Mu­gabe trig­gered his own demise

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

Dear Ed­i­tor,


Alexan­der IV once said; 'A ruler never hears the truth and ends by not want­ing to hear it.'

That is ex­actly how Robert Mu­gabe ended up. He avoided hear­ing the truth through im­peach­ment hear­ings by ten­der­ing his let­ter of res­ig­na­tion as Pres­i­dent to the Speaker of Zim­babwe's Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Mu­gabe trig­gered his own po­lit­i­cal demise by un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the po­lit­i­cal lever­age and in­flu­ence of his Vice Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa and over­es­ti­mat­ing that of his wife Grace.

Mu­gabe had trained and tu­tored both. But there were qual­i­ta­tive dif­fer­ences, his vice pres­i­dent was a ZANU veteran with years of armed, po­lit­i­cal strug­gle and diplo­matic skills un­der his belt.

Grace was a rel­a­tive new­comer who pos­sessed none of these ex­pe­ri­ences nor skills. Her hus­band and the power of the pres­i­dency were the only strengths she had at her dis­posal to scheme and ma­nip­u­late her­self into the pres­i­dency.

In Africa, few women emerged from the bat­tle fronts of the wars of na­tional and so­cial lib­er­a­tion. Among them were; Win­nie Man­dela, ex- wife of Nel­son Man­dela, Graca Machel wife of Samora Machel, for­mer Pres­i­dent of Mozam­bique and Ruth First, wife of Joe Slovo, po­lit­i­cal leader of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the mili­tary wing of the ANC of South Africa. None of these women were as ruth­less and ma­nip­u­la­tive as Grace Mu­gabe.

Nel­son Man­dela sep­a­rated from Win­nie, fol­low­ing a scan­dal that broke out. He later took Graca as his second wife fol­low­ing the death of Samora Machel. And Ruth First was as­sas­si­nated by a car bomb in Ma­puto, Mozam­bique.

Grace Mu­gabe did not be­long to this gallery of leg­endary women. And her hus­band, though a leg­endary fig­ure in Zim­babwe and Africa, could not save her from the fall from grace which be­fell him as well.

It is this fall from grace, first of the Vice-Pres­i­dent ex­e­cuted by Mu­gabe him­self, and sec­ondly by Grace, or­ches­trated this time by Mnan­gagwa that set off the chain of events, which in a mat­ter of two weeks, saw the down­fall of Mu­gabe and the rise to power by his erst­while com­rade whom he had ac­cused of treach­ery, dis­miss­ing him from of­fice.

There are some im­por­tant lessons to be learnt from this rather unique Zim­bab­wean ex­pe­ri­ence.

First is the ques­tion of pres­i­den­tial longevity, the ex­er­cise of power and gov­er­nance. Robert Mu­gabe along with Joshua Nkomo fought the good fight for his coun­try's free­dom and in­de­pen­dence. It was one of the great­est man­i­fes­ta­tions of tribal and na­tional unity that Africa has ever seen with Mu­gabe rep­re­sent­ing the Shona tribe and Nkomo rep­re­sent­ing the Nde­bele tribe.

But there were ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences. Mu­gabe's armed forces in the Zim­babwe African Na­tional Union (ZANU) were sup­ported by the Chi­nese while Nkomo's Zim­babwe African Peo­ple's Union (ZAPU) mili­tary forces were sup­ported by the Rus­sians.

Through­out its en­tire his­tory, ZANU has been ex­tremely close to the Chi­nese, small won­der why days be­fore Zim­babwe's mili­tary made its move against Mu­gabe Gen­eral Chi­wenga found him­self in Bei­jing.

The ZANU and ZAPU armies fought to­gether and many died to­gether but in the end Ian Smith's Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence (UDI) from Bri­tain col­lapsed and vic­tory achieved.

But the spoils of vic­tory to be shared with Nkomo, was short lived. Mu­gabe ac­cused Nkomo his second Vice Pres­i­dent, of plot­ting a coup and un­leashed a vi­cious and bloody cam­paign against Nkomo's tribes­men at Mata­bele­land re­sult­ing in the Nkomo flee­ing his coun­try, claim­ing to be in self-im­posed ex­ile in the U.K.

The ac­cu­sa­tion of treach­ery by Mu­gabe against Mnan­gagwa, his Vice Pres­i­dent, which caused the lat­ter to flee to South Africa for his safety was in a sense, his­tory re­peat­ing it­self.

Mu­gabe's anti-Nde­bele cam­paign even­tu­ally saw the sub­ju­ga­tion of Nkomo's tribes­men and women to Shona ma­jor­ity rule. As a re­sult of pres­sures from his sup­port­ers in­side the coun­try and friends abroad as well as con­di­tions im­posed by Mu­gabe for Nkomo's re­turn to Zim­babwe and an end to the mas­sacring of his peo­ple, Nkomo made the fool­ish mis­take of agree­ing to the ab­sorp­tion of his ZAPU into Mu­gabe's ZANU re­sult­ing in the cre­ation of a sin­gle rul­ing party called the ZANU Pa­tri­otic Front.

By way of this ul­ti­ma­tum and pres­sures Mu­gabe had scored a big po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage over his one-time com­rade-in-arms. Through­out this en­tire episode Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa was in the thick of things as a faith­ful lieu­tenant and ex­e­cu­tioner of Mu­gabe's wishes and com­mands.

