African leaders, especially those of the SADC, are so hypnotized by president Robert Mugabe’s kleptocratic spell. Judging by their propensity to superimpose the authoritarian’s brand of democracy on their idea of governance, it remains a daunting task for the region, especially our motherland Zimbabwe, to ascend the pedestal of the brotherhood of progressive nations.
Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical rule does not require a rocket scientist expose, yet African leaders seem set on seeking answers from a galaxy of political naivety. South Africa’s deputy president Mlambo-Ngcuka’ s notion that suitors for political office in South Africa, and by extension, our continent, lack the necessary revolutionary “sophistication” brings to the fore the source of the African problem. This myopic school of thought is what distorts the perception of most African leaders that ‘regular’ citizens like Arthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai are not only appreciated by naïve Zimbabweans, but also incapable of running a country. What Mugabe does is to feed on this primitive predisposition to nourish his appetite for political dominance by successfully diverting African leaders from the simple and obvious facts at the core of Zimbabwe’s crisis to the romantic ideas of skewed pan Africanism.
Mugabe’s toolbox of political chicanery has an unlimited supply of crude instruments to perpetuate dictatorship: the Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe National Army, Zimbabwe Republic Police, War Veterans, Youth Militia disguised as the National Youth Service, The Herald, The Chronicle, The Manica Post, Zimbabwe Broadcast Holdings, Traditional leaders and the Zimbabwe Election Commission. These institutions work like a well-oiled mechanical monster against the opposition and the civil society groups to safeguard Mugabe’s selfish political interests. This heartless monster sees no credence in human rights violations and has no morsel of appreciating disastrous policies like the unbudgeted for war veterans payouts of 1998 that became a signal tune to the free fall of Zimbabwe’s economy. It is the same monster that presided over Mugabe’s disastrous fast track land grab in 2000, then Operation Murambatsvina, and now the arbitrary take over of multinational mines, all in the name of ‘indigenisation’. These seemingly ‘noble’ acts are nothing but symptoms of greed and thirst for more power that benefits only Mugabe and his ZANU-PF cronies. The proximity of this monster to the very hearts and minds of opposition and civil society not only significantly narrows democratic space, but also ensures the average citizen sings the tune of synonymy of ZANU-PF and State. Any resistance attracts spontaneous retribution, imprisonment and in extreme but common cases, ultimate death.
Their short memory betrays African leaders or is it another case of selective amnesia? Mugabe dazzled the continent with his clever speeches on reconciliation and African brotherhood in the 1980s and gullible African leaders drank to his high sounding clever speeches while his Perence Shiri-controlled Gukurahundi fifth brigade mercenaries wiped twenty-thousand Ndebeles off the face of the earth allegedly for arms catches found in Matabeleland and a subsequent ‘war’ against armed gangsters. Ever since the so-called 1987 ‘unity agreement’ – perceived by progressive Zimbabweans more as Joshua Nkomo’ s surrender document – president Robert Mugabe has not apologised in public. At the height of electioneering in 2000, the closest the ageing fascist dictator came close to showing any form of remorse was when he referred to that black era as a ‘moment of madness’. Sadly for opposition, civil society and democracy as a whole, that moment has evolved into eternity in Zimbabwe.
African leaders should see Mugabe’s deception for what it is, rather than get carried away by his anti-imperialist rhetoric. Although he claims that the 1979 Lancaster Agreement tied his political hands, his I-will-not-talk-about-land-reform-for-the-next-ten-years idea from 1990 to 2000, including his blessing of the IMF-brokered Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), went a long way in pacifying the West. Joshua Nkomo was largely left out in the governance discourse, routinely racked in to endorse meaningless legislation. But when the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] came into the political bigger picture, Robert Mugabe watched with disbelief as citizens began to challenge the establishment. This was the birth of Zimbabwe’s problems that have escalated to the crisis we see today.
On any other clear day, Mugabe’s brand of vicious dictatorship should naturally make our African brothers stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. But no, it has to take the Gordon Browns, John Howards and George Bushes of the world to do what is right. Mugabe is an extraordinarily rare breed of a megalomaniac who could not have been a product of the same stencil of sober liberation politicians like Nelson Mandela. The man who postures as a democrat, a pan-Africanist, a populist and campaigner against Western imperialism has deceived African leaders. Wake up Africa!
President Robert Mugabe is on cloud nine, seemingly untouched by the forces of political gravity that are plodding his space ship. The man is so detached from Zimbabwe’s reality that what he sees is a spectacular panorama of praise singers lying prostrate at the footstool of his political empire. What Zimbabweans are desperate for is change, and this is where African leaders come in. Rather than ululate, applaud and lay wreaths at Mugabe’s altar of demagoguery, African leaders must join the band of Zimbabwean activists to fire salvos at the dictator’s ship to bring it back to earth. My appeal is that we consider the enlightened observation of one of our own, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anna, who noted: "The ever downward spiral of Zimbabwe, for example, is both intolerable and unsustainable; we all have a stake in resolving the crisis... Africans must guard against a pernicious, self-destructive form of racism that unites citizens to rise up and expel tyrannical rulers who are white, but to excuse tyrannical rulers who are black."