I HAVE learnt that in Zimbabwe it is either you say what you believe and know to be logical and truthful, or you go with the wind for fear of upsetting those who have incorrigible political and partisan positions. I am starting to understand why we have taken so long to achieve a truly democratic state. It is because we stand in the way of the political achievements that we would have accrued.
I am reading a lot of disjointed remarks about why we shouldn’t critique or oppose Mugabe’s re-entry into national politics via his new political party, NFP. Some even say that it is his right to try one more time to retain the power he enjoyed and terrifyingly abused uninterrupted for 37 years.
I personally find this reasoning faulty and illogical. This misplaced reasoning is premised on the tenets of “democracy”, a preposition that Mugabe personally said that he found problems with. Democracy is a foreign concept imported into Africa and, if practiced accordingly, it is a good way of governing one’s territory. However, democracy does not work in isolation of common sense and logic.
If Mugabe were German, he would have been in jail as we speak now and not busy forming political parties. Alternatively, he would have been like Adolf Hitler, committed suicide for not wanting to face up to his shameful past. But then Mugabe has no shame and has never been burdened with the concept of shame or guilty.
He did not do any of the above because he knew that he had removed the concept and framework of democracy and accountability, so there was no need to worry about being accountable for his actions.
He was given assurances that he would be allowed to retain his looted wealth and stay at his multi-million-dollar mansion in Borrowdale because, historically, he had been one of them, the new government. They saw no value in embarrassing him, the country to a large extent felt the same way too, except for those who suffered directly from his ordered atrocities.
Now I find the application of democracy as we are being asked to do and avail to Mugabe problematic. I think it is ridiculous for anyone to feel obliged to allow Mugabe back into domestic politics after what he did to Zimbabwe in the past 37 years!
I personally find it objectionable and I resolutely argue that there is nothing democratic about allowing a man who ordered massacres across the country, killed thousands of people through hunger, starvation and the lack of access to a decent health delivery service. A man who is responsible for making 95 percent of Zimbabwe’s work force redundant. A fake revolutionary who preached about one man one farm and yet he has 21 farms.
NO! Mugabe does not deserve another chance whether real or imagined or through his crooked proxies like Jonathan Moyo. If the democracy that we have been fighting for also requires us to allow Mugabe to reinstall his dynastic agenda, then it is a preposition I will not be part of.
Some have constantly asked, “…what about those he worked with who are still running the country?” You see, Zimbabweans we need to be practical and political and not apply misplaced theoretical pleasantries about democracy. Robert Mugabe was fully in charge of his dictatorship; nobody challenged Mugabe and nobody who did so survived inside his regime. Some like Solomon Mujuru were even killed.
So, we must be pragmatic and understand that only those who were close to him could have removed him from power and they could only have done so using the threat of force as they did.
Even with tanks on the streets he still was resisting. How could you and I have removed him when he was not moved by the sight of guns and thousands of people in the streets?
The only thing that forced Mugabe to go was the thought of losing his pension and related monetary benefits and exposure to prosecution. So, the idea that the army shouldn’t have mobilized is equal to saying that Mugabe should have stayed President and be allowed to install his wife, because “democracy” and the constitution did not allow the army to be on the streets without Mugabe’s instruction as the Commander in Chief.
The terrible things that Mugabe ordered done as the Commander in Chief justify how he was removed. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Constantino Chiwenga served under Mugabe and took orders from him. None of them would have gone on a frolic and detour of their own without Mugabe’s orders, approval and his signature.
It is important to understand history, from General Franco’s Spanish dictatorship, António de Oliveira Salazar’s Portuguese dictatorship to Hitler’s pathological rule. These men couldn’t have been removed by a pen and ballot paper. They all pretended to be there to serve their people, delivering the same rhetoric as Robert Mugabe did, but they had to be forced out by circumstances that were appropriate at the time.
Once a leader starts behaving like Robert Mugabe did, they forfeit all constitutional rights because they will be denying the same rights to their citizens. In countries that have defined what democracy is today, Mugabe would have been thrown into prison and never allowed again to run for any public office including being a village head! This is not my opinion, I am bending down to history for lessons from the past in today’s democracies like Germany, Spain and Portugal.
