EVENTS of the past few weeks are a clear indication that President Robert Mugabe is fast becoming a liability not only to the country, but also to his own party Zanu PF.
He is the weakest link, an albatross around the neck of the country’s economic recovery and the very survival of his own party.
The economy is operating at below 20% capacity; mineral resources have been mortgaged to Chinese briefcase businessmen for next to nothing and farmers continue to demand free inputs 15 years after some of them invaded some of the most productive commercial farmland.
Pass rate at both Ordinary and Advance levels has dropped and unemployment stands at a staggering 85% and yet the President announces with a straight face that the economy is on a rebound.
Senior party officials are tearing each other apart, all in the name of succession and in the midst of all this, Mugabe’s wife Grace made sensational claims, NewsDay October 3 page 1, that those who sloganeer the most in her husband’s presence are the ones burning midnight candles plotting his downfall.
“When a leader repeatedly shows poor judgment, even in little things, people start to think that having him as leader is the real mistake.” Maxwell, Laws of Leadership p. 237. There we have it.
Mugabe created a system where he would be the beacon of light around which all success revolved and all and sundry survived.
This engendered a cruel system of patronage that nurtures unrelenting hero-worshipping and nourishes entitlement and impunity. This is the orbit around which this country has been oscillating in the past 34 years. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which side of pendulum one sits, this would be Mugabe’s Achilles heel for which he is now paying dearly with his party falling to pieces and for which he will be derided by history.
All State power and authority rest with him. He single handedly cherry picks party politburo and government cabinet members. He personally appoints Heads of State Institutions like army and police and approves the appointment of all Chairmen and Heads of State Enterprises. Such kind of authority into a single pair of hands is certainly a recipe for disaster and goes against leadership guru John Maxwell’s Law of Empowerment as observed by James B Stockdale that: “Great Leaders gain authority by giving it away.”
By concentrating all power into his person, Mugabe has failed to create a legacy which Zimbabwean academic and former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara speaking at Gibson Sibanda’s funeral said: “Is the ability for a leader to render himself irrelevant by anointing capable successors as soon he ascends to an organisation’s leadership summit.” Maxwell weighs in thus: “A legacy is created only when a person puts his organisation into the position to do great things without him.” Nelson Mandela achieved this with distinction. As soon as he became President of South Africa in 1994, he allowed his deputy Thabo Mbeki to take charge of the economy while he navigated the political minefield of race relations and reconciliation. He was exercising the law of empowerment, “Enlarging others makes you larger” (Maxwell p. 151). Mugabe has not enlarged anyone that is why there is this delirium free for all where even party youths question vice President Joice Mujuru’s loyalty right in front of Mugabe.
Everyone in Zanu PF is now preoccupied with running as fast and as far away as possible from their own shadows chiding each other for not loving the Furher enough.
Meanwhile, Grace portrays her husband as this vulnerable loner whose response to all this hocus pocus is to simply go down on his knees asking the Lord to forgive those plotting against him.
If indeed this is true, how the mighty have fallen! Is she referring to the same man who formed an entire brigade in the early 80s to deal with “political malcontents” in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces? It is estimated that about 20 000 mostly defenseless Zimbabweans lost their lives in this operation Gukurahundi between 1982 and 1987. Mugabe is on record referring to the massacres as a “moment of madness”. Is that all a Prayer warrior can say?
If the President prays for those who plot his ouster, what does he do for the corrupt and incompetent that he single-handedly continues to re-appoint to positions of authority? By his own admission at the Zanu PF women’s conference earlier this year, Mugabe said he had come face to face with the corruption and incompetence of his senior party cadres. This was received with some degree of optimism by some who felt that for once the old man would crack the whip. As is tradition, this was never to be. Again we were left clutching at straws. We had expected too much from a man who is ensnared in his own leadership treachery.
Mugabe has always been exonerated for government’s poor performance people preferring to blame those around him. But what sort of fragrance does the Head of State emit which has the knack to always attract good-for-nothing busy bodies?. Former American President Theodore Roosevelt said: “Who you attract is determined by who you are and the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling while they do it.”
This is all the country is yearning for to start recovering. It doesn’t need much.
The capacity to meticulously select and appropriately delegate is clearly no longer resident in Mugabe. Even Zanu PF youths have shown consternation over some appointments made by their party leader. They submitted a petition questioning Francis Nhema’s suitability as Minister of Indigenisation.
It must be remembered that the same President whose decisions are now queried by all and sundry did not take too kindly to Parliament backbencher Byron Hove back in the 80s quizzing the suitability of Herbert Ushewokunze as Cabinet minister. He shot back at Hove in the most sharp words, “If you say my minister is incompetent and stupid, what you are really saying is that, I, the Prime Minister, as the appointing authority together with President Canaan Banana, who approves, are stupid.” That was the last time that Hove or anyone else for that matter ever challenged a minister’s suitability. What has changed now?
Everything said and done, there is no denying that President Mugabe is now a loner, a leader without followers and his own nephew Patrick Zhuwao attests to this loneness in his famous “Palace coup” article in The Herald recently. Maxwell says: “There are no lone ranger leaders. Think about it, if you are alone you are not leading anyone, are you.”
With such a sumptuous display of leadership frailties as manifested by the general collapse around Mugabe, I am, like most people even within Zanu PF, convinced more than ever before that the sooner the old man gives way, the better it is for all of us, him included. To quote from some professor back in the mid 2000s: “It is no longer a question of whether or not Mugabe should go, but it is how soon” because the writing is on the wall for all to see. For me it is not about who takes over, because it is my sincere contention that whoever it is, they surely cannot do worse than Mugabe. In any case Zimbabwe is at the very bottom of the trough and the only way to go is up.
The Zanu PF factional fighting has now reduced Mugabe from being a national leader to something like a village head presiding over mundane unproductive cases like why so and so is not getting state media coverage and how this Member of Parliament visited another’s constituency without giving prior notice. It is becoming a poor circus. Zimbabwe needs a new start
As for First Lady Grace, history is simply repeating itself.
Those who have nominated her for the Women’s League chairship are only doing it for their selfish interests and like the biblical Peter in the book of Luke, Grace will be disowned and discarded by those turning blue in the face shouting for her ascendancy to the throne in the full knowledge that it is not her calling. Luke 22 verse 33: “And he said unto him, Lord, I’m ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death; and verse 34: “And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”
Grace’s constituency is not the Women’s League as she is made to believe.
Her constituency is her husband and she will sure lose relevance as soon as Mugabe is no longer President – plain and simple. So many other first ladies have tried going this route and they have failed spectacularly. As soon as Grace is out of State House, no Zanu PF apparatchik will pick her calls. She will be left out there in the cold on her own.
The sooner she embraces this fact of life the better for her and her family. This is not prophecy, it is simply common sense and here is the logic.
If Mugabe, a man with an impeccable nationalist politics and liberation war credentials, a founding President of Zanu PF (1987 Unity Accord) and a sitting Head of State is subjected to backbiting of such a magnitude as is now apparent, how about an inexperienced first lady who many in the party believe is being stampeded into political leadership far above her punching weight. It is called naivety.
However, it was quite interesting to note that in her maiden speech at Mazowe Grace chose to go the combative route threatening to drag Justice deputy minister Fortune Chasi and those of like mind over the coals. Gloves were off and she was taking no prisoners. Darryl Hartley Leonard advises as follows, “When a person moves into a position of authority, he or she gives up the right to abuse people.” Deriding those that do not see things your way may not be very helpful.
I rest it here for today.
The author James Maridadi is Mabvuku/Tafara MP (MDC-T) and former public broadcaster. He writes in his personal capacity.