Missing the Mugabe point

LAST WEEK, Arabian Business correctly predicted the success of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF, but I believe the reasons why the prediction proved so eerily accurate fall beyond the one-dimensional explanation put forward. Vote rigging, while probable, was not the reason why Mugabe and his cohorts were allowed to claim victory for yet another time in their unbroken 25-year reign. Vote rigging, alleged or actual, is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  April 10, 2005

Missing the Mugabe point|~|10-GUEST-COMMENT-UPLOAD-200.jpg|~|Tawanda Chihota |~|LAST WEEK, Arabian Business correctly predicted the success of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF, but I believe the reasons why the prediction proved so eerily accurate fall beyond the one-dimensional explanation put forward. Vote rigging, while probable, was not the reason why Mugabe and his cohorts were allowed to claim victory for yet another time in their unbroken 25-year reign. Vote rigging, alleged or actual, is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The problem lies with the people of Zimbabwe. Abuse is perpetuated because the victim is either not in a position to or not willing to take the action required to end it. Zanu PF has been at the centre of allegations of electoral impropriety so many times in the last decade, and been able to come through such situations relatively unscathed, that the party now appears to take the electorate for granted. Or at least it seems to take the electorate’s preference to object passively to systematic disenfranchisement as a given, and is emboldened by each contested election that is subsequently ratified. When did the ruling party last produce an election manifesto, the points of which it sought to circulate and communicate at rallies across the nation in the lead-up to elections? When were bread and butter issues such as the real devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar; the threat of hyper-inflation; chronic food, medical and fuel shortages; and the effects of the growing international isolation being experienced by the country last raised and debated as electoral issues? The answer is too long ago, and the Zimbabwean people have let this cornerstone of democracy be consistently and effectively erased for such a long period of time, they seem to have no concept that it is owed to them. Instead, rural folk, the bedrock of Zanu PF’s support base, are preached to about Tony Blair and the fact that Zimbabwe shall never be colonised again, without any reference being made to the real issues impacting the lives of average Zimbabweans. It has thus become acceptable to have petty personal insults regarding world leaders as the main thrust of an electoral campaign. The most disappointing aspect of this situation is that Mugabe and his parliamentarians are not called to order and forced to talk about real-life issues. Arabian Business asserted “that there can be no more evil dictator alive on the planet today than Mugabe”, an overstatement if ever I read one. Such descriptions, I believe, only serve to fuel the inaccurate ‘cult of Mugabe,’ which dismisses him as an out-of-control African despot, who is anti-West and hell-bent on remaining the single most important political figure in the country, regardless of the cost. I don’t believe this is an accurate portrayal of how many Zimbabweans, and indeed Africans view him. Mugabe is articulate, beguiling, intelligent, astute, proud and nationalist and many of his fellow countrymen would openly acknowledge these qualities that he clearly possesses. And to dismiss him as a maniac only strengthens his hand in his ability not to be held accountable for his actions. The truth is that where Mugabe falls furthest, is in his place in history. He politicised the issue of land for political gain, and in the same way he accused white Zimbabwean farmers of occupying land that did not rightly belong to them. He now occupies a space in time that does not belong to him. He is an anachronism — a personality who delivered his country from colonialism, and was its first majority-rule leader. The 1980s were his time, and the country’s socio-economic development during that decade testified to this. But his time came to pass around the turn of the decade, and rather than hand the baton over to the next generation of leadership, he has sought to maintain power – to the detriment of the country. Lastly, Arabian Business pointed out that the international community had failed dismally in allowing Mugabe to stay in power for as long as he has, through “corruption, violence and intimidation”. The article ends by making a plea that Mugabe be removed from power. I wonder whether calls for such drastic action would have been made in a pre-9/11 world? The high-profile regime changes effected in Afghanistan and Iraq are not to be admired or viewed as a model to ending all the world’s political woes. Organic change is always preferable to externally imposed modifications and I believe it should be left to Zimbabweans first and Africans second, to deliver Zimbabwe from the political malaise it suffers from at this time. Tawanda Chihota is editor of CommsMEA. (We welcome the right of reply, though I should point out that nobody at Arabian Business agrees with Mr. Chihota — Editor) ||**||

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