Reports that former president Robert Mugabe is bitter as extensively covered in two sister weeklies, the Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard, made interesting yet very sad reading.
By Nigel Nyamutumbu
In what turned out to be the first reports revealing the mind of the former president verbatim post his resignation, the stories covered what Mugabe reportedly told the visiting African Union (AU) commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and what he told guests at his birthday party held last weekend.
Mugabe in both instances virtually read from the same script, narrating how he had been removed from power unconstitutionally, how the military intervention had its own fair share of casualties and the alleged ill-treatment the former first family is receiving from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.
He told of the suffering that his wife is subjected to daily and how the country has essentially regressed to being a military state.
Of course, his remarks are in sharp contrast to what Mnangagwa has been telling the world, the AU and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) in particular, where he has been portraying an image of stability in the life of the former president.
In remarks that were widely accepted at the AU summit, Mnangagwa said the former president was being well taken care of and was happy in reti
Ideally, this should have been what is obtaining in Mugabe’s life. Surely for a 94-year-old man, who has been at the helm for 37 consecutive years and has been involved in politics for much longer, some reprieve should be welcome.
I always cherished a day without Mugabe as president and even though I was highly sceptical, if not critical of the events that led to his resignation, I still celebrated seeing the back of the long-serving leader.
I actually wished he would become gracious in defeat and salvage whatever was left of his legacy and dignity by apologising for destroying people’s dreams and for all the documented mistakes and atrocities.
Imagine if Mugabe had made a statesman presentation to the AU, where he is revered as an icon, and to the multitudes of Zimbabweans to the effect that he was apologetic for leading a regime that literally brought the country to its knees and for refusing to step down at a time that he evidently lost an election.
He could possibly still reminisce of the good old days in politics, his ideological inclinations, which remain relevant to this day and apologise for how he stole the people’s struggle for independence for personal gain and how he was a factor in entrenching the security sector, particularly the military, in civilian affairs.
I am sure he would have earned himself credit if he were to speak of how he had virtually captured the state that was centred around him, exerted authority on the military that was only prepared to salute him and how he wouldn’t care less about hyperinflation and the crisis that was unfolding under his watch.
But alas! The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Mugabe has again proven that he is so obsessed with power to the extent that he still sees himself as an actor in the country’s politics.
Instead of apologising, he is the one expecting an apology, a public one for that matter, from Mnangagwa.
He doesn’t seem to understand that he now belongs to the country’s archives and while his loyal supporters may sympathise with him, which is their democratic right to, the majority that suffered at his hands have no iota of sympathy for him and his family.
What is clear, even at the meeting that he held with his former deputy Joice Mujuru, is that Mugabe still sees himself as a matchmaker who can still employ divisive tactics in order to establish a base for power.
He is even trying primitive tribal politics to play Zimbabweans against each other and you get a sense that he actually hopes for a civil war.
Zimbabwe has since moved on and the sooner that the former president recognises that, the better.
If anything, our politics should move beyond what analysts have termed Mugabeism, which, if not addressed, will continue to plunge our country into crisis.
This leads me to the interesting point that Mugabe made around the country’s elections scheduled for later this year. He argues that there is no chance for the country to hold credible elections on the basis of them being run by the military.
This to me is the key narrative that our politics needs to move away from as it is synonymous with the Mugabe era.
It is rather worrying when the chairperson of the elections management body alludes to the fact that 15% of the secretariat of the electoral commission is composed of soldiers.
There are also disturbing reports of how there are already 2 000 soldiers deployed in the country’s provinces in preparation for the elections.
To this day, the military remains stuck in the late general Vitalis Zvinavashe’s narrative of only saluting leaders with liberation war credentials, something that was echoed by traditional leaders at a meeting in Mashonaland East last week.
As, election mode gathers momentum, there is little to suggest that the Mnangagwa administration will accept any result that is not in their favour.
The same old Mugabe tactics of instilling fear and reliance on the security sector and traditional leadership remain true today.
Mnangagwa continues to pay lip service to the much-sought-after electoral reforms, which include a review of legislation, opening up of the airwaves, transformation of the public broadcaster and a transparent electoral roadmap among other changes that ought to be implemented.
Yes, it is good that Mugabe is history to the extent that it is rather sad that he still sees himself as a factor in our political discourse.
But it is interesting that even he notices that there is no significant change in how the country’s elections will be conducted and how the military will be a factor.
Mnangagwa’s administration must demonstrate a departure from the previous Mugabe regime by ensuring that the security sector, particularly the military, stays clear of the elections and civilian politics and that they discharge their duties professionally as enshrined in the Constitution.
Government should expedite electoral reforms and create an environment conducive for the holding of credible elections.
That, to me, is very essential post the Mugabe disastrous era.