HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNational Question: Mugabe — circling the wagons

National Question: Mugabe — circling the wagons


Since the Libyan Revolution gathered momentum three months ago, Libyan envoys aligned to beleaguered Muammar Gaddafi have been expelled from Western capitals which have forged relationships with the rebel grouping, the National Transitional Council (NTC).

The UK, Canada, the US, Denmark, Germany and France are among the countries that have expelled Libyan diplomats to escalate pressure for Gaddafi to leave.

At least 20 African countries have started to recognise the NTC as a legitimate successor authority to that of leader-in-hiding Gaddafi.

Those who have recognised the NTC have one strategic reason for doing so. They are investing in their future involvement with Libya.

Zimbabwe is not. It wants to build a laager around the old order.

Zimbabwe, as was expected, on Tuesday expelled Libyan ambassador Taher Elmagrahi who dumped Gaddafi last week to support the NTC.

Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi delivered the news which most of us saw coming because of President Mugabe’s camaraderie with Gaddafi.

He can’t dump Gaddafi now after punching from the Brother Leader’s corner in the forlorn hope of advancing anti-imperialism credentials.

To President Mugabe, Elmagrahi has to go because he is a traitor. He is the face of a revolution that President Mugabe sees as an attempt to recolonise the continent.

The underfire diplomat represents an order our rulers fear and have as a result created a system of government whose major preoccupation is defending the old order and not enhancing service delivery.

Elmagrahi is one of the “rats” which Mugabe is now flushing out of his barn.

But to the people of Libya he is not a villain. He is a hero.

He is a diplomat who understands the simple concept of legitimacy. His boss derives legitimacy from the people he governs and that same legitimacy flows to diplomats.

Elmagrahi cannot claim to be a representative of Libya when he represents a government in disarray and a leader who is hiding from his own people.

Diplomats do not represent father figures like Gaddafi.

They represent the people.

Mumbengegwi has scrambled the Vienna Convention for political expediency.

The real reason the diplomat was kicked out is that Zimbabwe supports another demagogue who has been stripped of international legitimacy.

This says a lot about our foreign policy.

It is a hopeless strategy to support fading dictators in the hope of being lauded as a bastion against Western imperialism. What is the opportunity cost of this?

President Mugabe supported Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo whose defiance was broken when he was captured sweating and distraught after a brief civil war in his country.

Mugabe’s government also showed a soft spot for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein who was dug up from a hole, tried and then executed; Mubarak who recently appeared in court in a cage and on a stretcher; and now Gaddafi who no longer has control of his country.

The roll-call of pals includes Cuba’s Castro, Venezuela’s Chavez and a host of tinpot dictators.

President Mugabe and these so-called anti-Western proponents have been circling the wagons, but this is a failing crusade whose benefit to social progress remains questionable.

His African colleagues have started to awaken to the realities around them: that change will happen when its time has come.

They see a new dispensation in Libya. They have started to plan for future political and economic ties with that country. Our rulers are not.

Theirs is to defend the tired mantra of African nationalism which some of them believe is the same as post-independence dictatorship.

But as jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela pointed in song a few years ago:

“Everything must change, nothing is forever. What is it that makes a person want to stay in power forever?
What is the reason why a man wants to force his will upon the land?

Everything must change, nothing is forever.”

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