No lessons from Zimbabwe (II)

Down with Mugabe! Long live Mugabedom!! No doubt about it; Zimbabwe certainly has a new President in the person of Emmerson Mnangagwa, former Vice President. By Zimbabwean standard, third President in forty years is a breath of fresh air.  Under the independence parliamentary constitution, the late Canaan Banana, (who died on 10 November 2003) was the first ceremonial President, though real power was with Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe who true to character transformed into an Executive President in 1987 and had been succeeding himself until last month. 


Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sworn in following the belated forced resignation of Robert Mugabe after almost 40 years in the saddle. But that is where the story ends and paradoxically begins “anew” along the same familiar platitudes. For one, Robert Mugabe’s birthday (21 February) has been declared Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day making it the 12th national holiday in a country in “permanent holidays” with 95 per cent unemployment and idle capacity! President Mnangagwa’s tribute to former President Robert Mugabe in his November 23 inaugural speech as a liberation fighter was greeted with muted response. Legitimately so for a people already fatigued by one man – sorry, and a wife – rule. Zimbabweans rightly remembered how Mugabe had trampled underfoot their freedom in the last 30 years perhaps more than they could recollect how he once commendably fought for their freedom from British imperialism, no thanks to mass joblessness and price riot. 

By the way, Zimbabwe’s motto reads: “Unity, Freedom, Work”! Indeed, true to their desire for unity in freedom and for work, there was a national applause when Mugabe caved in to pressures and resigned earlier in the week just as there was a national despair when   he betrayed all expectations of honored resignation. There is certainly no lesson from a country in which the dictatorship of a party (read; ZANU-PF!) turns upside down the aspirations of a people so soon the party promised a change and a departure from the recent discredited past. Post Mugabe hero worshiping and cult of one man flies in the face of Mnangagwa’s allusion to the fact that “the Voice of the people is the voice of God” not one man. 


Secondly the former president Robert Mugabe has been reportedly slammed with a $10 million golden handshake as gratuity lump sum payment, inclusive of full monthly salary, medical cover, security as well as protection of his private properties. In July this year, the 93-year Robert Mugabe, reportedly handed a cheque of $1 million to the African Union (A.U.) Foundation “as part of efforts aimed at lessening the body’s dependence on foreign aid”. Your guess is as good as mine as to how much the leader who could bail out a whole Continent and whose wife was nicknamed “Gucci Grace” (given her penchant for the latest ornaments and articles of vain glory) worth. 

To therefore further privilege a reluctant “step-aside” Mugabe with such reported dollarized gratuity in a country with outstanding  arrears for public servants is only possible in Harare where gratuity, (a labour market package for ease exit) means post Mugabe indulgence. And this is not new. What is new is an unacceptable continuation of what has been loathed by good people of Zimbabwe. In my reflection in this column in April 21 2014 entitled “Robert Mugabe’s xenophobia” at the height of his smear remark about Nigeria as a corrupt nation, I recalled the narratives of both Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their 2013 best seller, entitled WHY NATIONS FAIL; The Origin of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, In the book, Mugabe was a case study in worse manifestation of corruption. That story could very well pass for a good script for an Africa- Magic tragi-comedy! 

The abridged version reads: “It was January 2000 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Master of ceremonies Fallot Chawawa was in charge of drawing the winning ticket for the national lottery organized by a partly state-owned bank, the Zimbabwe Banking Cooperation (Zimbank). The lottery was open to all clients who had kept five thousand or more Zimbabwe dollars in their accounts during December 1999. When Chawawa drew the ticket, he was dumbfounded. 

As the public statement of Zimbank puts it, “Master of Ceremonies Fallot Chawawa could hardly believe his eyes when the ticket drawn for the Z$100,000 prize was handed to him and he saw His Excellency RG Mugabe written on it. President Robert Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe by hook or by crook and usually with an iron fist, since 1980, had won the lottery, which was worth a hundred thousand Zimbabwe dollars, about five times the annual per capita income of the country.” 

The critical question is having force-resigned three years after, will the new ZANU-PF chieftains on-the-bloc in Harare keep indulging their “father”, “a mentor”, “comrade in arms” and “leader”? The ways Emmerson Mnangagwa further privileges his predecessor at the expense of the nation will determine the true character of the regime (or is it a civil administration?). 

Conspiracy theory has it that the events of the recent times in Zimbabwe are well crafted script of one man; sacking of his Vice President, “military intervention”, Mugabe’s anti-climax  20 minutes late Gaddafi-like ranting speech, threatened impeachment, eventual resignation and sworn in of a renegade former Vice President as the new President. If this conspiracy theory is valid, it once again confirms why there is no lesson for Africa from Harare. 


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