How to rule for life: tips from Zimbabwe

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I MUST say from the onset that these tips have stood the test of time. They work. Someone has used them for the past thirty six years and they have never disappointed. But if you come from countries such as South Africa or Botswana or the EU bloc you may wonder (justifiably so) how on earth anyone could wish to rule for life. Well, it’s called the post-colony, a country in Southern Africa called Zimbabwe, where nothing is impossible.
Tip number one: All you need is to get in, sneak in through the backdoor, smash the window or anything. What matters is getting in. Once you are in- oh- you may as well slaughter and throw a party. Call it 1980-the independence celebrations. The mood is good, beer is plenty, Ian Smith is gone and the dissidents are dead. Oh what a time for a celebration! The songs are filled with optimism. Father rule Zimbabwe. People are united. People are one. You even think of making it a one party state. Yes you can! Everyone is right under your spell. In your speeches, you keep saying the people come first but you know for certain that you are the people- you come first.
Some people think this is burdensome. It is not. It’s not like you walk around with a whole country on your back. This idea of ruling for life has its perks, you know: Your wife (forty years younger than you) can go shopping anywhere in the world. No hustles. Your children can study anywhere in the world. Not even the sky can limit them. You fly to Singapore every month for check-ups. You live long-92 to be exact.
Some people miss the point. They want to over-think this thing. Just rule for life. Forget about those vendors littering the streets or those villagers eating berries for supper in Mberengwa. For God’s sake, this is Africa, you won’t end poverty. Nkrumah failed. Nyerere failed. Even Jesus Christ said the poor will always be among you, so why try to end poverty?
Like I said, this philosophy has its own perks.  The good thing is that you don’t have to carry any burdens. Everything begins and ends with you-the Alpha and Omega. No stress. All you do is dress well, practice how to make killer speeches. Make your colleague look useless. You are the man. Dine at state house (with a harem of waiters and waitresses), sleep in parliament (if the proceedings take too long) and order your colleagues to pass one or two draconian laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, just in case some stupid critizen wants to find out where your wife shops or where your children study-things like that.Advertisement

This idea of ruling for life will certainly not make sense if you are a guy like David Cameroon or Barak Obama-those two fellows who think that power is like a cup of seven-day brew that you share with village idiots. No. We don’t have the word “resign” in our dictionaries. Resign for what? Resign for whom? Just because Britons want out of the EU! Really! The British can be crazy sometimes. The other day their soccer team coach resigned. Reason?  His team had crushed out of Euro 2016. Really! In Zimbabwe we don’t resign for things like that. One can kill 20 000 today, tomorrow he will still wake up as president. No shame. We don’t do this British thing of resigning over small matters. We don’t do this thing of setting unrealistic targets. Why set targets in the first place?
Tip number two. You simply talk: Our country will have the fastest growing economy by 2040. Make sure you put the date far away. No one will remember it. With the poor health system in the country, some will be dead by then. You don’t have to worry about making real policies. You just conjure up something like Vision 2020, Zimasset or even Zimprest if you want. The trick is to make sure the acronym sounds progressive. That’s all.
People have short memories you know-especially Zimbabweans. You can beat them in this election, abduct their brothers and sisters in the next one or even throw away the ballot boxes. They will still march and sing in solidarity with you. Reader, I know you have forgotten this (but that’s the point anyway): there was a time when we were told that by 2020 our country would have a hospital in every suburb, a clinic in every village. Well no one knows what happened to that vision. The truth is that, as I speak (I mean as I write), our hospitals have become mortuaries. You only go there if you want to be preserved before burial.
In our country, to rule is to literally sit on everyone and drive them like a slave master. Kutonga- to judge by divine inspiration like the Old Testament judges. That’s our idea of ruling; a judge judges.
You prohibit this, you restrict that, you ban that- that’s our idea of ruling.
When you rule like this- you are guaranteed. You rule for life. You don’t have to panic. If a few people think they are fed up with your rule and make noise in the streets, you simply charge them with “inciting violence and disturbing peace” and lock them up. Isn’t that what they want-the rule of law. If a pastor decides to take Elijah seriously and starts to pray for you to fall, you simply declare (you can do that at a funeral if you so wish), “he is not part of us”. And the next day, the pastor will be packing his bags and scurrying for his life across the Limpopo.  
