In 1987, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, also known by the name, Uncle Roo, became the President of Zimbabwe, a country formerly known as Southern Rhodesia. Prior to the time, he had served as Prime Minister from 1980-87 and was among the freedom fighters who fought the colonial masters for independence. He was a strong exponent of negritude and tried to promote and restore the dignity of countrymen and the black race in general. He had the opportunity to transform his nation and the black race but failed. His initial policies as President, towards the white community, was mild. But at the beginning of the new millennium it snowballed into absolute tyranny. Lands were forcefully collected with the claim that the lands were forcefully collected in the first place. By that time, his place as another African despot has been guaranteed. He had joined the ranks of men like Paul Biya of Cameroon and Nguema of Guniea. In his country, you could substitute the name ‘Mugabe’ for President in a synonym exam and you won’t be wrong.
It’s thirty years and the man is still the President of the country. Three decades gone, and if not for his age, he would be interested in going another three for a start. At 93, the man still nurses the ambition of going another term. Such is the wisdom of the former revolutionary, freedom fighter and exponent of negritude. Such is the wisdom of the man who once wanted to free Zimbabweans from the fangs of colonial conquest. He hated a colonialism of the West but finds a familial one non traumatic. He hated to be conquered both spiritually and physically but he has conquered Zimbabweans both spiritually and physically. Mugabe is treated like a juju spirit. Feared, respected and hated for his potency and impotence. He is learned but not sound enough to question his actions as a despot. From gagging members of the opposition to a disdain for the rule of law to the damage of the electoral system to a bad economy. Let’s blame the west.
What happened to the man who appeared to have so many precious dreams for his country Zimbabwe? What happened to the man who spent years in Prison for simply trying to free his people? What happened to the Uncle Roo that had so much education, sense and loved his people so much to dare the position of the colonialists? What happened to Uncle Roo? At 93, a man can only do little for himself but here a man of that age is responsible for running a country and the lives of over 14 million people. A country he didn’t run well when he was 30 years younger. Maybe these are wrong questions. Maybe it was the plan he had in that prison. It seems he was more interested in furthering his interests than the interest of his people. It seems we are confusing his hatred for the colonialists as love for his people. The cliché ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ seem to be what transpired and once the common enemy was removed the common enmity resumed.
Two days ago, Mugabe, and his wife, Madam Grace Mugabe(who he was moulding to succeed him) were ousted in a military coup. The country’s military released a statement claiming what happened shouldn’t be regarded as a coup d’etat but simply an attempt to cleanse the country of enemies around the President. That is simply propaganda and an attempt to twist the plot. What happened was a MILITARY COUP. No whitewashing will change that. It is not a sincere revolution involving the citizens but an unconstitutional attack on the ailing democracy of Zimbabwe by few persons in the military. One of the men involved, Major General SB Moyo, said they are trying to protect Zimbabweans against people who ‘were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country’. Mugabe had earlier sacked his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and this was seen as the first step in consolidating the dynasty for his wife. This didn’t sit well with the Army Chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, and tensions have been rising until it got to this point. The military has since reinstated the sacked VP, making him the head of government.
Uncle Roo became everything he hated. But no one should rejoice over this. If we are to truncate democracy through a coup once it fails, then we are not ready for democracy. If the military men think correcting a constitutional error by creating another error is how a country should be run, then we should expect more movement downside. It is very difficult to see the interim President, Mugabe’s expelled Vice President, out of this story. That he accepted to head a government truncated by the military shows he is not a democrat and expecting him to be different from Mugabe is a miracle. First, for anyone to accept to run with Mugabe, seeing his despotism and sit-tight leadership, such a person must have and share some qualities with him. Two, for this same person to accept a military interference in the country’s democracy and agree to be head of any new government confirms he is not very much different from the man he is against. Their is no point to rejoice. While Mugabe may have been everything they resented, their is no guarantee that any new government will do better than him.
Muammar Gaddafi led Libya for 42 years before he was killed in 2011. He shared some qualities with Mugabe. While he tried to lift his country, he held unto power for too long and despotism and tyranny gradually set in. They shared a certain distaste for the western powers and sought to uplift the exploited people of the African continent. Both were smart men who knew a lot and had passion for the continent but they were too clingy to power. Gaddafi was trying to achieve a greater and stronger Africa by cutting down on foreign dependency. He died before he could actualise that. It’s 6 years now and the country is not better for it. The instability springing from that very act can be felt all over the continent. Libya is not better today than it was when Gaddafi was still alive. They have not improved on any of those qualities for which Gaddafi was killed. They seem to have forgotten why the man was dethroned. His presence in the region helped with its stability and aided in the peace of Africa and his absence has worsened it. Then, they only had despotism and tyranny to deal with, but now they’ve acquired more problems.
Power and life is transient. Mugabe who once boasted no military coup can remove him is now under house arrest by the military. The condemnation by the war veterans in 2016 of abandoning the revolution didn’t help his case either. They had accused him of promoting corruption and said they will not support him in next year’s election. His treatment of the white farmers in his country didn’t help him or his country either and the sanctions he got suffered the country. Till now, none of the western counties, who love to promote democratic values, has condemned the military coup. Tacit support or endorsement? His wife has received criticisms and Mugabe’s attempt to pass her the touch annoyed the military, politicians and revolutionaries more. It seems everyone is finally fed up with him that even when democratic values are shattered to remove him, no one seem to care. In Egypt when a similar thing happened, it was regarded as a ‘military intervention’ by the US and other powers when obviously a coup happened. What happened in Zimbabwe is a coup but unfortunately, Mugabe has annoyed so many people, destroyed so many laws and his authoritarianism has made it difficult to speak about him in the democratic language.
Now his dynasty is falling. Everything he built and his legacy(which legacy?) is crashing. The strong man of Africa who challenged everyone and everything but hated to be challenged is now locked in a house. He can’t tell what’s happening. He can’t give orders like he used to do or nurse an ambition. The one time revolutionary is now being chased for everything he joined in fighting the colonialists. 93 year old Uncle Roo is now at the end point. He acted like he knew better than this the first time the people saw him. He acted like a an exponent of negritude when he only hated those who hated his colour. Just look at him now! How many years has he got to live? What legacy has he got to pass? At this point, you wonder if it was worth it. What’s the point of living up to 93 and ruling for 37 years and ending without substance? Where is all that power now? The unfortunate thing is, African despots don’t learn. Another despot is being prepared to replace him. They say we shouldn’t judge but if his Vice was different, how did the match happen? The future is pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy. Mugabe is going down. I only hope Zimbabwe doesn’t go down with him.