Zimbabwe: Mugabe Should Have Exited Long Time Ago

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe with wife, Grace Mugabe (file photo).
27 November 2017

In 2008, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was actually beaten at the polls by the Opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC. He had been in power by then for 28 years - from1980 - after the liberation of Zimbabwe from the White colonialists led by Ian Smith, who in 1965, had issued a universal declaration of independence (UDI) of Southern Rhodesia.

A racist to the core, Smith declared that Africans were not ready to rule themselves "not now, not in my lifetime, not in 100 years, and not in 1,000 years". It happened much sooner than he thought and he had the displeasure of living out the rest of his life under Mugabe, a man he had jailed for 10 years.

Smith was not entirely wrong and probably in his grave down under, he must be chuckling with laughter saying, "I told you so". Mugabe in his 37 years rule, turned Zimbabwe from the "bread basket of Africa" to a country of mass deprivation, a country without a functioning currency and a country whose supermarkets had empty shelves, with nothing to sell. But Mugabe, his despicable wife, Grace "Gucci" Mugabe, and other cronies lived a life of luxury unmatched even by some of the wealthiest in countries like the United States. They jetted out for treatment abroad, 'dodging' the local hospitals, which had really nothing to offer even to ordinary Zimbabweans.

Grace was a regular shopper in Paris, Bangkok, New York, Geneva, Hong Kong, etc, dolling out millions of dollars for vanity's sake. She is a shopaholic who couldn't resist an expensive item, be it clothing, jewelry or even top of the range cars, which were 'garage-bound' for most of the time. That the masses of Zimbabwe had no traditional maize meal (similar to our ugali) was of no concern to the former 'typist'- turned First Lady. She probably wondered why they did not eat cake!

Forty one years younger than her 93 year old husband, she took full advantage of his near senility to make him dance to her tune and blunder into such decisions like firing his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa a few weeks ago, to bring her at the top of the succession queue. This was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

In 2008 when Morgan Tsvangirai was cheated in elections, it was ZANU/PF party, Zimbabwean Defence Forces and Zanu/ PF war veterans that made it abundantly clear that Mugabe was going nowhere since "this was their thing". After Mugabe fired his vice president, it was the same troika that now turned against Mugabe and demanded he goes voluntarily or he is impeached because he had touched one of their own, Mnangagwa , the 'çrocodile', who had reigned terror on ZANU's opponents, including the Ndebele of Joshua Nkomo, the grandfather of the struggle for independence of Zimbabwe.

For almost 40 years, he had served Mugabe faithfully, but had also acquired friends in the army, the party and among the powerful war veterans. They were not going to stand by while an upstart like 'Gucci Grace' succeeded Mugabe as president, with the help of the youth wing of ZANU/PF. Incidentally, the youth have capitulated and apologised for their youthful misadventure. Minus the Mugabes, the status quo still remains almost intact. As Makerere don Prof Ndebesa Mambutsya put it, it is "Mugabeism without Mugabe".

But these guys are no angels. They are part and parcel of the same "mafia" that has run down Zimbabwe for 37 years and many are beneficiaries of the formerly White-owned farms, which they have run down to the ground. Imagine a mere 4,000 White farmers made the country a bread basket and tens of thousands of 'veterans -cum- farmers' have ruined it all.

Mnangagwa and comrades had better surprise the people of Zimbabwe by changing course and creating an all inclusive political and economic government. The departure of Mugabe should put an end to the ZANU/PF monopoly of power and wealth. Unfortunately, the worst enemy of the wananchi in Zimbabwe, as indeed in nearly all African countries, are the post-independence leaders and their greed.

The problem with African leaders is not knowing when to leave power. Mugabe should have left two decades ago when he failed to resuscitate the economy and when the so-called 'liberation ideology' was not creating jobs and putting food on the table for the majority of Zimbabweans.

The confiscation of White farms and their distribution to veterans who knew nothing about farming, was plain stupid.

How will Mugabe be remembered? A clever man (no doubt about that), who never put his intelligence to better use and a despot, who for long outlived his usefulness. It is a tragedy because he could have done better. One wonders why so many brilliant liberators almost always turn out to be bad political and economic leaders!

Mr Naggaga is an economist, administrator and retired ambassador

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