] Issa Aremu, Robert Mu­gabe’s Xeno­pho­bia

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

Re­ceived wis­dom (Ox­ford English Dic­tio­nary) char­ac­ter­izes Xeno­pho­bia “as a deep­rooted, ir­ra­tional ha­tred to­wards for­eign­ers”. Re­cently (and at 90 years old too) Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe of Zim­babwe stepped up his no­to­ri­ety from dic­ta­tor­ship to some forms of xeno­pho­bia al­most on a con­ti­nen­tal scale. First against Nigeria and of late Kenya. Re­port­edly on March 15 Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe while ad­dress­ing mil­i­tary chiefs dur­ing his 90th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions rhetor­i­cally asked: “Are we now like Nigeria and Kenya where you have to reach into your pocket to get any­thing done?”. Zim­bab­wean op­po­si­tion me­dia rightly calls Mu­gabe Mr ‘Big­Mouth’ who did not even spare Nel­son. Man­dela.. It is now an open knowl­edge that Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe of Zim­babwe, had ear­lier taken a swipe on Nigeria, la­bel­ing the coun­try and all Nige­ri­ans as cor­rupt. At his 90th birth­day lun­cheon hosted by the ser­vice chiefs he likened Zim­bab­weans to Nige­ri­ans who cor­ruptly get paid for ev­ery ser­vice. “Are we now like Nigeria where you have to reach your pocket to get any­thing done,” he said. “You see we used to go to Nigeria and ev­ery time we went there we had to carry ex­tra cash in our pock­ets to cor­ruptly pay for ev­ery­thing. You get into a plane in Nigeria and you sit there and the crew keeps dilly dulling with­out tak­ing off as they wait for you to pay them to fly the plane,” said the Mu­gabe fol­lowed by a huge laugh from the del­e­gates at­tend­ing his birth­day bash. The Federal Govern­ment had since re­port­edly sum­moned the Zim­bab­wean Head of Chancery Stan­ley Kun­jeku, in Abuja to for­mally lodge a protest against Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s un­pro­voked di­a­tribe which de­picted Nige­ri­ans as very cor­rupt people.

Dis­cussing Mu­gabe any day puts ob­jec­tiv­ity on trial. No sit-tight Head of State has fur­ther po­larised a dis­tressed con­ti­nent in re­cent times as Mu­gabe. It is ei­ther you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ a ‘lib­er­a­tion fighter’, ‘ a land grab­ber’, ‘a dic­ta­tor’, a “black Hitler” ( as he proudly once called him­self) ad in­fini­tum. Yet, as con­tro­ver­sial as Mu­gabe will ever be, we must still come to terms with a xeno­pho­bic African states­man at 90. One could have rightly dis­missed Mu­gabe’s lat­est tirade as what the Huasa would call santi made at a pres­i­den­tial birth­day lun­cheon. And that would be right. But the devil re­mains in the de­tails of the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nige­ri­ans and Kenyans as cor­rupt by Mu­gabe play­ing a Devil’s ad­vo­cate. Ac­cord­ing to Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, (TI) 2013 Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tion In­dex, Zim­babwe ranks worse than Nigeria in cor­rup­tion, (157 and 144 re­spec­tively). Even Kenya that ranked 144 fared bet­ter than Zim­babwe that at low­est of the lad­der. as the bet­ter him, he is still very much ac­tive in pol­i­tics, even as he sig­ni­fies will­ing­ness (?) to re­tire in 2008. In their 2013 best seller, en­ti­tled WHY NA­TIONS FAIL; The Ori­gin of Power, Pros­per­ity and Poverty, both Daron Ace­moglu and James A. Robin­son showed how Mu­gabe in a worse man­i­fes­ta­tion of cor­rup­tion re­mains the only serv­ing Head of govern­ment that won a state lot­tery con­ducted by a state lot­tery agency. The story will be a good script for an Africa- Magic tragi­com­edy.

The abridged ver­sion reads; “It was Jan­uary 2000 in Harare, Zim­babwe. Mas­ter of cer­e­monies Fal­lot Chawawa was in charge of draw­ing the win­ning ticket for the na­tional lot­tery or­ga­nized by a partly state-owned bank, the Zim­babwe Bank­ing Co­op­er­a­tion (Zim­bank). The lot­tery was open to all clients who had kept five thou­sand or more Zim­babwe dol­lars in their ac­counts dur­ing De­cem­ber 1999. When Chawawa drew the ticket, he was dumb­founded. As the pub­lic state­ment of Zim­bank put it, “Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies Fal­lot Chawawa could hardly be­lieve his eyes when the ticket drawn for the Z$100,000 prize was handed to him and he saw His Ex­cel­lency RG Mu­gabe writ­ten on it. It was Jan­uary 2000 in Harare, Zim­babwe. Mas­ter of cer­e­monies Fal­lot Chawawa was in charge of draw­ing the win­ning ticket for the na­tional lot­tery or­ga­nized by a partly sta­te­owned bank, the Zim­babwe Bank­ing Co­op­er­a­tion (Zim­bank). The lot­tery was open to all clients who had kept five thou­sand or more Zim­babwe dol­lars in their ac­counts dur­ing De­cem­ber 1999. When Chawawa drew the ticket, he was dumb­founded. As the pub­lic state­ment of Zim­bank put it, “Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies Fal­lot Chawawa could hardly be­lieve his eyes when the ticket drawn for the Z$100,000 prize was handed to him and he saw His Ex­cel­lency RG Mu­gabe writ­ten on it. Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, who had ruled Zim­babwe by hook or by crook and usu­ally with an iron fist, since 1980, had won the lot­tery, which was worth a hun­dred thou­sand Zim­babwe dol­lars, about five times the an­nual per capita in­come of the coun­try..”

Of course, Robert Mu­gabe (with mul­ti­ple aca­demic de­grees) like the two au­thors knows very well that he pre­sides over a cor­rupt king­dom (Mu­gabedom) since a Robert keeps suc­ceed­ing a Mu­gabe in of­ten rigged se­rial par­lia­men­tary elec­tions af­ter 1980 in­de­pen­dence. What then is the mo­ti­va­tion for Mu­gabe’s ac­cus­ing fin­ger at Nigeria and Kenya, even when the re­main­ing four fin­gers point at Harare as the head­quar­ter of graft? It’s time we read the mind of a cyn­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tor of peo­ples and power that Mu­gabe is. Just last year, af­ter three decades of Struc­tural Ad­just­ment Prog-ramme (SAP) one time knighted Robert Mu­gabe an­nounced an African­iza­tion pol­icy that among oth­ers seeks to trans­fer some businesses to Zim­bab­weans. Most re­tail and whole­sale businesses are done by Nige­rian and Kenyan en­trepreneurs. Is Mu­gabe set to have a raid on “other” African en­trepreneurs just as he did with “White” farm­ers as part of his con­stant preda­tory/ ex­trac­tive gov­er­nance ?

Lest we for­get, no South African head of govern­ment has ever taken a swipe at other Africans be­fore the se­rial mass Xeno­pho­bic at­tacks against other Africans in­clud­ing Zim­bab­wean im­mi­grants es­cap­ing Mu­gabe’s mis­rule.

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