BEYOND SALVAGE? By Godfrey 28 August 2013
(Part one published 22 August) | PART TWO
After the tears, the frustration, the disappointment, the hurt, the congratulations, the backslapping, the consolidation of power and all kinds of emotions, Robert Mugabe starts his seventh and definitely his last five year term in office. He is 89. This therefore becomes the most defining moment for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will either spiral down the well trodden African road of failure and lawlessness or defy the curse and rebuild. Either option depends on what Mugabe chooses to do and how Zimbabweans collectively and individually react to his policies.
The last election was one Mugabe had to win. He did. Yah, he cheated, but then, now what? The cry of disappointment by the majority is naturally understandable. The congratulatory backslapping by the controlling minority should be expected. They pulled a fast one. But then the tears must dry and dry very fast they must. There is work to be done and done by all of us. Race is inconsequential.
What Zimbabwe has is known, Robert Mugabe. But behind the scenes, are brilliant albeit egotistical strategists, who have, for the past three decades turned their energy inwards, studied Zimbabweans, experimented on them and fought a quiet and undeclared war against their own. The results have been fascinatingly pleasant for the powerful. No matter how far the envelope is pushed, Zimbabweans won’t push back. Their deduction: since the war of independence, Zimbabweans seem to have abdicated their duty to actively participate in shaping their own political future. With enough pressure brought to bear, Zimbabweans will defer all issues political to Robert Mugabe and gang. Though this may be a simplified assessment of political assertiveness or lack thereof 2000 ante, the apparent reactive malaise Zimbabweans suffers today is real. The root causes are not that simple. They are noteworthy.
Mugabe played a very invaluable early and consistent role in the political and socio-economic experimentation of Zimbabwe. In the process he managed to grab every opportunity that was presented to him. He consolidated his power. In 1987 Mugabe became the Executive President, abolished the 20 parliamentary seats reserved for whites and piled up power on himself. He brilliantly assumed the new position immediately after signing a unity accord to stop the violence in Matabeleland with Joshua Nkomo, the head of ZAPU then. Hitherto, the office of the president was largely ceremonial. It was held by Canaan Banana. To accumulate all the power, he then abolished the office of prime minister, a position he had held since independence. He topped it all by abolishing the senate in 1990.
Mugabe started his power grab, by mesmerizing a young independent nation with his excellent oratory skills, complemented by use of or threat of use of force where he thought it necessary. Except between 1983-1987 Gukurahundi, in Matabeleland where wanton violence was brutally applied resulting in an estimated 20 000 civilian deaths and ultimately the unity accord, the use of force was sparingly and strategically applied. The world at large chose to pay a blind eye.
Although the country was generally peaceful or rather intimidated, every election period was accompanied by targeted attacks and destruction of property of known and suspected members of opposition parties. Ordinary people had to buy ZANU PF cards to protect themselves from being accused of belonging to an opposition party. Attending ZANU PF rallies was forced.
Mugabe continued with what Muzorewa had started in 1978, giving names to years so as to instill a sense of belonging. For Mugabe, continuation of such was a no brainer, because it was very similar to what the Chinese, his backers during the armed struggle did and still do. For example 1980 was christened Gore Remasimba Evanhu or Umnyaka Wamandla Abantu, Year of the People; 1981 Gore Rekutsigira Masimba Evanhu, Year of Consolidating People’s Power; 1982 Gore Reshanduko, Year of Transformation; and 1983 Gore Rekugutsa Ruzhinji, Year of Meeting People’s Needs. How much power devolved to people in 1980 is a question worth exploring.
Vanhu in Shona or Abantu in Ndebele generally means people, inclusively, but relative to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic and racial makeup vanhu/Abantu and its singular munhu/muntu could be used to mean a black person. As such the title was apt, if limited to mean the assumption of power by black people from white Rhodesians. Political power was indeed transferred from Ian Smith to Robert Mugabe in 1980. The economy which had continued to grow, despite a trade embargo imposed on the Smith regime by the United Nations, thanks largely to South Africa and Portugal which continued to trade with Rhodesia, briefly remained stable and largely in the hands of white citizens. However, economic growth slowed down after independence, partly because of investor diffidence, trepidation and flight by whites who feared retribution, but mainly because Mugabe experiment with socialism and corruption the policy of reconciliation notwithstanding.
