How an exultant Robert Mugabe took on the world and won Zimbabwe

via The Guardian – How an exultant Robert Mugabe took on the world and won Zimbabwe

With charm, manipulation, intimidation and power president swatted away all opposition to claim a decisive victory

by Richard Dowden for African Arguments, part of the Guardian Africa Network

From the moment Robert Mugabe said he would step down from the presidency of Zimbabwe if he lost the election, it was clear that he knew he would win it. If he had not been certain of winning, he would not have called the election. Power – military, political, bureaucratic – is what he understands, loves and has enjoyed for 33 years. It’s more than love – it’s an addiction. Other African presidents try to cajole him. He charms and patronises them. British prime ministers and American presidents lecture him. He swats away their words and plays the colonialist card. Opposition movements challenge him. He crushes them with violence. Then he charms them.

Mugabe will leave power when he wants to – or when his body gives out.

Right now he will be exultant. He took on the internal opposition, his fellow African presidents and the western powers – and won. Yes the voting rolls were manipulated. Yes his government managed the polling stations. Yes mobile phones, that great democratic information exchanger, were shut down. Yes the vast Zimbabwean diaspora – the country’s brightest and most ambitious – were not able to vote. Yes everyone assumed the MDC would win and so became complacent. And had the result been a 51% – 49% split, there might have been a case to challenge it. But a 61% – 33% victory is decisive. Zanu-PF also won 150 of the 210 parliamentary seats, a two-thirds majority which allows it to change the constitution and amend laws. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo headed the African Union election observers. His key vote had imposed Commonwealth sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2003 but now he passed this election as credible and fair. Game, set and match to Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

And, I suspect, many middle class Africans throughout the continent and the world will stealthily clench a fist and whisper “yesssss” – without of course agreeing with what he has done to Zimbabwe. They would be appalled if such a man took over their own countries but Mugabe has stood up to the former colonial powers and won. It may have been a 20th century battle but many people in Africa feel that the relationship is still not one of equality: multi-party democracy has been imposed, resource nationalism is blocked by a western-controlled economic system and attitudes to Africa are still patronising and sometimes bullying.

Apart from state control and manipulation of the election process there are two other factors that might explain the scale of Mugabe’s victory. One is a mistrust of Morgan Tsvangirai. Not that people think he is a bad person, but he lacks both the leadership skills to draw Zimbabweans together into a vision of a new Zimbabwe and the political and managerial skills to make it happen. Up against a bureaucracy and, more importantly, a security system which is personally loyal to Mugabe, Tsvangirai would have stood little chance of pushing through real change.

The second factor is one I have heard expressed many times in Africa: do not upset a Big Man. If he is a Big Man and is president and wants to go on being president, then let him have it. Otherwise he will create problems. “I will vote for him because he is president,” is a phrase I have heard in many elections in Africa.

What will Mugabe do now? He may arrange for a successor. Until now he has been manipulating the rival candidates but now he needs to ensure that, if he steps aside from the day-to-day presidential chores, he and his family will be safe. But even if he allows a new president to be sworn in he will retain ultimate power as president of the party, much as Julius Nyerere did in Tanzania in 1985 when he stepped down but retained leadership of his party.

I also suspect Mugabe will now go into reconciliation mode as he did after his first (also unpredicted) election victory of 1980 and again after he brutally crushed the Ndebele uprising in the mid 1980s. Now he will deploy his considerable charm and hold out a hand to African and western governments that have criticised him in the past. At home he may offer posts in government to MDC leaders, maybe even to Tsvangirai himself. He may not fully implement the indigenisation programme which demands that black Zimbabweans must own 51% of all foreign-owned companies, just as he failed to implement socialist policies in the 1980s after he took power. In all these moves, the only question in his mind will be: will this keep ultimate power in my hands?

