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What went wrong with Robert Mugabe

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O Zimbabwe Zimbabwe…….our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. The Chimurenga ( Shona word for “struggle”) that Robert Mugabe has unleashed on the people of Zimbabwe had had a heavier toll on the country than anything Zimbabwe has seen in the past. Not even Ian Smith could have wrecked Zimbabwe the way Robert Mugabe has, plundering the treasury and running a country into the ground. All that is left is the rubble of the first revolution.


It was heady times in 1980 when Zimbabwe became a democracy. The winds of change were truly blowing across Africa when Robert Mugabe won the election and the breeze was definitely felt in South Africa where the last white government of an African country was huddled. A school mate of mine, Daniel De Leo wanted to hitchhike to Zimbabwe to watch Bob Marley play at the independence celebration in Zimbabwe. He didn’t get there but he did hitch to Swaziland to catch Peter Tosh live a few years later.

 [picapp src=”0/e/7/7/Bob_Marley_c94d.jpg?adImageId=6228669&imageId=3294310″ width=”500″ height=”339″ /]


(Above:  Bob Marley, the king of reggae who performed at Zimbabwe’s  independance celebrations)

Robert Mugabe seemed to be reasonable man in the early days. I mean any president who hung out with Bob Marley must be pretty cool. Could you imagine BJ Voster or PW Botha chilling with Bob in Tuinhuys? There was no backlash or revenge towards his former enemies and Zimbabwe became a success story. The Zimbabwe dollar was worth more than the rand at one stage and the country became known as the breadbasket of Africa.


So what went wrong then and why did Robert Mugabe descend upon this path of madness and genocide against his own people? He was well respected and well received around the world. Yet the signs were there in the early 1980’s but the world chose to ignore the Matebele Massacres.


From 1982 until 1985, Mugabe used his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade to crush any resistance in Matabeleland. It has been estimated that 20 000 Matabele were murdered and buried in mass graves which they were forced to dig themselves and thousands of others were allegedly tortured.


The violence ended after ZANU and ZAPU reached a unity agreement in 1988 that merged the two parties, creating ZANU-PF leaving Mugabe in a position of unquestioned power.


2000 was a watershed year for Zimbabwe. It was 20 years down the line for an independent Zimbabwe and it was time to reflect and have a look at what had been achieved during that period of post colonialism.


And then the madness started. White owned farms were repossessed and occupied by so called war veterans. The economy went into tailspin and the currency collapsed. All Mugabe would do is rant and rave that he was not scared of the Bush and Blair show and that he would still be ruling when they long gone. On that point he was certain. Mugabe has ruled for 28 years now, the longest standing president in the world. He has been in power since Jimmy Carter was president of America and speaks of Big Bush and Little Bush when referring to the US presidents.


Nobody quiet knows how many Zimbabwe refugees there are in South Africa, let alone the rest of the world. They have fled poverty, starvation, police brutality and disease as the world once again stands by and watch a country disintegrate.



The situation in Zimbabwe was foretold about 50 years ago by Frantz Fanon, whose theories about the consequences after colonialism have proved remarkably prophetic.


Fanon wrote the Wretched of the Earth in 1961, and saw what independence and nationalism was doing to post colonial Africa.


Fanon argued that the future will have no pity for those who, “possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and of cold complicity”.


The kind of person needed in was those able to deal with its problems of grinding poverty, greed and corruption, rampant unemployment, poor nutrition, destructive sexual abuse, and so many others.


Yet many African leaders did not live up to this ideal, with Mugabe joining leaders like Idi Amin who brutalized Uganda in the 1970’s right up to the modern day war zones of Dafur, the Congo and Somalia.


Leadership failure leads to rulers and ruling parties oppressing their people. Fanon highlighted leadership failure, ranging from the activities of ruling parties to those of the heads of states. Because of their failures and lack of accountability, ruling parties and heads of states threaten the people.


Mugabe uses the police to threaten the people of Zimbabwe and has stolen an election in March 2008. His paranoid attitude towards the rest of the world and the MDC could be due to the fact that he knows that he failed to address to issues that have crippled Zimbabwe.


The army and the police constitute the pillars of the regime. The strength of the police force and the power of the army are proportionate to the decline in which the rest of the nation is sunk.


Instead of welcoming expressions of popular discontent, instead of taking the free flows of ideas from the people to the government as its fundamental purpose, the ruling party forms a screen and forbids such ideas.


When the masses raise their voice after realizing that they have made sacrifice for change and nothing has changed; the torture machine of the dysfunctional state is mobilized against them.


There are serious lessons that South Africa also needs to learn from Fanon’s words. Thabo Mbeki was removed from the position of State president by the ANC, who accused him of stifling debate within the ANC and ruling autocratically


In his book the Wretched, Fanon says: “Before independence the leader generally embodies the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty and national dignity”. Yet soon after independence is declared the leader reveals his inner purpose, that is, to become the general president of the company of profiteers impatient for their returns who then become the new elite.”


What would happen if Mugabe was removed overnight, due to an international regime change, he died or if he were to the toppled in a palace coup?


The ruling classes, whose members supports the leader and are essentially preoccupied with the pleasures of everyday life paid for by the government, would be left in a quandary.


They would not know what to do after their leader is gone. The leader has considered himself as the father of the nation. He is unchallenged and if an attempt is made to challenge him, those involved are kidnapped or accused of treason.


Should Mugabe die or be pushed out of office, a power struggle would take place within Zanu. Whether another election would be free and fair is debatable as many within ZANU will be worried about charges being brought against them for crimes against humanity.


An international invasion of Zimbabwe has many risks and we not talking about the Zimbabwe Defence Force. The invasion of Iraq was the easy part for the Americans and so would an invasion of Zimbabwe.


There would be an occupation while elections are being put together. Strange things happen to a country when an invading force is running the show. The occupiers may decide they have a favourite and may not even want to leave.


Zimbabwe does not need to suffer more. Mugabe likes to see himself as the father of the nation. Take that respect away from him. He must be shunned and humiliated until he is gone. The military option must also be put on the table.


And as Bob Marley sang 28 years ago to the people of Zimbabwe…”Get Up…..Stand Up…..Stand up for your Rights……”


One Response

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  1. we will learn nothing hear and nothing will be solcved till white farmers and the rest acknowledge that the seed of zimbabwes problem today did not start with mugabe.
    until the excolonial masters acknowledge that the effect of colonialism on africans like zimbabwe can not be erased in their life time. All africans can not be like mandela and bask in the glory of forgiving their opressors
    Do not use Franz Fanon who was so against the colonialist to justify your arguments against mugabe.
    The day when the excolonialist are able to say sorry to the africans for the injustice they suffer today in their own countries because of colonialism and the british empire. Then maybe we will see less of the sort of rule that mugabe displays.


    March 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm

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