Not all of the policies that Mugabe implemented were bad, especially if one looks at the initiative of empowering the majority. Mugabe is a former school teacher. He made education a priority because education empowers. An ambitious project to educate black Zimbabweans was started as soon as he got in power. Although it was criticized by some economist because the country was financially ill prepared for such, the education policy was a success, relative to African standard. Primary and secondary education at government owned schools was made free and mandatory. Many schools were built. Adult literacy was encouraged and a lot of adults including the current vice president Joyce Mujuru went back to school. As a result, Zimbabwe attained the top position of literacy in Africa, a pride many Zimbabweans boast of, however empty, economically.
The education priority was a double aged sword. It also enlightened the people. Mugabe was very poor in running the economy. He overly regulated commerce and implemented price controls. True there were some economic sabotage by apartheid South Africa and ill will by Smith sympathizers who wanted Mugabe to fail, but such efforts did not and could not have brought the economy to its knees. Mugabe’s economics was just poor. Resultantly, economic growth stagnated and started to plummet in the 1990s. Well before Greece, Zimbabwe initiated its own form of austerity measures to grow an economy which was failing to absorb its graduates.
The Economic Adjustment Programme (ESAP) was implemented with the approval of the African Development Bank and the World Bank. Reviews are mixed but it largely failed, maybe not because of the economic principles propagated, but because corruption found fertile ground in Robert Mugabe and his underlings. Gone were the days of naming and shaming corrupt leaders. For example, in 1988 Mugabe was forced by public outcry to appoint Justice Sandura to investigate corrupt practices of motor vehicle sales involving some of his ministers and some people in high office. The scandal was dubbed Willowgate after Nixon’s Watergate. The ministers who were netted resigned. One of them, Maurice Nyagumbo a well respected liberation war hero was so contrite that he committed suicide. But by then the seeds of corruption had sprouted. The very same reporters who broke the story, Geoffrey Nyarota and Davidson Maruziva were removed from their posts as the editor and deputy editor of Chronicle, the newspaper that had unearthed the story. Geoff Nyarota writes in his autobiography, Against The Grain, that the fearsome Enos Nkala who was the defense minister then, ordered their removal because Nkala was implicated in the scandal and Nyarota and Maruziva were on his trail.
The findings of the Sandura Commission were shelved and have been gathering dust since then. The resignation of ministers who were implicated was a very successful gimmick to deflate public outrage. Other than Dzingai Mutumbuka, who made a wise decision to sever political ties with corruption, most of them made political comebacks. For example one of the culprits, Frederick Shava, is the current ambassador of Zimbabwe to China. Enos Nkala remained Mugabe’s blue eyed boy until his death just this past Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Another, Callistus Ndlovu remains very powerful within ZANU PF. In Zimbabwe, corruption begets loyalty, a handsome reward and high office with Mugabe’s blessings. Thus, corruption thrives and the economy suffers.
The naming of years was a fallacy. None of the goals were met. In fact the opposite happened. None of the power devolved to the people. Mugabe has taken it all and consolidated it in his hands. Education, which perhaps was one of his early achievements, has drastically deteriorated, and those who were fortunate enough to be educated are unemployed. Many have immigrated to foreign lands. None of the people’s needs have been satisfied. Added to the equation is one of the most overlooked but very critical factor. The young educated men and women who came of age during Mugabe’s rule were nearly wiped out by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Although the first known case of AIDS was reported in 1985 the impact was not felt until the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s. In 1997 the epidemic is reported to have picked up at 27% of a population of 12 million. The economy was in shambles. It was exacerbated by Mugabe’s 1996 decree to pay ex-combatants gratuities from unbudgeted funds. He worsened the situation by military adventurism in the Congo, a step considered by many to have been taken to prove his ego against Mandela who was the SADC chairman then and to rob the Congo of its mineral wealth. Mandela had called for a peaceful solution to the crisis. The military intervention in Congo further strained state coffers. It did not pen out as expected. Laurent Kabila who Mugabe supported in the civil war was killed just short of four years after assuming the Congolese presidency. His son Joseph Kabila, maybe a Mugabe enthusiast, but he is too young to parrot his father and he has real practical challenges that he needs to meet everyday rather than be dictated to by Mugabe. Other than some reported self enrichment by the likes of Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe did not benefit any from the Congolese war.
