HARARE – A colleague on a journalists’ social media group threw in this rather thought-provoking phrase — “looking back into the future” — as debate raged on former president Robert Mugabe’s statements on his 94th birthday party in Harare last week.
Unlike previous birthday celebrations for the ousted strongman — which were characterised by extravagance and flamboyance — this year’s edition was very private, and at his residence, the Blue Roof, in the capital’s leafy suburb of Borrowdale Brook.
Perhaps what is more interesting are the comments attributed to the former president, who resigned following a military intervention code-named Operation Restore Legacy in November last year.
Mugabe is clearly bitter about the way he was removed from office. However, his reign has been blamed for running down an otherwise promising economy inherited from the settler government of Ian Smith in 1980.
Contrary to Mugabe’s views that Zimbabweans miss him after voting him into office in July 2013, the same people flooded the streets of Harare on November 18 last year to reject his continued rule.
Besides, the former president is showing the selfishness that has always been the hallmark of his political career.
It appears at the back of his mind, he is imagining himself being thrust back at Munhumutapa Building — the citadel of State power.
If there is going to be change, it will be found in the future which has already started with the new dispensation and never from Mugabe’s restoration.
This is simply not possible because Zimbabweans have already learnt something they may not be prepared to part with at any cost.
They are the owners of the power leaders enjoy and once they decide to withdraw it — like what happened to Mugabe — there is usually no going back.
Before Mugabe’s resignation on November 21, the people had already spoken out against his continued leadership, largely because of the suffering they had endured.
His own Zanu PF had also started an impeachment process whose embarrassment Mugabe was not prepared to face.
When Mugabe says his pension is not coming as had been promised by the new government, he is forgetting the thousands of Zimbabwean workers who went for years without salaries at State-owned companies while he was the country’s chief executive officer.
Employees of Air Zimbabwe, Ziscosteel, Grain Marketing Board, National Railways of Zimbabwe among others, have gone for years without being paid and during his reign, Mugabe never showed any concern for these struggling workers.
Pensioners had a hard time getting their monthly payouts — measly as most are — on time during Mugabe’s reign.
We know for a fact that there are people who hope to cash in on the old man’s hallucinations on bouncing back and these include people like Jonathan Moyo, ambitious and eccentric former first lady Grace Mugabe and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao among others.
What Mugabe seems to be appealing for from the African Union and the rest of the world is similar to a restoration of his rule, something similar to the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France.
Following the French Revolution of 1789, a large number of people who felt disgruntled with the concessionist policies of Louis XVI and the violence of the republicans left France for other countries.
When the Bourbons were restored in 1814, these émigrés returned to France but, sadly, with the same mentality they had before leaving 25 years earlier. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord said of them: “They learned nothing and forgot nothing.”
Mugabe has nothing new to offer Zimbabweans. The state that Zimbabwe is in today is a result of policy failures of the government he superintended over for close to four decades.
The old man must relax at home with his family and wait for his monthly payout like all other pensioners in the country. In other polities, he would be probed for transgressions he may have committed during his 37-year rule.