WHILE Libya’s National Transitional Council may have achieved its broader objective through the toppling and subsequent killing of Muammar Gaddafi, it however remains clear that the real crunch time lies ahead and other democratic movements which are vulnerable to being hijacked by foreign interests across Africa had better be advised to watch out for lessons and warnings.
The new era threatens to lay bare the tribal and regional rivalries, power struggles, corruption, murder and other related and equally grim setbacks that cleave the NTC.
In Zimbabwe, the killing of Robert Mugabe’s ally, Gaddafi, just like the hounding of Lauent Gbabgo in Ivory Coast and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, should surely have a sounded alarm bells in Harare.
Throughout the ‘Arab Spring’, people often asked: why can’t Robert Mugabe just let go and quit? Can’t he see what is happening to other tyrants? Why can’t Zimbabweans just rise against their leader? And yet all seem to have skirted an important question: what lessons are the people who want change in Zimbabwe picking from the Arab Spring? To this date, few are prepared to ask that question even as Libya and Egypt clearly provide the best lessons for those who care to learn.
The broader pursuit of the anti-Mugabe lobby is commonly projected as democracy or freedom from oppression. There has not been an attempt to accept that things are never as straight forward as that because the movement is itself a hotchpotch of varying interests united by the anti-Mugabe sentiment and the economic hardships.
Nobody has asked how the post-Mugabe dispensation will be managed when things return to a wholesome state with each and everybody claiming their slice of the cake for their troubles. In reality, a range of Zimbabweans don’t necessarily seek democracy per se but justice for their slain ones and for their properties seized by the state under the guise of land reform and through a selective anti-corruption drive. And yet others are simply opportunistic fortune seekers.
There is a danger that if these glaring realities are not acknowledged and accommodated, the post-Mugabe dispensation may usher in yet another cycle of madness and possibly blood spilling of Kenyan proportions.
Egypt has already provided an example of what a struggle driven by false unity stands to yield once Canaan has been reached; and Libya is perhaps sure to provide the grimmest of them all. The discovery of bodies of slain pro-Gaddafi activists all shot at point blank range with their hands tied behind their backs perhaps speaks to a dark future. So does the veteran tyrant’s grotesque killing.
In Zimbabwe, there has been a tendency to want to shepherd everybody under the democratic tent and to limit the perimeters of the quest for justice with a view to erasing certain episodes. Whenever the pursuit of justice has been accommodated, it has always been within narrow latitudes. And yet Mugabe’s repression has been a process where episodes of state terrorism have led to one another, right from the start of his rule.
For example, the so-called Third Chimurenga (meaning the third and final anti-imperial struggle involving land redistribution; and compulsory devotion to Mugabe’s ideals and patriotism) is a result of what went on earlier and that is the butchering of civilians and the disappearance of many more. To cushion itself from reprisals for the earlier crimes, the Mugabe regime has consistently and persistently responded with repression.
It should be known that official rapacity in Zimbabwe didn’t start with the seizure of white farmlands but those of the PF ZAPU party in the 1980s. The same is the case with the murder of white farmers and political opponents. The pattern of repression has been clear and readable. For as long as there is an effort to delink the 1980s pogrom – the very acme of Mugabe’s brutality – and the so-called Third Chimurenga; and an effort to treat the latter as an isolated and more important episode and never as part of a process, it will be difficult to achieve a tranquil post-Mugabe dispensation.
True, the democratic movement is brought together by the thirst for change and the quest for a fully representative future, but it should be noted that the change which is sought varies with individuals, classes and regions. WikiLeaks recently proved that almost everybody ranging from senior army chiefs, intelligence bosses, ministers including trusted lieutenants like Gideon Gono and Emmerson Mnangagwa want Mugabe out but are we to believe that all these people seek democracy per se?
A task, however difficult, is both obvious and urgent: a common method must be arrived at to fuse these varying interests into a fully representative push and the ground must to be laid down now and not beyond our Gadaffi’s grave.
Diplomats often express despair at the disintegration of the opposition into varying factions and parties like MDC-M or MDC-99, MDC-T, Mavambo/Kusile, PF ZAPU and secessionist outfits like the Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF). Why, they often ask, can’t these organisations just unite under the MDC umbrella and bring about change in Zimbabwe?
The disintegration of the common front against Mugabe is not a result of craziness but a manifestation of the spirited refusal to accord the quest for justice its rightful place in the democratic tent. To that refusal, we can perhaps link the 2005 MDC chasm. It seems stability is being maintained at the expense of justice and probity. Anyone wanting to think differently faces perplexing problems ranging from labelling to unannounced sanctions or exclusion.
But as the 2005 split, and the rise of the MLF have shown, the status quo cannot go on any longer. Justice needs to be brought to the core of the movement and never left out as a by-the-way.
Nigerian poet Christopher Okigbo, in his work The Path of Thunder, said: “Now that the triumphant march has entered the last street corner, remember o dancers, the thunder amongst the clouds…”
If Zimbabweans are to avoid the fates of Libya and Egypt or even Kenya of December 2007, Zimbabweans had better pay heed.