The Zimbabwean infrastructure and medical services broke down. People who had for years been intimidated to submission found themselves fully occupied with very pressing and immediate concerns; food, death and poverty. The population of young energetic adults drastically dwindled. Those who could leave the country left and those who remained either succumbed to HIV/AIDS or were recruited into National Youth Programs where they were brainwashed under the tutelage of the likes of the late Border Gezi and turned into militias. Predominantly the impact of HIV/AIDS cannot be overemphasized and cumulatively, with the economic disaster and political repression the malaise that Zimbabweans suffer today settled. It is not an in born behavior but a condition necessitated by conditions on the ground. No excuse.
Although scattered all over the world, Zimbabweans can and must regroup and this means all Zimbabweans, black, white, Indian, colored/mixed, etc. because five years will soon be yesterday and a hands off approach will not deliver. The broken record to divide on the basis of race, region and whatever else will be played.
Within the realm of corruption, racism and impunity Mugabe created an illusion of separation of powers. He ignored the legislature when it was functional. He launders his regressive policies with a judiciary mirage. The courts sanitize his abuse of power. As much as it was a dismissive statement, Mugabe’s comment on why he was insisting on holding elections on July 31st is revealing. He said he was afraid that if he did not hold the elections as ordered by the court he would be arrested. Go figure.
Not to be outdone is Judge Chinembiri Bhunu, who just last week, ordered the Attorney General to arrest the lawyer representing Tsvangirai in one of his many ill fated court challenges. The reason for the order to arrest was, the papers the attorney filed in court asserted that the courts were not independent of the executive because Mugabe appointed judges without consulting with the Prime Minister, as agreed upon in the 2008 Global Political Agreement. Ironically, Chinembiri Bhunu, means Notorious Boer. Bhunu is corrupted Zulu for Boer, and in Shona, the dominant indigenous Zimbabwean language, mbiri is notoriety or two, but chi- is a derisive prefix. How fitting. The judge is notoriously pro Mugabe and not particularly smart or concerned with core principles of justice. Sorry I digress. I couldn’t resist.
Zimbabwe can benefit more from the economic competitiveness between China and the USA, if only pure economic principles are put in place. Unfortunately, Mugabe’s “look east” initiative is a marriage of spite, augmented by the ego to prove to the west that he has an alternative and the west is not indispensable. Very misguided. Not a single American or British went hungry or died because Mugabe started looking east. The same cannot be said about Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe has deposits of uranium, gold, diamonds and God knows what else. She can get a top dollar for her wealth. Unfortunately, she is short changed, because Mugabe needs China more than China needs him. The Chinese dump their cheap goods and services in Zimbabwe for prime minerals that she needs.
