via Happy 90th birthday, Comrade Bob, I wouldn’t issue a driving licence to you By Elsie Eyakuze February 22 2014
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report.
This past week, Robert Mugabe turned 90 years young, and he is still the suspiciously unlined face and palsied iron fist of Zimbabwe.
A position he has occupied for three whole decades, quite a feat considering he was at the traditional retirement age of 60 by the time his reign began. A reign which to date shows no signs of coming to an end anytime soon.
While I congratulate Mugabe on his longevity, this situation is worthy of some despair, for I must declare my interests as someone on the raw side of not even close to 50: When will it be time for us to determine our fates?
Out of sheer stubborn peevishness, Mugabe adopted his depressingly healthy and abstemious lifestyle too many years ago to count.
It has given him more than enough time to obsess about the British and remind everyone who dares to ask that he is the only leader his country needs and will be so forever. Seriously?
Our decaying despots should try to come up with a fresh line every decade or so, because the ones they’ve got have only been used since time immemorial.
There is a part of me that feels sorry for people who end up on that throne. Although we are taught to revere power as a means and an end, too much of it for too long gets heavy just like any addiction does. I imagine that’s why people who find themselves in exalted positions start to display increasingly inhumane behaviour over time — the toxicity of government is one of the universal themes of the human story.
Unfortunately, I am coming to believe that, in purported democracies at least, we the people have been complicit in our subjugation by our Big Men who just won’t leave when their expiry date comes along.
I am not unduly hostile; to give credit where credit is due, absolutely, thanks be upon ye liberation leaders. Oh You Lions Rampant in the Face of Colonial Injustice, You Fathers of Nations, Fighters in the Wilderness, praise be. Now, let’s talk about a statute of limitations on all that business.
I propose roughly 10 years at best for folks to rest on the laurels of their achievements, after which we should repatriate them to the general populace. Bragging rights need to expire.
It is the job of historians to deify leaders if they want to, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to suffer through endless retellings of “Remember when I was awesome, back before you were born?” Because: We know. Secondly: a retirement age for presidents is a prudent idea. For practical reasons, if we must, this can be justified on medical grounds: If a person over 80 is unlikely to be issued a driving licence on account of being a public liability, why should we trust them with steering an entire country?
Finally, relevance. High five to all the cool greyheads who are so with it that they know how to do stuff with the touchphone that their grandkid gave them. They give us hope that life after 60 need not be boring.
Unfortunately, this does not qualify them to meditate upon the implications of Google Glass as a surveillance tool, or why nobody cares about their posturing on the issue of miniskirts, or any number of contemporary quandaries their early 20th century formative experiences didn’t give them the tools for.
Clearly, we need to address this silly business of Bigmanism. Enough already with all that sycophancy and excuse-making for people who were once great.
If we are going to prevent our leaders from tripping gaily down the path of power-madness, we can’t keep leaving all the heavy lifting to the so-called free media and the occasional satirist.
To bring it home, of course I as a Tanzanian am concerned that we learn the right lessons from this. Just look at our Constitutional Assembly. It took them precisely one day to stop pretending they are there to do some nation-building work and start clamouring for more money and other instances of ugly behaviour.
These people? They are ours. Our neighbours, our fathers and mothers and our friends and we should have at least to courage to tell them: Shame on you, you vampires. It is our duty.
But lest I forget: Happy birthday Robert Mugabe. Please, sir, do your best not to die in office for the good of your beloved country.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, http://mikochenireport.blogspot.com.