24 February 2006

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Rapidly Losing Grip On Reality


PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's lengthy interview was on Sunday night screened on state television to mark the occasion of his birthday on Tuesday when he turned 82. He spoke on a wide range of issues, which might act as a reality check for Zimbabweans.

He raised numerous issues ranging from history, economics, politics, HIV and Aids, his own personal health, and his succession, to slavery and colonialism, neo-imperialism, alleged plots to oust his regime, the dominance of the global order by the West and the United Nations reform agenda.

He attacked US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. African leaders were described as cowards for failing to tell Bush and Blair "to go to hell" after they rejected Mugabe's disputed re-election in 2002.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo and others who tried to help to resolve the local crisis were told to "keep away".

Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo has been clumsily trying to do damage limitation by denying Mugabe was referring to Mbeki and others when he said they should keep away.

Posing as a moral knight, Mugabe also whined about cultural and moral decadence in Zimbabwe. He lashed out at gay people and youths who ape western culture.

Cabinet ministers came under fire for corruption and incompetence.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was described as a monster and a political instrument for regime change. Mugabe insinuated the IMF was recently working to to remove his regime. He said the IMF has never helped Zimbabwe even though his government in the past secured balance-of-payments support from it.

On economic policy, Mugabe firmly rejected orthodox ideas - "bookish economics" as he calls it - and vowed to pursue his own voodoo prescriptions. He said he would continue to print money to alleviate socioeconomic hardships. This coming from a supposed economist!

Exonerating himself from any failure, Mugabe blamed capricious weather conditions and sanctions for the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. He tried to portray Zimbabwe as a victim of external aggression.

On a lighter note, he said his doctors had told him his health was good, to the extent that his bones were like those of "a 28-year-old boy".

He said he usually goes for checks twice a year and encouraged citizens to follow suit without saying what he is doing about the collapsing health care system.

Mugabe also spoke about soccer, slamming the Zimbabwe Football Association for failure, and what he had bought his wife, Grace, for Valentine's Day.

Now to return a verdict on Mugabe's interview: it provided the clearest sign yet that he is rapidly losing his grip on reality. His detachment from events on the ground and the situation around him shocked many.

Mugabe appeared off message and handcuffed to the past, thus confirming he is beyond his sell-by date as a leader.

His analysis of the current political and economic crisis was based on a flawed premise, and was, in the end, neither interesting nor convincing. Due to the lack of structured analysis, Mugabe was found wanting and exposed on real issues, especially to do with the economy. He struggled to articulate fundamental political, policy and institutional issues underlying the prevailing crisis.

Eventually, Mugabe - assisted by a rather apologetic interviewer - just turned the show into a platform for a blame game now typical of his regime's head-in-the-sand politics.

While denying he was an autocrat, Mugabe managed to prove he was not only a political dictator but also an intellectual one as well by refusing to listen to other people's ideas.

Describing others as intellectual slaves, he also failed to realise that, in fact, he himself is a prisoner of shibboleths of the past. This is made worse by his tendency to reason by conclusion on issues.

However, Mugabe's interview provided interesting insights into his make-believe world. It showed he is rigidly opposed to reform. It also indicated what he thinks about African leaders, including Mbeki: that they are not revolutionaries, but cowards.

The interview also exposed his threadbare grasp of modern economics and his struggle to get to grips with global dynamics. It helped to confirm the wholesale abdication of reason and a complete breakdown of common sense in government.

Mugabe avoided certain telling issues, including the fact that currently state institutions and government departments - a vast swathe of the bureaucracy - have collapsed due to leadership and policy failures. This explains why the functions of a number of ministries are now performed by the central bank which has assumed a quasi-fiscal instead of a monetary policy role.

Mugabe could also not explain why government has lost capacity for effective policy formulation and implementation, something at the heart of the current system's virtual collapse.

Apart from endorsing the current local government system, Mugabe did not say why government is failing to deliver even basic services - water, electricity, education, roads, transport and health care - the sort of things that make any political administration legitimate.

In the end, the interview was a yarn-spinning endeavour that only helped to confirm Mugabe is now a past master of politics and man of the past.

Copyright © 2006 Zimbabwe Independent. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.