I also find it weird that today some compatriots, myself included, are rightly pushing Emmerson Mnangagwa to remove repressive laws like POSA and AIPPA, yet in the same breath some are defending the rights of rogue architects of these repressive laws like Jonathan Moyo to be allowed to come back and have a chance to wrest power away from the present government. For what purpose? So that they can now show us their new “democratic” credentials?
Jonathan Moyo was thrown out of the system and ZANU PF in 2005 and he pretended to have joined the people’s symphony for freedom and yet the minute he was back in Mugabe’s party and cabinet, he was back to his usual self, defending and strengthening Mugabe’s dictatorship! How does any sane compatriot think that the same person should be democratically allowed to run for office again?!
The current Zimbabwean government reminds me of General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s Government which took over after General Sani Abacha’s death. Abdulsalami Abubakar was Sani Abacha’s right-hand man and yet he delivered Nigeria from being a dictatorship to a strong democracy that it is today.
It was during Abubakar’s leadership that Nigeria adopted a modified version of the 1979 constitution, which provided for multiparty elections. Nigerians were political and logical enough to understand that democracy was not applied out of context, but that they had to allow the littler gains after Sani Abacha to be the seed of a better political future.
The idea that we need Mugabe and his G40 political party to become democratic is comical and shows why we will remain in the political sewer that Mugabe threw us in and not attempt to get out of a bad place by allowing our incremental gains to stay on course. I am not an apologist of the current government and neither am I its cheerleader as some say through their partisan lenses. I just happen to be political enough to understand reality from political fiction.
Many of our political analysts and public intellectuals are deceitful because over end above writing their critiques, they forget to tell their readers that they have always been invested politically in ZANU PF factions and had preferred successors within Mugabe’s party. They also forget to tell the reader that they were and are still active political players who write to influence certain partisan political outcomes not necessarily for the betterment of the ordinary citizen but for their own march towards political office.
I am not such a political creature, all I want is to see a better Zimbabwe which allows me the prospect of a better life if I work towards one. I don’t intend to achieve such a life by running for public office. The silent majority also want the same prospects as I do. You will not hear me use derogatory words like Junta or military government because I don’t see the benefit and value of doing so in pursuing my goals as an ordinary citizen.
I am not a pen for hire or a journalist who will write things he doesn’t believe in for the sake of mob psychology. I refused to be used for partisan interests or narrow political objectives. All I demand from Mnangagwa’s administration is a free and fair election where every citizen can exercise their right to choose a government they think is fit to run the affairs of this beautiful but traumatized country.
We will have an opportunity to decide whether he should stay or not. The same way that the British had an opportunity to choose whether John Major stayed or not after his party toppled Margret Thatcher. I don’t see insults against Mnangagwa and Chiwenga as the logical pathway to such a future. Those who want to run for political office can use such partisan language because they have chosen to be political adversaries of the present government and allied opposition parties.
I chose to be pragmatic, the same pragmatism that saw Tendai Biti, Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube and Nelson Chamisa working in the GNU with Emmerson Mnangagwa and Kembo Mohadi. Unlike these gentlemen, don’t expect me to be drunk with power to the extent of forgetting why I am being pragmatic.
I am just a journalist and filmmaker who wants an environment conducive for my craft to thrive. I don’t see Robert Mugabe as the person to provide such a platform. Neither do I consider political insults against the present government as the right way of a achieving such a reality.
So, let us respect each other’s considered strategies and not get angry because I have chosen not to follow yours. I will be responsible for my own successes and failures whichever outcome my strategy provides. I will criticize Mnangagwa when I have to, as I have done in the past and hold him accountable for his commissions and omissions as the new Commander in Chief. I will also praise him when he does well for the country.
There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. The only exception to that rule is Robert Mugabe. He has ruled over us long enough to know that he has NO intention of changing his way of life. He ruled us for four decades blocking generations of leaders in his own party from succeeding him and today he gives us lectures on generational change?!
If he wants his constitutional rights respected and retained he should also know that such an obligation requires the constitutional rights of those he harmed equally respected and retained by seeing him account for his actions.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow. His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @daddyhope