Robert Mugabe still firmly in Zimbabwe’s driving seat

Zimbabwe is to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections next month. The elections coincide with Mugabe’s celebration of his 84th birthday.

Zimbabwe is to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections next month. The elections coincide with Mugabe’s celebration of his 84th birthday.

Robert Mugabe took power in 1980 when he became the first prime minister of Zimbabwe, the former Rhodesia. He is one of the black nationalist leaders of Marxist persuasion who established a one-party rule when he got power.

Despite his old age, Mugabe is still believed to be a strong man (physically). Journalists who have gone very close to him attest to this. And this could be probably because he does not drink alcohol.

“He still wakes up very early in the morning,” said a BBC journalist, who once had a two hour-interview with him.

The same journalist, however, complained, “He is a man who talks with a kind of tension that is automatically transmitted to you. He does not want contradictions. He is a man who believes only in what he says but not what others say.”

Zimbabwe is sarcastically referred to by the west as a country where everyone is a millionaire. This is mainly because the cheapest commodity costs not less than 1,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars. This virtually demands that even the poor walk with millions in their pockets.

Robert Mugabe, once hailed as a symbol of the new Africa, has had ruinous policies that have led his country to suffer one of the world’s highest inflation rate, that currently stands at 100,000 percent.

Mugabe rose to power after ousting Ian Douglas Smith who was Rhodesian (Zimbabwe) white prime minister. Ian Smith served as the Prime Minister of the British self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia.

His party, the Rhodesian Front, won all general elections until the end of white rule in 1979. The Smith administration aggressively fought against black nationalists in the 1971-1979 Rhodesian Bush War.

Mugabe seems to be determined, like Smith, to end his party rule when he dies. The poor politics and lack of general democracy made Zimbabwe lose UN membership. But still Mugabe remained defiant and with little room for change. He believes in himself and that is all. That is why he is ready to be isolated and live alone in his country.

He says thus in reaction to threats from the Commonwealth; “If the choice was made for us, one for us to lose our sovereignty and become a member of the Commonwealth or to remain with our sovereignty and lose membership of the Commonwealth, then I would say, let the Commonwealth go”.

This trend of defiant politics saw Zimbabwe go under a number of intensive embargos. They were effected especially when Zimbabwe displaced white farmers from their farms. White farmers were holding the Zimbabwean economy in their hands, so when their farms were appropriated by Mugabe, an economic turmoil began.

Mugabe himself has undergone strict travel embargo. He has nonetheless repeatedly violated them (travel restrictions) on a number occasions. If there is an African leader who hates the west/whites, then Mugabe’s passion is unsurpassed.

He has no kind words for the whites and has constantly uttered strong words against them: “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy! The only white man you can trust is a dead white man. The white man is not indigenous to Africa. Africa is for Africans. Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans.”

He has mainly been on the offensive against the UK and blames it for trying to start neo-colonialism in his country. He categorically told Blair to talk about his UK and let him (Mugabe) talk about his Zimbabwe. This too, earned Mugabe the nickname Mr Zimbabwe.

In the same stylistic form, he once bitterly told Blair through journalists that; “…So, Blair keep your England, and let me keep my Zimbabwe.”

Despite Zimbabwe’s undemocratic history, the country is going for elections next month and a number of analysts have asked themselves many questions.

The questions, however, remain unanswered. Does Mugabe have any room to accept defeat?

Is he going to conduct elections that allow every candidate to go on the same footing?

Is he not going to use the army and other state machinery to manipulate elections?

All these questions go unanswered and we are left with speculations. But some things are certain. Mugabe is going to be in power again.

Forget about Morgan Tsvangirai and his party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), or the former minister of finance and a member of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, the independent candidate Simba Makoni; they have all determinant factors against them.

Morgan Tsvangirai is an opposition leader who has had it rough under Mugabe. He was harassed and beaten up in public by security agents loyal to Mugabe. The scenario was ugly, shameful and humiliating. In fact photos of his swollen face were shown on televisions the world over.

Morgan has been so terrorised that it does not seem possible that he will be able to put up an aggressive campaign strong enough to positively challenge Mugabe for leadership.

Mugabe has such a strong grip on power and the state machinery, and he is not hesitant in bringing it out to unleash terror on those against his regime.

He at one time, to the dismay of many, said, “Our votes must go together with our guns. After all, any vote we shall have shall have been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer - its guarantor. The people’s votes and the people’s guns are always inseparable twins.”

With all this in his mind we do not see Mugabe releasing power today. Let elections come; the same scenarios will be evidenced. If Morgan tries to go the hard way, he will end in custody or in hospital. Then people, the media and the whole world will call him a vote rigger and dictator, until they run out of steam and keep quiet.

The no-nonsense man will again be in his seat at the end of the day. And as for the former minister of finance who is now an independent candidate, he is yet to taste the metal. He is actually the under dog and we shall not see him doing much apart from reciting rehearsed traditional political slogans.


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