Richard Dowden is the director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles published by Portobello Books

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 36
  • comment-avatar
    oliver 7 years ago

    He has only managed to deöay the new üpresident of Zimbabwe to take office. His successor is is going to be the same person whom he hates, who won the 2008 elections, i.e Tsvangirai. There is very little which a person can do successfully against a millitary rule without outside intervention. Only outside millitary intervention brought an end to milittary gvts like that of Ida Min, Sadam hussein, hitler, Kadaffi, Mobuto and many more. I thank Tsvangirai for his courage to represent and protect us in the hands of a brutal murderous regime. Time will tell. All these numerous Robert Mugabe highways will be renamed Morgen Tsvangirai highway, Tendai Biti Highway in few years to come

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      nesbert majon 7 years ago

      Thanks Oliver I think as much. In this election outcome I dont see anything to celebrate. A country without water, electricity with roads full of pot holes. It beggers belief to see a person in his or her normal senses celebrating. Here its not about Tsvangirai losing its the Zimbabwean people who lost. God help us.

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        Knowthetruth 7 years ago

        you dont know how beautiful zimbabwe is,go around africa then you will appreciate Mugabe

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      super mondo 7 years ago

      you forgot the roy bennet bypass

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      David 7 years ago

      What nonsense. Where were you when Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was kept in the bush by Ian Smith UDI treason regime and the refusal to attend his son’s funeral in Zambia. That man represented most of those whom you refer to . It’s your history.

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        Kevin Watson 7 years ago

        David, Mugabe’s son died in Ghana and he had been detained by the Smith regime for fomenting armed rebellion against his regime. When Mugabe suspected that ZAPU PF was fomenting armed rebellion against his regime he sent in agents provocateurs and then committed genocide. He kept Dumisa Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku in prison for 5 years after the High Court had aquitted them on all charges brought against them. He is exactly the same as his own tormentors. He has acted unlawfully, committed crimes against humanity and genocide, and oh yes I was there at the time.

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        INJAYINJA 7 years ago

        THEN THAT GAVE MUGABE THE TITLE DEEDS TO ZIMBABWE AND ITS PEOPLE,TO SELECT WHICH ONES TO BUTCHER AS HE PLEASES.

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    Kutanga 7 years ago

    Richard….under your hypothesis, had Hitler triumphed, millions of middle class Germans would have secretly changed their Heil Hitler salutes to a clench fisted ‘yessss’. Clearly you have been charmed by this egotistic and tyrannical despot.Watch and wait to see the backlash against those who tried to vote for a better life….Royal African Society indeed??

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    Collin Mackenzie 7 years ago

    Say what ever you want Mugabe is living hero

    Richard writes with a British mentality his an ex Rodie shame or the so called when wees

    Please African people must write and tell true African stories not these fake whites that not even in Britain they are wanted

    Richard you write rubbish

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    musekiwa 7 years ago

    Its not about who won . It is about what now? Do we have the momentum as Zimbabweans to rebuild it . I guess the answer is no . Why don’t we go into a moderate mode and see what comes out of Zanu PF .Itts gpoing tpo be five years of turmoil and so be it . If we all rally together and try to peacefully. Persuade our counterparts for trade , im sure we will develop Zimbabwe’s infrastructure . It only needs a year with the right attitude and perfect political tune to get Zimbabwe going . Come on guys lets not play ball Zimbabwe has got enough resources to be an African Horse power. Look, Labour lost there was words but the Economy is being rebuilt and the ball is rolling . Lets get to work .

    • comment-avatar
      Collin Mackenzie 7 years ago

      I agree with you lets work an build an for once stop crying van calling each names

      Let us not allow our moral fibre to be destroyed by a third and outside force

      God bless Zimbabwe and it lovely people.

      • comment-avatar
        Musekiwa 7 years ago

        Atleast someone agrees with me thanx that’s the way forward

    • comment-avatar

      You ain’t far from the real truth bro. In fact we yern for divine intervention

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    Elvis mutema 7 years ago

    Cell phones were working Richard, they still are. Diasporans are not necessarily the brightest and the best. Many many bright people in zim. It is this kind of surface analysis that make many middle class people clench their fist and quietly says ‘yess’. You display an arms length understanding of Zim and Africa. Come onto the ground, interact and understand before passing opinion which thus far is uqualified despite your lofty title. ( from a loud Zimbabwean, who is in ZIMBABWE who didn’t vote for Bob)

