Echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
JUST when you think the funeral saga surrounding the late former President Robert Mugabe is finally over, new twists and turns emerge.
Not to mention that everyone — virtually everyone — wants to get in on the act. Yes, many people have become involved in mourning Mugabe and making a show of it in order to gain an advantage, especially of the political kind. Although some political party leaders find this hard to admit to themselves, more so to their supporters, Mugabe — dead or live — has political stock.
Yes, it all appears convoluted, like “a riddle wrapped up in an enigma”, to quote 20th Century British statesman Winston Churchill, but there is a method to this apparent chaos. The key and common denominator is that various individuals and political parties are out to secure their interests in that multi- layered labyrinth.
Some like Patrick Zhuwao have jumped in with their own lies to take advantage of the situation. Addressing an EFF memorial service for Mugabe in South Africa last week, Zhuwao lied thus: “Former President Mugabe did not die in Zimbabwe because of (President Emmerson)Mnangagwa.” Now, that is beyond fiction, but Zhuwao was obviously taking advantage that people would readily believe him because Bob, as Mugabe was affectionately known, was his maternal uncle, but he knows very well that Mugabe started flying out to Singapore for medical treatment some 15 or so years ago.
The exiled leaders of Zanu PF’s G40 faction — which includes Zhuwao — also saw Mugabe’s death as providing a window of opportunity for them to negotiate their free return to the country. Probably leaning on former First Lady Grace Mugabe, they tried to move in quickly before the window was closed. Well, as we speak, they could have been abandoned to the wolves as Grace seems to be moving on with securing — or extracting — a deal for herself and her children. Ditching G40 would obviously result in the government making more concessions to accommodate many of her demands.
Yes, G40 seems, as it stands, to have been sacrificed in the negotiations and the homesick Jonathan Moyo will not be back on Zimbabwean soil any time soon. And one can detect that growing despondency because Moyo wears his heart on his sleeve, he makes his feelings apparent, making it easy is to tell when his chips are down, when he is in a difficult situation. He is one of the most brittle and most fragile public figures despite trying to project the exterior of a hard-nut-to-crack politician. Like a chess grandmaster, Grace has made a sacrifice, a move giving up a piece — G40 — with the specific objective of gaining tactical or positional compensation in other forms — like securing title deeds to the opulent Blue Roof mansion from Zanu PF.
Zanu PF also saw the death of Mugabe as an opportunity to mend fences, particularly with the former First Family as this would deal a fatal blow to the scattered G40 faction. Isolating the G40 faction from Grace, its main benefactor and main protector following Mugabe’s death, appears to be the name of the game. Zanu PF and Grace are definitely the main characters in the dramatis personae in this real-life drama.
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And those Zimbabweans who celebrated the West’s demonisation of Mugabe completely missed the irony that the very West’s backing of the intransigent racist Rhodesian regime resulted in Mugabe rising to the top of the tree, eclipsing the likes of Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole because they were not seen as hardball enough to take on Ian Smith like the tough-talking Mugabe. So, in many ways, Mugabe was the unintended consequence of the West’s unjust, even evil colonial policies. It’s not crazy to say it’s the West which, if anything, saddled the nation with Mugabe — the same way the West is solidifying Zanu PF’s hold on power with its stupid sanctions. Even American Professor Steve Hanke, a long-time critic of the Zanu PF government, has observed as much, saying: “Sanctions should be dropped immediately. Sanctions don’t work . . . the history of economic and financial sanctions is one failure after another, the production of all kinds of negative, unintended consequences.”
Yes, sanctions work, but in a perverse and inverted way — that of entrenching the rule of those the sanctions are purportedly targeted at while the masses shoulder the economic burden. Indeed, Western-imposed sanctions had the effect of extending Mugabe’s rule until he was removed by his own party system.
And some of those leaders were not made of the sterner stuff required of a leader. Sithole proved to be not as strong and as determined to lead the armed struggle during the most testing times when the prospects of victory were receding.
But Mugabe chose to be in the thick and thin of it, experiencing all the privations — such as lack of food and clothing — that ordinary fighters and recruits faced. Wrote the late Zanla fighter-cum-author Alexander Kanengoni in 2003: “I lived with Mugabe for over three months, eating from the same pot, perched on top of the same hut to thatch it, slept in the same room at a remote base called Saguranca, in central Mozambique in 1975, and the man left such a deep impression on my mind — nothing will erase it.” Indeed, Mugabe earned his spurs, so why begrudge him?
Back to getting in on the act, not to be left out was the main opposition MDC Alliance. After it was announced that Mugabe’s body would be taken to Rufaro Stadium for viewing by the public, MDC youths issued a statement threatening to demonstrate at the stadium against Mugabe’s rule. But someone at the top must have whispered into their ears that they should hold their horses because the political script — including the dramatis personae — had changed, and Mugabe was now one of them, much to the anger and frustration of the youths. Rival Lacoste and G40 youths in Zanu PF could also be similarly confused.
But then these youths are often not in the know regarding the ever-changing political script and, thus, often go ahead of themselves in the naive and mistaken belief that they will be doing exactly what the party stands for — only to be abandoned and labelled “stupid” by their own leaders as the leaders tried to distance themselves from culpability over the violent demonstrations that broke out on August 1, 2018 on the misguided grounds that election results had been delayed when that was not the case since the stipulated five days within which to announce the results had not lapsed. As one can see, the response of the MDC leadership, on the one hand, and party youths, on the other, to Mugabe’s death was a study in contrasts, making one wonder: Is this coming from the same party? Party leaders completely wrong-footed party youths, who were taught — or indoctrinated — to hate Mugabe, but are now getting lost in confusion as they see those very people who were telling them to hate Mugabe pay tribute to that very same Mugabe in glowing and effusive language. No one ever imagined that even in a thousand years — to paraphrase Smith —we would see this coalescence around Mugabe as a stairway to political heaven.
That is why people should not allow themselves to be used by anyone to hate each other. It’s plain stupid.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com