President Robert Mugabe this week lived up to his pugnacious style. He stood out as hyper-aggressive even in a sphere like politics known for its rough tactics.
CONWAY TUTANI ECHOES
That hot-tempered, fiery stuff was on display at Mugabe’s rally, which was targeted at Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly working behind the scenes to topple his boss through his — yes, Mnangagwa’s — Team Lacoste faction in Zanu PF.
Not that there is anything wrong with Mnangagwa angling for the Presidency because that’s the next step to climb when you are Number 2. Any politician will position themselves to take over at any time.
There is nothing treasonous about that, as the admittedly mbanje or marijuana-fuelled Manicaland Provincial minister Mandi Chimene would have us believe. And if you don’t have such lofty ambitions, you have no business being in politics, the same way a football player without a killer instinct in front of goal does not deserve to be a striker.
I hold no brief for Mnangagwa, but in politics one needs a combination of scheming, intrigue and subterfuge especially so in Zimbabwe where the regime’s one-centre-of-power mantra prevents healthy, open jockeying for power, instead fuelling underground, not necessarily illegal, moves. In other words, conspiracies against Mugabe, whether real or imagined, are a direct result of his monopolistic style of leadership.
So, “Ngwena” has nothing to apologise for doing what comes naturally to born politicians. He is only the latest in a growing list of enemies. And if you begin to see enemies everywhere, psychologists have a term describing that: paranoia.
This results in suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification. Such delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance are typically packaged into an organised system.
The whole nation is brought into this. Anyone will be roped in as long as they swear loyalty to the regime.
That’s why Joseph Chinotimba, the ultimate buffoon, that unintentional clown, was unleashed to attack serious-minded fellow war vets.
Chinos is amusing, but so, so ridiculous. So were many in that motley crowd who looked completely out of place and out of depth.
They were there to merely express blind loyalty and not for any ideological cause because it’s beyond their ken. Yes, paranoia has ruled in Zimbabwe for too long. This sickness has affected the politics and the economy.
Indeed, the personal is magnified into the national. And that’s what happened this week when Mugabe went on the offensive against war veterans after he suffered disgrace, humiliation and embarrassment when the veterans of the liberation struggle, to whom he is a patron, ditched him in a stinging communique, accusing him of dictatorial tendencies. And he had to pin this on someone and Mnangagwa was that scapegoat. It seems Mnangagwa has taken it on the chin — so far.
They were a lot of home truths in the war vets’ communique. And the tone of it reflected the rising anger across the nation, which the regime can only ignore at its own peril. The grievances they raised are national, especially regarding corruption and repression being condoned by the regime.
And for the war veterans to refer to Mugabe as “Mr” in their communique instead of “Cde” was the ultimate insult and must have infuriated the politically self-righteous Mugabe.
It’s such a big deal for them to be referred to as “Cde” and not “Mr”. This shows Zanu PF practices a political caste system. If you get expelled from Zanu PF, they immediately withdraw the “Cde” title from you and “relegate” you to “Mr”.
They will then cut your privileges and even grab your property as if you were holding it on behalf of the party. So, all this hollering has got nothing to do with ideology, but more to do with dispensing privilege and immunity as a reward for expressing undying loyalty.
Come to think of it, isn’t it ironic that these same war veterans, who spearheaded the seizure of farms from white owners in 2000, now face the same fate, with the regime threatening to dispossess those who have broken ranks with Mugabe? Well, anything goes with this paranoid regime.
But what I found particularly distasteful and unpalatable was Mugabe’s chilling boast that he would resort to the worst possible brutality to suppress opposition. He menacingly pointed out how Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, ruthlessly dealt with his opponents.
Mugabe said during the liberation war in Mozambique they had used Mao’s methods like throwing dissenters into dungeons or underground prisons. What on earth can make a person speak of those deeds with such enjoyment, such glee, such relish?
Well, that was half the story. The full story is that Mao’s widow Jian Qing, who was beginning to call the political shots as her husband’s health failed, and was making enemies left, right and centre going to the extent of forging Mao’s will placing her as his successor, was arrested only a month after his death in 1976 as China immediately embarked on a new political direction.
This led to liberalisation of foreign, cultural and economic policy following 27 years of Maoist dogma. Jian was only released in 1991, a forgotten, miserable poor soul, and committed suicide shortly after.
Similarly, Mugabe’s repression could unwittingly backfire as those closely associated with him — including his immediate family now that it is getting more and more into the political fray — could be caught up in the political maelstrom after his departure.
And has he taken into consideration that all he has been fighting for could crumble soon after he is gone as often happens with such individualised systems of rule? And that his dogma of the past 36 years about consolidating the revolution, sovereignty and indigenisation does not wash any longer as more and more people — including, crucially, war veterans — reject him openly, not treasonously, as he would have us believe?
Mr President, accept that you are fighting a losing battle. The regime is now beyond hope, beyond remedy, beyond recovery.