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Editorial Comment: Only fools throw caution to the wind

MANY love to hate former President Robert Mugabe simply because he presided over nearly four decades of chaos and complete breakdown of the rule of law.

Editorial Comment

MANY love to hate former President Robert Mugabe simply because he presided over nearly four decades of chaos and complete breakdown of the rule of law.

Mugabe is probably the chief culprit in Zimbabwe’s problems such as graft, State capture by a few connected individuals and systematic erosion of key State institutions, among many other things, through inaction or a wilful cultivation of the system of patronage that served to perpetuate his despotic rule. And, yes, he probably did deserve to be ousted from power through a coup and maybe even worse.

After presiding over the massacre of an estimated 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the 1980s during the Gukurahundi episode and hundreds other political victims, especially in 2008, Mugabe should probably be the last person to lecture about the sanctity of human life.

But for us to then decide to completely dismiss him and everything he says is rather foolish. Ignoring counsel from someone like this old wily politician would be foolhardy. The shrewd old man has been quietened, but each time he gets the chance to say one or two words, his rants are pregnant with meaning and wise counsel.

Recently, though reportedly, the veteran politician warned his former protégé and successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, not to be too intoxicated with power. The incumbent, through his chanters, also reportedly laughed off the old leader’s counsel that power did not last forever.

For Mugabe himself, the realisation that power is not forever was such a very rude and painful realisation after nearly four decades of unchecked power lulled him into thinking he would rule to his grave.

November 2017 must have been like a lightning bolt for him as things changed swiftly when the same guns that guaranteed his rule turned on him and confined him to the dustbin of history. But Mugabe realised rather too late that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So, we can grudgingly accept that he is qualified to advise that power does not last forever. One can only extend their stranglehold on power if they are extra good to those people they are ruling. That way, the ruled will keep renewing the ruler’s mandate.

Rubbing the ruled the wrong way, like what happened in this country last August and in January this year, only serves to shorten one’s time at the helm. Some would want to argue that Mugabe is now so old that he has become malleable and words can be put in his mouth. Whatever the case, it does not alter the truth. The sages say: “A word once let out of the cage cannot be whistled back again.”

And even still better: “An arrow shot is a fly already gone.” So for those in power today to simply laugh off and describe what Mugabe said as rubbish and coming from a senile old man is unfortunate, indeed.

Proverbs 12 v 15 tells us: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”