Mugabe has created this cult like following which is one of the most dangerous legacies he may leave behind. Remember Zimbabwe is a country run by individuals who were duped by Rotina Mavhunga, a “spirit medium,” to believe that refined oil can come from a rock. In 2009 Didymus Mutasa, Sydney Sekeramayi and Kembo Mohadi, three very senior ZANU PF leaders among others, rushed to Chinhoyi to peg new found wealth from a “rock that oozed oil,” refined oil. Mugabe is to those who worship him, an oracle who should be glorified. Tony Gara, the former mayor of Harare, called Mugabe “God’s other son.” Joyce Mujuru, the vice president and many other boot lickers have said Mugabe was appointed by God to lead Zimbabwe and he will rule forever. They actually believe he is immortal. He acts it. He has ruled for 33 years and counting. At 89 he has jet black hair, and wrinkleless face. Thanks to hair dye and Botox, but who can you tell? His followers are convinced he does not age because he is God’s anointed son. He needs to be demystified before Zimbabwe becomes another North Korea, where the “great leader” Kim ll Sung is mystified as the Eternal President of the Republic of North Korea even though he died in 1994. The North Korean calendar was changed to coincide with his year of birth. He was succeeded by his son Kim Jong- il, who assumed the title of Dear Leader, later changed to Supreme Leader because the term president was retired with his father. In 2011 he died. Posthumously, he was declared the Eternal General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission. His son, Kin Jong Un continues the circus. Mugabe’s sons are too young to rule, but the cult he created has laid eggs which must not be allowed to hatch. Where McCarthyism sees communist, Mugabeism sees imperialist in every dissent, street corner, under the bed and in every free thinking independent intellectual.
Now Mr. President this appeal is to you. Stop it. Just for a moment forget about us and think about yourself. Sorry, my mistake, you forgot about us, Zimbabweans long back, when you decided that power trumps up everything and the accumulation of power and wealth is all that matters. Unshackle yourself from this addiction. I hear you are a Christian, a Roman Catholic, I might add. You even attended Pope Francis’ inauguration. I need not remind you of your own mortality. That was done enough just this past week when three of your compatriots, Enos Nkala, Kumbirayi Kangai and Mike Karakadzai passed on. We are never taught to gloat over someone’s death, but people have suffered enough and some gloating is going on right now. We don’t want to do that when your turn comes. Stop the suffering of the very same people you once wanted to liberate from oppression. Your salvation is in your own hands.
I have lately learned that this world we live in has a tendency of outliving us all. You can take whatever you can out of it but it always has the last laugh. Maybe a flashback in history is advised. At one point the boy Tutankhamen was the most powerful king in the world. He thought he could go with his power and wealth. He tried. But it was all in vain. The only thing that is yours to protect and guard very jealously, is your integrity. Show some, now that you have been given a chance to redeem it.
Your children Mr. President, don’t put a curse on them. Allow them to be their own persons. Maybe, they may follow in your footsteps on their own merit without them being discredited or discriminated against, because their father is cruel.
Mr. President, things have drastically changed since you took office 33 years ago. The telegram is no longer the fastest means of communication. Technology has taken the world by storm and there is no stopping it. The kids and many adults are technologically advanced and no matter how much you may wish to or try, you cannot stop an idea. I could have said a revolution but this great word has been abused by the likes of you to lose its meaning. You may delay it, but the longer you delay the less the chance of it ending well for the delayers. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak of Egypt and Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi of Libya, the people you, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, knew very well can attest to this. It is not because of American or British influence that people want to be free. It is a human condition, plain and simple. You know it. You fought Smith, didn’t you?
Mr. President, we were taught about how Europe underdeveloped Africa. We are very familiar with the slave trade and slavery, the petition of Africa, colonialism and segregation. We analyzed all these historical events and we always talk about them. We say never again to such. We are also now talking about how African leaders under develop Africa. How do you think you will fair? I am very aware of your anti imperialist rhetoric. Please save your breath. Just take a long and objective look for now and stop politicking and assess yourself.
Mr. President, you are one of the most formally educated leaders ever. After the 2000 haphazard land invasions and the abuse of human rights that followed, you were put on targeted sanctions, mainly travel bans to Europe and America, what you call economic sanctions. Compare yourself with your predecessor, Ian Smith. For 16 years he was under a trade embargo and yet the economy grew. I know you will refute this by fermenting your own facts, but again it is not about us for now. Have a long look at yourself and be true to yourself. You have a great opportunity to get right what you messed up over the years. At least set the tone.