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    slapp nutt 7 years ago

    You can not vote for a father who punishes you so that you love him. simply put you can not vote for Tsvangirai who asked for sanctions to punish ordinary zimbos so we may hate Bob. Bob is a living legend.Thanks to this skunk who went around the world tellin them not to buy our Tobacco,gold,diamonds,platnum,asbestors etc.Come to zimbabwe now we buildin roads out of our own capacity not with the help of your IMF and worldbank etc

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      Kevin Watson 7 years ago

      When did Tsvangirai ask for sanctions on Zimbabwe? When were there sanctions on Zimbabwe? I think you have been watching too much ZTV and reading the foreign media. If you bothered to read the Engish newspapers you would see that there is absolutely no interest in Zimbabwe in the UK to put it bluntly they do not care and thats why there is almost nothing written in their newspapers or on their TV stations. Not to put to fine a point on it but you have been brainwashed by Mugabe’s publicity department. Even in South Africa there are long periods where there is absolutely nothing about Zimbabwe in the press or on the TV stations. Most Americans couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map of Africa and they do not care. The sanctions against Zimbabwe were limited to arms sales and arms sales only as they were being used to brutalise the local people. The rest of the sanctions are against Mugabe and his cronies from travelling to certain countries so that they cannot waste Zimbabwes scarce foreign currency shopping in those countries. The reason why there is a breakdown in services in Zimbabwe is because the money has been wasted by the kleptocratic ruling elite on fancy cars and houses instead of it being spent to upgrade the Hospitals, water purification plants and biuild power stations. By the way Zimbabwe owes Eskom in South Africa +R1bn for electricity supplied and not paid for.

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        Knowthetruth 7 years ago

        seems you don even know what r sanctions, if the EU agrees th sanctions are crippling th country,then u say ssnctions fo know harm, you r a shame

    • comment-avatar

      You have absolutely no idea how the targeted sanctions worked. The US has actually increased its trade with Zimbabwe in the last few years.

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      Tendai Sangi 7 years ago

      Amasing your still in Zim and you believe it’s all rosy! Shocking you must be part of the extended ZANU ruling family because every one else is worse off. See you in 3 – 5 years when Bob is no longer in the picture. We were the last generation to write Cambridge exams in Harare, he educated us to build other people’s economies?

      • comment-avatar
        Knowthetruth 7 years ago

        Who wants diluted cambridge.zimsec is high starndard.

  • comment-avatar
    Elvis mutema 7 years ago

    #proud not loud

    • comment-avatar
      Ed Melik, Esq. 7 years ago

      Zimbabwe’s elections are by far one of the most effecient elections in Africa in comparison to the almost all the elections of EU and USA that are total sham of elections according to the world observers. particularly the last elections of President Obama are filled with serious flaws and frauds. However, in comparison to George W. Bush’s phoney win of elections are the worse in recent history. Zimbabwe’s elections are the shining example of one of the most peaceful and almost perfect elections if compared to the ones stated above. Being an American attorney I know that our elections as well as European elections are totally manipulated by the computerized voting machines to achieve pre-determined election results by the special interest groups. So before vomiting the nonsense about Zimbabwe’s elections, look at your won or those stated above. We don’t have democracy in Europe, UA and even Canada any more. It’s all show’n’tell for public consumption. So President Mugabe, keep showing the West your shoes and don’t heed to any of their self-serving nonsense. They are dying to somehow get their dirty hands on trillions of dollars worth of gold, diamond, platinum and all the rest of the wealth of Zimbabwe. Keep them at bay and keep them watching with a mindful eyes!

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        Kevin Watson 7 years ago

        You sir are a parody of human being. You are why the USA has a dysfunctional legal system where most attorneys are nothing but glorified ambulance chasers. I have observed elections in the USA, UK, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The most dangerous are in Zimbabwe, where you can be beaten, killed or have your home burned even if it is suspected that you voted against Mugabe. There are areas where you cannot go if you profess allegiance to the opposition. The only TV service will not allow the opposition access to the service for adverts, and nor do they report on opposition rallies. The ballot boxes are stuffed and they deliberately do not reconcile the ballot papers. Thus an anomaly arises where in certain areas more votes are cast than there are men women and children living in the area. Then there are the number of dead voters who manage to cast their votes for Mugabe. You would be well advised to comment on those things you know about.

