In the last several months, the media in and outside Zimbabwe has been in a frenzy over President Robert Mugabe.
It started with his wife’s chaotic and menacing entry into the political arena.
Then came Mugabe’s extended “annual leave” in Singapore which generated a lot of talk before, during and after, more so when he returned home alone.
This was immediately followed by Mugabe’s visit to Zambia, ostensibly to attend Edgar Lungu’s presidential inauguration although the tallying of votes in the tightly contested race was still in progress and with no official declaration of the winner having been made.
Mugabe has rubbed many people the wrong way — at home and abroad. His arrogance, used to cover up patches of ignorance, greed, intolerance and lack of foresight, is legendary.
Using defiance as defence, Mugabe somehow manages to hide behind a seemingly innocent issue and, with meaningless, impractical rhetoric that sounds sweet to the ear, he deftly spins it all into a honey pot of populist grandiloquence that excites those who do not take the time to understand the reality behind his words.
Mugabe “took us left until there was nothing right” and “he tried to right things until there was nothing left”.
Although faulty in design, application and execution, some of his ideas were not too bad; he just lacked the honest capacity and a real desire to implement them properly. His trump card remains populist rhetoric accompanied by disastrous shortcuts in solving the nation’s problems — like the reckless printing of money.
The 1997 payout to war veterans became an issue mostly because of the manner in which it was handled and, in the end, it cost the war veterans the goodwill they used to enjoy among the people because the irresponsible manner in which it was implemented plunged the whole nation into an economic morass from which it never recovered.
War veterans could have been made to benefit without endangering the country’s economy.
The same with the land re-distribution programme — a necessity that was, again, badly handled by Mugabe. There was nothing wrong with it had it been done in an orderly fashion, but the country still has to recover its once lofty agricultural standard.
Worse still, the landless majority still do not have the land; where did the land go?
Mugabe’s ongoing political vindictiveness against members of his own party is hard to understand; it does not make any sense, especially if we are to consider the childish reasons being proffered.
It is yet another issue that Mugabe failed to handle properly.
But then, Zanu Pf has never been able to achieve its goals in the absence of chaos and violence … a classic case of retarded political adolescence.
There is just something obscene to see Mugabe cavorting with the likes of Saviour Kasukuwere. The so-called factionalism in Mugabe’s party could have been handled in a better way.
But having been used to shortcuts and handing down ultimatums, the whole exercise became something akin to a tsikamutanda witch hunt, resulting in a charade of a congress that left the nation without an effective leadership.
However, this fiasco shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, considering the cast of phonies involved.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo is a master at taking a tiny piece of a microscopic grain of truth and spin cables of constraining cobwebs around it to the extent that the tiny morsel of truth will never ever see the light of day again.
Moyo, like Jesus did to hapless Lazarus, can bring a lie back to life as truth. Although he tends to get careless and clumsy with statements at times, he complements his boss well.
All Moyo did was to lure Mugabe to join his faction. It was a smooth move and to this day the old man is not aware that he was gently conned into the leadership of an already existing faction in his own party.
Talk about a lactating mother suckling her own breast. It was Mugabe, the president and first secretary of Zanu PF, who joined a faction, not the other way around.
Moyo and his group used one of man’s weakest links … a woman. They capitalised on the obvious greed they saw in Mugabe’s wife and set her on the old man. And, like they say, the rest is history. It is painful though, because it is still going on and is costly to the nation.
But I digress.
People at home and away made an issue of Mugabe’s “extended” annual holiday in the Far East and upped the noise when Mugabe arrived back minus his wife whom he said had remained in Singapore to recover from an appendicitis operation.
Then the morons in the African Union decided to make him chairman of the continental grouping. Although it is a meaningless position, largely ceremonial, it offers Mugabe an opportunity, not to fight for anything on behalf of Africa (because he can’t), but it provides him with the platform to hurl insults at the Europeans, Americans, Australians and Africans of choice while invoking his tired divisive populist rhetoric that has failed to inspire any ideological followers anywhere, unlike the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere or Nelson Mandela.
The AU gave him his last hurray and he knows it.
But for Mugabe, the biggest and most welcome spin-off from the AU chairmanship is that travel bans against him might be loosened so he can travel to Europe on AU business, whatever that is.
Then there was more noise when Mugabe fell as he was walking down the steps of a podium at the Harare International Airport.
This caused an avalanche of worldwide media activity and on social media yet, truth be told, Mugabe’s fall was not news at all. It was an absolute non-event unless if he had fallen asleep while walking and then fell to the ground.
But Moyo’s overzealous response to suggestions raised as a result of the fall elevated the mishap to a ridiculous level.
However, lost in all these happenings and media frenzy is what happened in Zambia.
As Zambians were anxiously following their close presidential vote count, they heard that Mugabe had already arrived for the inauguration. They did not like it one bit, maybe because they considered this to be interference in their electoral process, knowing as they do how Mugabe handles elections just across the Zambezi River.
For the first time in Africa’s recent memory, a spontaneous demonstration was unleashed by ordinary people who shouted “Mugabe must go” and “Mugabe, we don’t want you in Zambia” during their noisy demonstration outside his hotel.
The demonstrators also mentioned his 35 years in office. Small incident as it might have been, I found this to be a turning point, one that should worry Mugabe and shame African leaders.
This small gesture in expressing an opinion against Mugabe demystified him more than we give it credit for. It can happen again.
Edgar Lungu’s first official visit as president was to Zimbabwe a few days after he assumed office. After a meeting with Mugabe, Lungu told reporters that he had come to Zimbabwe “to seek wisdom from the elders”.
That is hogwash.
He had come to apologise to Mugabe because Zambians had staged a demonstration against him; a reversal of the mindless standing ovation South Africans gave him at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
And Zambians had done that without teargas, attack dogs or water cannons being used against them.
Yes, Zambia, Mugabe must go!
Whande is a journalist and writes in his personal capacity.