COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Mugabe must be stopped
And yet with his shameless “There is no vacancy in the Presidium” harangue at the Zanu PF congress at the weekend, this is what 82-year old Robert Mugabe is telling his party and the people of Zimbabwe.
He is clearly saying that Zimbabweans do not have the right to choose a new leader until he gives the idea his blessing. How long it will take is of no consequence to a man who has already been at the helm for 26 years.
Mugabe’s belligerent performance during his party’s conference in Goromonzi last weekend is a clear sign that he is prepared for Zimbabweans to wait until Doomsday to elect a leader of their choice to steer the country back into safe waters from the abyss where the Zanu PF regime has dragged it.
Mugabe’s theatrics at the congress show he is oblivious to the fact that there are no permanent posts in a democracy where the people have the right to throw out elected officials who no longer enjoy their support. This means that contrary to his attempt to re-write the script, there is always a vacancy at State House whether the incumbent likes it or not.
Mugabe’s tirade against Western nations that he accuses of plotting to effect regime change to remove “VaMugabe” as he calls himself is a clear sign of his paranoia and imperviousness to the suffering of the masses , for which he is to blame.
The irony is that Mugabe knows exactly what the people of Zimbabwe think of him and their desire to see him go but resorts to semantic trickery to impose his own decrees. Note how he told delegates in Goromonzi : “It is important for the West to realise that Zimbabweans are not ready to dump the government. They appreciate that the socio-economic problems currently faced by the country are a result of economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.”
This is vintage Mugabe resorting to the Nazi tactic of portraying the opposite of the reality on the ground and blaming scapegoats. The Zimbabwean leader knows fully well that the people would have dumped his government a long time ago if he had had not resorted to repressive measures to buttress his hold on power.
He also knows that rather than the West, the people most anxious to see regime change are Zimbabweans themselves but his regime has consistently thwarted their aspirations by rigging elections and silencing dissenting voices through repressive laws and persecution of critics and opponents.
Latest developments show however, that it is not only non- members of the ruling party who are bearing the brunt of Mugabe’s dictatorship as his machinations with regard to the succession issue have shown. He has used divide and rule tactics to keep the factions that have emerged within Zanu PF at loggerheads so that he can use the resulting confusion as an excuse to cling to power.
Mugabe now makes a point of stressing that he does not want to step down when his party is in disarray and yet he is the one who has fomented the chaos by not grooming a successor all these years. The on-going behind-the-scenes bickering within Zanu PF is a self-fulfilling prophecy Mugabe is prepared to exploit fully to justify his reluctance to make way for someone to take over from him.
Mugabe regularly tells the West that it has no right to effect regime change in Zimbabwe but his conduct at the Goromonzi congress of his party shows he does not want anyone under the sun to talk about his departure from office. He has bulldozed Zanu PF provinces to parrot his decree for the postponement of presidential elections from 2008 to 2010 as though it were a spontaneous idea from the grassroots. But it an open secret that he does not want ordinary Zimbabweans to have a say in the matter through free and fair elections. The only voice he is prepared to listen to on this all- important national matter is his own.
Mugabe openly uses his immense manipulative skills to whip his supporters into line and then seeks to portray the false impression that all the ridiculous decisions made by Zanu PF organs are spontaneous. But the stifled rumblings reported to have characterized the Goromonzi gathering indicate that even the most gullible members of his own party may finally be realizing what a liability he has become.
The frenzied ululation that greeted a resolution proposed by Oppah Muchinguri at the congress which ended on Sunday, urging Mugabe to continue wielding power both as party president and head of state must have sent daggers into the hearts of millions of suffering Zimbabweans. After enduring almost a decade of untold economic hardships they regard Mugabe’s stepping down as the only hope for a solution to the political and economic crisis.
Ordinary Zimbabweans who have been impoverished by the self-serving policies of the regime cannot believe that the delegates at the ruling party’s conference who applauded and voted for Mugabe’s tyranny to continue indefinitely live in the same country as they do . The wording of Muchinguri’s groveling resolution is particularly jarring. It says, “President, please, we want you to continue with the presidency because that is how we can have security.” One wonders whether Muchinguri ever stopped to ask what security there is to talk about in a country where inflation is above 1000 percent, the rate of unemployment is 80 percent and the majority of the country’s citizens live below the poverty datum line?
It is clear that
when those in Zanu PF talk of security they are referring to the safety
net provided by the party’s elaborate patronage system. Most of
those who hold positions in government and parastatals at the pleasure
of the octogenarian president know that their sinecures would be threatened
if the old man goes. They are therefore willing to parrot any position
crafted by their benefactor to prolong his incumbency. Moreover, Mugabe
makes sure they know the consequences of crossing his path . He has
shown himself to have a full bag of tricks to ensure that party cadres
know exactly what is expected of them., and woe unto those who do not
toe the line.
It takes unbridled dictatorship for someone heading a political party torn apart by divisions caused by his unwillingness to pass on the baton to make that sort of claim.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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