  • comment-avatar
    MikeH 7 years ago

    The headline should be mugabe STOLE Zimbabwe, NOT won it.

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    tadzungaira 7 years ago

    you don’t know what you are talking about ?

  • comment-avatar
    Zimbo 7 years ago

    Whatever you say Mugabe is for the people of Zimbabwe and thats why we voted him as president those who think otherwise you can go and stay where you want not in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans. Long Live our true hero we are behind you your excellence. By the way the margin was too much for those who are supporting the opposition …

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      Rudadiso 7 years ago

      Zimbo, it wud have been more accurate to say Mugabe is for Zanu PF. If he were truly for Zimbabweans, he wouldn’t have slaughtered more than 20 000 during gukurahundi. Murambatsvina wouldn’t have happened and we would not have witnessed the level of violence against opposition party supporters that resulted in eve the normally compliant African observer missions condemning the June 2008 elections.

      In their naivety and anger against colonial era transgressions Africans do not seem to even realize that he has such a low opinion of them that he will not be touched by an African doctor, does not holday in an African country and his children are not educated at the very institutions for which he is chancellor.

      Mugabe fools Africa by his ceaseless anti British tirade but is so colonised that if it were not for the pot holes you would be forgiven for thinking the opening of parliament was happening in London. He dresses in British designed outfits even when planting trees and it is the photo of himself with the Britsh queen that occupies pride place in his office.

      The only reason he is angry with the British is the travel bans that stop him from shopping at Harrods. And Africa thinks this man is a hero? Really? A man whose only claim to firm is murder, corruption, theft and greed that saw him and his wife grab 13 of the choicest farms grabbed from white farmers?

      For goodness sake, 33 years after he took over our judges still wear those ridiculous British white wigs and black gowns.

      Judge for yourself.

    • comment-avatar
      Tendai Sangi 7 years ago

      So we are not Zimbabweans cos we voted for MDC?

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    MatabeleGirl 7 years ago

    The Rest of the World should stop ALL aid to Zimbabwe IMMEDIATELY and NGOs should close shop en masse. Force Mugabe to show his so-called love for ”his” country and its people by channelling the huge wealth from Zimbabwe’s natural resources (including fertile land) into repairing the Country’s once-excellent infrastructure that he has systematically destroyed through sheer personal greed. If ‘the people’ suffer through lack of foreign assistance, so be it. They chose the devil they know.

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    Forcountry for Zimbabwe 7 years ago

    I thank Cde Robert Mugabe and those like him for the stand against oppressors that seek to suck the blood out of Africa. I thank him for standing up for the poor and oppressed, I thank him for allowing us to have the education to see through these evil people who colonized us and banished us as underrated humans no better than animals to leave among rocks and baboons.We shall forever be indebted to you as a Father and a revolutionary figure.Stand up and claim what is rightful yours demand ownership of your resources those who want to buy must pass via you ,those who want to exploit must exploit with you ,you are a son of the soil the soil belongs to you do not waste time listening to hogwash stories anyone who is pushing to get land is getting it anyone who pushes to participate in mainstream industries are getting in all MDC ministers have farms as we speak while you whale and groan over useless matters you will wake up 20 years from now a disappointed man with nothing to pass on to your grandchildren in your own country.Do not disguise your selves in foreign countries and think you will get anywhere no foreigner has a permanent interest in a foreign nation they all want to loot and go back do not be fooled by so called investors the only way to deal with them is to deal fairly you want my resource I get the lion share that the only way you can develop your nation it is rather better we keep our resources in the ground than confuse ourselves with so called economic hogwash look at DRC ,look at Seira Leone ,countries endowed with minerals but full of looters while the people starve and suffer to what end?Let us forge ahead with a spirit of creating business partnerships that are fair to country and fair to investors.Leave the President alone get up and empower yourselves let the revolution about empowerment take Zanu PF to task on empowerment whether you support Zanu or MDC get empowered and demand it,demonstrate for the recognition of our war vets ,demonstrate for transparency in land distribution,demonstrate for the Government to disallow unfair trade systems were we lose our resources to outside and get a raw deal out of it.These are the principles that the President is preaching go out and demand your country and resources theyre are yours as a Son of the Soil.

