Mugabe won’t succeed where Smith failed

President Robert Mugabe

The government on Thursday issued a decree banning demonstrations in Harare for the next two weeks in probably the biggest assault on people’s liberties in the past few years.

NewsDay Editor


With Statutory Instrument 101a/2016, the government has removed any pretence of Zimbabwe being a constitutional democracy and all, but issued a state of emergency.

How the authorities approved such a draconian measure boggles the mind, and for older generations, this is a throwback to the colonial era, where the illegal Ian Smith regime employed such tactics to thwart the independence movement.

The statutory instrument sends a chill down the spine, as it shows that once this government is confronted by opposition, it will go to extremes to put it down, no matter how peaceful and legal such dissent is.

There are several provisions of the Constitution that this decree violates and, as some lawyers have pointed out, it is unconstitutional and they will challenge it in court.

For example, our attention has been directed at section 134(f) which provides that all statutory instruments be laid before the National Assembly in accordance with its standing orders and submitted to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for scrutiny.

None of this was done and the Executive, with the connivance of the police, has all, but usurped the power of the Legislature and gone ahead to issue a draconian statutory instrument.

The government may think it is protecting itself and President Robert Mugabe from the numerous protests that have sprung up in recent months, but in reality, the perception most now have or will develop of the President is that he is an authoritarian, who brooks no dissent and that will not win him any favours.

This will only serve to embolden the opposition and civic society organisations to continue with their demonstrations in future, as they would believe such draconian action betrays panic from the Executive.

Mugabe will not suddenly be popular because of this statutory instrument and neither will people’s anger and frustration dissipate; instead they will continue to simmer and it will take even the smallest spark to ignite this powder keg.

What Mugabe has shown is that he is not willing to listen to the people’s grievances and chooses to shield himself behind archaic, anachronistic and unconstitutional provisions just to tighten his grip on power.

The police may be deployed in their numbers, fear may be instilled into people for now, but in the long run, this is an unsustainable strategy for holding onto power.

The use of force and draconian legislation did not work for Smith and it is unlikely to work now, as once the people have found their voice and realised that their silence perpetuates their repression, then they will continue to speak out until they see change


  1. This isn’t surprising at all, people should not forget that after attainment of independence,the state of emergency continued to exist for the next decade.This government had never felt secure without Smith’s repressive pieces of legislation.It is against this reason that the Zanu pf government is reluctant to demolish some provisions or repeal laws like POSA,AIPPA and other hordes of laws which take away liberties of citizens.

  2. Robert Mugabe’s modus operandi is normal and standard practice for most of the African continents “big men”. In fact he is viewed as a hero for standing up to perceived western imperialism as shown by the standing ovation he gets at African summits from his compatriots. Contrast that with the prevailing criticism and protests that is directed at him from his citizens who live and breathe the consequences of his misrule and poor leadership. Most of these leaders have come to power via armed struggle, military coups etc. It seems that for many Africans, half a century later, over-throwing colonialism trumps the failings of liberation leaders.

    Ghanian economist George Ayittey, President of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC and author of Africa Unchained: Defeating Dictators, put forward three reasons why post-colonial African leaders cling to power.

    First, they came to believe that their countries belonged to them (and their families) as liberators, whether from colonialism or later from corruption or tyranny. ‘Having won independence from colonial rule, they were hailed as heroes and deified.’ Leaders came to believe they were the state.
    Many took on grand titles and plastered their presence on currency, portraits, streets and buildings. Examples were Uganda’s Idi Amin, DRC’s Mobutu Sese Seko and Guinea’s Ahmed Sékou Touré. Many of the next generation, some of them coup leaders, were worse than those they ousted: Liberia’s Charles Taylor and DRC’s Kabila being just two.

    Secondly, wrote Ayittey, insecure leaders surrounded themselves with loyal supporters, often from their own tribes. Other supporters were ‘bought’, such as soldiers with high pay and opposition leaders with posts and flashy cars. Top supporters were allowed to do business using political connections. Mugabe’s security chiefs became rich plundering the DRC and stealing diamonds.
    ‘Even when the head of state is contemplating stepping down, these supporters and lackeys fiercely resist any cutbacks in government largesse or any attempt to open up the political system – for fear of losing the jobs, perks and privileges.’

    The third reason is fear, according to Ayittey. Dictators know they have done bad things, and fear reprisal and the International Criminal Court. For example, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is wanted by the ICC. ‘So they cling to power, regardless of the cost and consequences.’

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