Hav­ing been pro­moted to the po­si­tion of Vice-Pres­i­dent, the wily Mnan­gagwa set about po­si­tion­ing him­self to be per­ceived as the log­i­cal suc­ces­sor to Mu­gabe.

As Vice Pres­i­dent, Mnan­gagwa did not waste time. He cul­ti­vated close re­la­tions with the mili­tary high com­mand giv­ing them all that he could through his of­fice.

Sim­i­lar re­la­tions were cul­ti­vated with the na­tional po­lice and the lo­cal in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

Mnan­gagwa main­tained close com­radely re­la­tions with ZANU vet­er­ans who fought the lib­er­a­tion war as well with party stal­warts at all party branches. He trav­elled ex­ten­sively through­out the coun­try a re­spon­si­bil­ity that Mu­gabe was phys­i­cally un­able to ful­fill.

He had good re­la­tions with the trade unions, faith­based or­ga­ni­za­tions and the busi­ness com­mu­nity al­ways giv­ing them the im­pres­sion that life would be bet­ter with change.

While all of this was go­ing on Mu­gabe was be­com­ing more and more iso­lated, his ad­min­is­tra­tion was on auto pi­lot, ef­fec­tively run by a cor­rupt bu­reau­cracy and a small ca­bal of syco­phants led prin­ci­pally by Grace Mu­gabe.

Faced with ail­ing health and lack of en­ergy to lead, a de­ci­sion had to be made. Was it to be Grace or Em­mer­son who would suc­ceed Mu­gabe?

The die was cast in favour of Grace but as events showed that de­ci­sion be­came po­lit­i­cally fa­tal for Mu­gabe and his cor­rupt, ram­shackle ad­min­is­tra­tion

Linked to that de­ci­sion was the ur­gency to get rid of Mnan­gagwa, thus the ac­cu­sa­tion of treach­ery en­gi­neered by Grace.

It was a re­peat of the very nar­ra­tive that played out years be­fore to get rid of Nkomo and oth­ers who had op­posed Mu­gabe's rule. Mnan­gagwa was tar­geted to suf­fer a sim­i­lar fate.

But as des­tiny would have it, it was Mu­gabe who would pay a heavy price.

By the time he re­al­ized the ex­tent to which his role had di­min­ished and scented the smell of the swamp it was too late, dis­sent had be­come wide­spread through­out the rul­ing party and coun­try.

His age and ex­pe­ri­ence notwith­stand­ing, Mu­gabe be­came in­ca­pable of re­flec­tive thought about his style of gov­er­nance and the ex­tent to which it had with­ered away af­ter three decades in power. Wooden head­ness be­came a dom­i­nant fac­tor in ZANUPF's gov­er­nance.

The Mu­gabe ad­min­is­tra­tion be­came mind­less. In­ter­nal de­vel­op­ments were pro­ceed­ing to ab­surd lengths to the ex­tent that few Zim­bab­weans could of­fer a ra­tional ex­pla­na­tion of how their coun­try ar­rived where it was by 2015.

Fail­ing to rec­og­nize that the heroic de­fi­ance he once ex­hib­ited against White mi­nor­ity rule was no longer an at­trac­tion to a tired pop­u­lace yearn­ing for change, Mu­gabe flipped his ad­min­is­tra­tion from the fry­ing pan into the fire.

The more Mu­gabe re­fused to yield the more the noose grew tighter around him.

His lust for power, as Tac­i­tus once said, be­came the most fla­grant of all pas- sions.

Af­flicted with will­ful blind­ness and choos­ing not to see what was be­fore him, Mu­gabe fell.

Mnan­gagwa emerged from the shad­ows with­out any rec­og­niz­able taint from meth­ods he had en­gi­neered to ef­fect change.

As the dust set­tled, it be­came clear that a plan had been hatched and was well ex­e­cuted. It's ex­e­cu­tion­ers took all Con­sti­tu­tional, po­lit­i­cal and ex­ter­nal fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion. It showed that Zim­bab­weans are a smart and cal­cu­lat­ing peo­ple not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Mu­gabe' sur­ren­der of power and the smooth tran­si­tion from him to his erst­while Com­rade in arms was a marvel for po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists and spe­cial­ists in African pol­i­tics to wit­ness.

And just like John Reed's 'Ten Days that Shook the World,' Zim­babwe's second rev­o­lu­tion was an­other ex­am­ple of how change can be ef­fected with­out loss of life dur­ing those ten days that shook Africa.

Mu­gabe, like so many other lead­ers in Africa and other coun­try's of the world failed to rec­og­nize long be­fore that there comes a time to step down or aside to gave way for oth­ers to take over, as a re­sult, their per­sonal mis­take be­came a na­tional mis­take.

From all in­di­ca­tions, cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance or rigid­ity crept up on all of them and like a can­cer, ren­dered each and every one of them in­ca­pable of ac­cept­ing but to re­ject­ing rea­son.

And though such men are usu­ally highly ed­u­cated yet, some­how they never rec­og­nized the wis­dom of Thomas Jef­fer­son's cau­tion­ing: "When­ever a man casts a long eye on of­fice a rot­ten­ness begins in his con­duct"

Yours faith­fully Cle­ment J. Ro­hee

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