When you run a country like this, I can assure you, you will rule into the grave. You don’t have to be hands-on like an Afrikaner. No. You can rule directly from your bedroom like a Tsar. With your wife caressing your ego, telling you God chose you to rule for life, you are irreplaceable. Whatever you say goes. One day, you may wake up feeling insecure about your own vice-president. You don’t need to stress or consult anyone about that. You simply conjure up something to smear her reputation. She is practicing sorcery, you can say, and dismiss her with immediate effect. No explanation is needed. You simply say she has become a witch. She wants to kill me. She has departed from the principles of the party. It’s done. She is out. She may make some noises for a few weeks, but she will be wasting her time. You have both hands on the national broadcaster. Who will hear that nonsense?
This is our idea of running a country.
We have lived like this since 1980. Those, like Joshua Nkomo (may his soul rest in peace), who, at some point, tried to dispute this noble idea, found themselves on the other side of history with a tag prefixing their names- Dissidents. To be named a dissident is to be marked in red the way our dear Tsvangirai was marked puppet. No one will sympathize with a dissident let alone a puppet. A dissident is like someone who shits in the kitchen where everyone is sitting and waiting for supper. Now who wants such a person?
The only way to deal with dissidents is to gas them to death or gamatox them. Or, if you don’t like the bad publicity that comes with mass killings, you simply make them sign some papers. You call that an agreement- Unity Accord- if you want. Make them junior partners in your government, with useless portfolios such as Second Vice President. These people also want to rule, so you should make them feel important. Take them away from their underdeveloped provinces, let them stay in Harare (in a hotel if possible)-far from the madding crowd. Sooner than later, they will forget that they were once dissidents. They will stay in the hotel for months on end and insist that they won’t leave until their security is guaranteed. Who doesn’t like nice things?
Well, let’s leave this circus for now. More tips. One thing you must do if you want to rule for life is win one decisive election-1980 elections for argument’s sake. That is your entry ticket. Remember, all you need is to get in. This may seem difficult but it is not, especially if you belong to the majority ethnic group. Play the tribal card. As we all know, no one wants to vote for Ndebeles. They are only 20% of the population. Are they even Zimbabweans anyway?
So, you go to your people and you tell them to vote for you, one of their own, not “these people” who used to abduct our women and raid our cattle in the 19th century. If the other ethnic group tries to make some noises, you posture as a father figure who wants to take the country forward, who wants DEVELOPMENT. You tell them: we have just come out of a bloody war. What is important is developing the country not fighting and causing confusion. If they insist, you tell the whole country that these dissidents want to plunge the country back into war. In any case, you have both hands on the national broadcaster. Who will know what the dissidents think or what they stand for, if they stand for anything at all? They can as well shout all they want in the Matopo Hills or in Nkayi. The decisions that really matter are made in Harare. Anything else is a waste of breath.
The people are obviously tired of war. They want peace and development. So you ride on this wave of “peace and development”. You may even want to rebrand your party logo with a crowing cock (announcing a new day) and a hoe to suggest your aspiration for development- tilling the land, production. You may as well put, in the background, something like the Zimbabwe ruins (I mean Great Zimbabwe) just to show how rooted you are in your history.
When all is done and dusted or buried, I can assure you- you are good to go, as they say.
With the troublesome dissidents dead, and their leader enjoying his new glamourous position as Second Vice President, your future is looking even brighter. The whole country believes you brought freedom (as if it were a Christmas present!) and everyone believes you are a principled man. Always in a suit; you don’t drink; you don’t smoke; you don’t dance. You are a man of focus. But if push comes to shove, they also know, you don’t hesitate to kill. History is there for everyone to remember: 20 000 dead.
But you also ‘believe’ in unity. You brought the dissidents into line. You are a father figure. If you want, you may start producing files or documentaries on your one and only national broadcaster. You tell the whole country that so and so (who has formed an opposition party) was such a coward during the war. You recall and recount all the small details about how he used to piss in his pants each time he heard the sound of the Rhodesian choppers. The trick is REPETITION. If you tell a lie often and for long enough they will believe it. So you do this over and over again; day in and day out. Each time a citizen switches on the TV, they must see YOU, their leader, making a passionate speech about how bad white people are and how they wanted to recolonize the country.
