of Mugabe has been so present in the Zimbabwean political landscape that it has engendered a strong belief, especially in Zanu PF, that should he step down, the party, the State, and the nation will crumble — the “no Zimbabwe without Mugabe” mentality.
And in the minds of the old men and women at Shake-Shake building, the name Mugabe, Zanu PF and Zimbabwe are one. That is the reason why each year the president says he would have long called it a day but he stays on because he is being “asked” to soldier on, age regardless.
The truth, however, as exhibited last week, is that many Zimbabweans now believe Mugabe is now over the hill and is no longer capable of comprehending issues affecting the country.
In my view, the best thing for the president to do is to call it quits before issues like violent protests or health force him out.
I say so because whatever will happen after that might be catastrophic for the country. There is no guarantee that there will be a peaceful transition of power and that anarchy will not occur.
Mugabe must just go now.
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