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    rinovava 7 years ago

    to all whos wishes where otherwise, we say he who chases the wind sniffs the rain, we have chased our wind and our rain will pour, zimbabwe is one headache for the flimsy minded, first it was mis independence, faked by the daring impirialistic undertones, second came esap almost 3terms in moments. we are what we have the land, the minerals, the wealth and this will be the envy as full indegy goes serious,yes you can bring all equipment but you will need returns over all why, because its safe to have it more there. we have an opposition which is full of misfits who cannot organise to lead, power hungry hounds who happen to hunt in the lions domain, well well ladies, we in zimbabwe we say down with zvimbwasungata, look up to it in the shona or ndebele dictionary it will elaborate. the leader of the opposition and the top henchman need an little egypt treatment on morsi, a little gukurahundi to come stright, this is the new zimbabwe the true blackness you will have to embrace. never have i heard an african observing any western countrys election, never have i seen heard, read a blackman owning land in the west even the first black rich boxer in uk was not allowed to buy land. in uk all land belongs to the crown period if you inist on buying land they will tax you nuts cash is loose change to the crown, even dodi had to sell off his empire as he wasnt white enough despite his billions in the economy, he and others examples had to be reminded how black they where , they change rules over night and frighten you out of business.though i have touched a few subjects, pliz ponder and swallow your pride, zim and the system of total emancipation is here to stay, madagasca in coming into the fray, ghana is changing mining rules infact stiffening them out, zambia is also drawing hard, namibia is throatling and recently south africa has started to fire the first salvo in the mining rules after marikana . mati madii? you aint seen anything yet, you witness what has been happening in nigeria then you got to join the dots. zim leads the cause, the rest make do and when zim coughs africa sneezes for ages, very soon botswana will catch the second cold and they know full well that we will overcome. working with zimbabwe is key to stability ,cheap oppositions aganst a people centred tangible policy wont work, kenya will be halving the land aquired to make flowers only for europe to make staple foods and trade with the interior of africa, ethiopea will retain the lands that anglo saxons have been pilfering to guarantee western food bar blacks…. this is a taste of things to come. with hunger stalking america the dollar is losing its bite, remnimbi will be key hence look east…..to be continued, i am a proud zimbabwean with african blood please note africa is rising….

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    Tendai Sangi 7 years ago

    All dictators will die a sorry dearth. Mugabe like the other Southern African life president Kamuzu, will not be remembered as a hero by future generations. All they will see are the names of people he authorised to be killed and the ruins of a once great small economy.

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    Knowthetruth 7 years ago

    dont talk of gukurahundi, because u dont know facts,the zipra forces killed more people in chivi,zvishavane and lower gweru. Do u know what Gwasela did to the shonas, musangoshama miromo kana musingazive kuti what led to gukurahundi.people were killed,cattle and goats burnt,the zipra forces would cut u bit by bit till u die.gukurahundi was nithing compared to the torture shonas went through bcoz of dissidents

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    MatabeleGirl 7 years ago

    I wonder how much some of these people are paid to write the drivel they do?

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    Christopher Chamunorwa 7 years ago

    The world is now a global village. Marxism and Leninism was long proven to be senseless and void. This thing of fighting and challenging great powers like the US, EU and Aus will cripple the economy further. Watch out. Look at the poor Castro, he tried that but he failed dismally. Pamberi ne”CAPITALISM”. Thank you.

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    Tawanda 7 years ago

    “Mugabe has stood up to the former colonial powers and won.” Sounds good but what has he won in real terms? Why have millions of Zimbabweans left their homeland? Which currency does Zimbabwe use and why? You don’t really know the subject but hey, you were published and paid so there you go. You won.