Make sure you use plurals all the time. Our country this, our sovereignty this, our freedom that. The people must feel included, involved. If you decide not to give a speech you may decide to educate citizens politically by screening your annual congresses live on TV from daybreak till sunset for a whole week. They must see their leaders- pushing their bellies and singing their leader’s praises. They must know where they come from, how you brought them independence.
Let them know the way of the organization “gwara remusangano”, which is obviously a euphemism for your desire to rule for life. Keep your ministers busy – praising you, defending you, making themselves fools on your behalf, like that Minister of Finance who flew all the way to Europe to make himself a fool on BBC’s Hardtalk program, trying to ride a lion as they say. Let them forget their own ambitions. Be their god; let them worship you to the point where they are not ashamed to confess publicly that their President is like Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Play them one against the other, the Indian way. You tell this Minister, you are my right hand man, watch these blokes. You go to the next minister, you tell him, if you keep a level head you will lead this country one day. Keep them on tenterhooks- peering over your shoulder- expecting you to collapse or die or say you are tired. But you know this is a wild dream. You won’t collapse and let alone die. You get the best treatment that keeps your bones as strong as those of a 25 year old. You also won’t appoint anyone to succeed you. You are president for life.
The next thing you need to do (and this is very important) is to put the whole army in your back-pocket. I mean in a very literal sense. This is not a difficult task at all. All you have to do is approach your army generals one by one. Make promises to them about the future they want – I mean the future you want. Most of these generals are not educated enough anyway. Everything is on your side. They don’t really understand how these things work. Tell them you want to secure their future, their jobs, their families. Take the dullest and most vulnerable put them in the most influential positions. Make them realize that they owe those positions to you. If it were not for your generosity, they would be roasting maputi (to borrow Her Excellency, the First Lady’s phrase) somewhere in Binga or Uzumba. A modern country does not need illiterate brigadiers- you tell them. I am only doing you a favor. You know we come a long way together. Now, the whole army is directly in your back-pocket. The army commander reports directly to you. You are the Commander in Chief anyway, the head of state and government.
After the army, you go to the police. With the police, you don’t have to be all that strict. You can allow them a bit of education- at least O’level to begin with. They can even get degrees if they please. The trick is to militarize them. Take out the civilian mind. Turn them into automatons. One two one two, MARCH! One two one two MARCH! Make it a force- which means there is no room for questioning. They take orders from their superiors and execute them- just like that. If you say to them go and beat they go and do just that. If you say to them go and kill they go and kill. Nothing else! It’s a force, not a correctional service. Make sure their commissioner general is scared of you: after all he remembers how you threw him into a dungeon in Mozambique when he tried to oppose your ascendancy.
Finally and most importantly, you will need intelligence. These are your eyes and ear-your hunting dogs, if you want to put it crudely. They have to be everywhere all the time. They must know what the people think. They must know what the opposition leader thinks and plans to do. They must know what messages renegade pastors preach in their churches. Scatter them everywhere- in beer-halls, in taxis, in schools and colleges. Every important occasion must be manned by these people- funerals, birthday parties, church gatherings, prize giving days. And every day, as you sit in the state house, having your breakfast or lunch or supper, you read through these reports-about how a Chief in Manicaland defected to the opposition, about how a drunkard said you were a donkey in a pub and was immediately arrested. Very nice stories- you can even afford a smile.
Someone may ask: but what do you do with the rest of the population? Do you really think you are safe with the police and the army and the intelligence in your back-pocket?  Oh boy… that is as easy as eating cheese. The catchword is Education. Everyone must go to school. Free primary education for all. You advertise on television. You talk about it at your political rallies, at funerals, at the Heroes Acre-everywhere. Education is the key. You sing songs about it: “Let’s go to school. If you don’t go to school you will die like that, uneducated- with scruffy hair.” Education! Education! Education! Make it a national slogan.
But here is the secret: It’s easy to rule educated people. They can argue, question, criticize and demonstrate. But they will never take up a gun and shoot. No. They are too smart for that. If they see that peaceful means have failed, they simply pack their bags and cross the Limpopo or fly to London (if they can afford the ticket). They can write nasty stories about you. They can even start some pressure groups.  But they will never risk their lives. And, as we all know, no pain no gain. So they will keep making noise on the internet while you are sitting in State House or sightseeing in Dubai.
In short… this is how you rule for life. If you don’t believe me, ask that guy who rules Cameroon from Switzerland (or is it from France).