HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMugabe has lost his aura

Mugabe has lost his aura


One element of post-colonial diplomacy is soft power, which media analyst, Alexander Rusero describes as the ability of a nation to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion.

Comment: NewsDay Editor

President. R. G. Mugabe
President. R. G. Mugabe

Rusero argues that soft power arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, values and policies.

When a State’s policies are seen as legitimate by others, then its soft power is enhanced.

These past few days amply demonstrated how much Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe’s soft power has diminished, as the veteran leader returned from the African Union (AU) summit fuming at why Morocco had been readmitted into the continental body.

A yesteryear Mugabe, not tainted by his long stay in power and accusations of repression among others, would have employed his political beliefs and policies to convince his counterparts on the need to keep Morocco out.

Instead, Mugabe has lost his aura and the new crop of leaders no longer hold him in high esteem, but see him as a pale shadow of his former self.

Mugabe offers an unconvincing argument that Bostwana’s candidate for AU Commission chairperson lost because of that country’s leader’s lukewarm attitude towards the continental body.

How then does Mugabe explain that two Zimbabweans lost elections in spite of him attending almost every meeting of the continental body?

The simple answer is that Zimbabwe has long lost its soft power and nobody is buying the anti-West rhetoric he is so fond of.

It does not help either that Zimbabwe signs so many agreements with the AU, but is literally unwilling to put its money where its mouth is, as it emerged that the country is failing to honour its financial commitment to the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Zimbabwe, like every country that is party to the ARC, is supposed to pay $500 000 annually to the fund, but has not been doing so since 2013.

The government cannot blame sanctions for this, as poorer countries like Malawi are meeting their obligations.

Why then should African leaders be convinced by a man who does not commit to what he has agreed to?

The nationalist anti-Western rhetoric once had an audience, but it does not have it now and with it Mugabe’s allure has gone.

Mugabe accuses his counterparts of lacking an ideology and being beholden to their former colonisers, another disingenuous argument, as these countries are simply looking after their interests and will not be swayed by an archaic and anachronistic anti-colonial message.

Mugabe once bestrode the continent like a colossus, but his charm has now shrunk and very few will care to listen to what he has to say, while Zimbabwe’s influence on the African agenda continues to diminish.

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