Mugabe lunges at scapegoats to divert attention

News Analysis with Clemence Manyukwe


PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s Heroes and Defence Forces commemoration addresses on Monday and Tuesday were an attempt to divert public attention from problems he created, critics say.

In the absence of forward-looking

policy pronouncements, President Mugabe resorted to using threats against perceived opponents in order to entrench his policies and rule. 

As has become the norm in his public addresses, Mugabe heaped blame on scapegoats his government has created which he says have caused the  economic and political crisis that the nation finds itself in, analysts say.

In his Heroes Day speech on Monday, Mugabe said the economy had collapsed because of greed, sanctions and an opposition he said was sponsored by Western powers.

He said economic saboteurs were worshipping the “god of wealth”.

“These economic saboteurs and enemies of our turnaround strategies should take heed that we are determined to fight the scourge of corruption and do honour to the integrity and dignity of our nation,” he said.

President Mugabe said the opposition MDC should play a more positive role. “Instead of calling for sanctions that have hurt our ordinary people, the so-called opposition should play a more responsible role that is supportive of national development,” he said.

But critics say his remarks betray a realisation that his political jingoism has failed to yield economic dividends that his party presumed would flow from frequently criticising the opposition.

Mugabe’s now familiar speech about foreign conspiracies revealed deep paranoia that Western countries are out to re-colonise Zimbabwe, further indicating the political bigotry that all other parties, except Zanu PF, are bound to play puppet and acquiesce to dominance by Western powers.

“This is the message we pay obeisance to and dismiss any that seeks to re-colonise and enslave our people,” Mugabe said in a speech analysts dismissed as bereft of national sentiment or guidance.

“Those who were looking for policy directions in the president’s speech were disappointed as it did not contain much,” political scientist and UZ lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said on Monday.

“Heroes Day speeches by Zimbabwean standards have become an emotional event meant to appease.”

Mugabe rewound to previous warnings to the opposition that his government would not “brook any of their illegal challenges to lawful authority”.

Mugabe also repeated his claims that Zimbabwe was under threat of recolonisation.

A social commentator and human rights activist, David Chimhini, dismissed Mugabe’s blame on groups within Zimbabwe as being responsible for the economic collapse.

“I would not take it as true. There has not been any proof of any organisation in Zimbabwe working to bring the country down,” Chimhini said.

“What we need to do is rather to look at the fundamentals and see how we can get everyone on board,” he said.
On corruption, Chimhini said people were raising the question: “Is this not a smokescreen where the small fish will be caught in the net?”

He added that the solution was going back to fundamentals.

Mugabe also issued warnings to those he said were opposed to the so-called economic turnaround initiative and those not utilising the land they were given by government.

Lately the economic initiatives launched by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono have faced intense opposition from members of the ruling party.

On Tuesday, while marking the Defence Forces day, Mugabe also issued threats against those planning protests against his government.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of one of the MDC factions, earlier this year threatened mass protests to force Mugabe to accept a people-driven constitution, fresh elections under international supervision and a repeal of draconian laws.

“We want to remind those who might habour any plans of turning against the government: be warned, we have armed men and women who can pull the trigger,” Mugabe said during his Defence Force address.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, said Mugabe’s speech showed that he had the wrong diagnosis for the country’s problems.

Chamisa said Mugabe should have offered solutions or apologised to the nation for problems such as power blackouts and the fuel crisis instead of promoting acrimony in his speech.

“The problem we have is that we have a leadership that is in denial. A leadership that is failing to own up,” Chamisa said.

“What is needed is the rule of law, freedom of assembly and democratic elections to restore legitimacy. These things are visibly and glaringly absent,” said Chamisa.

He also criticised Mugabe’s message insulting those in the diaspora whom he said were now being rounded up like cattle by the British government.

“The way he has run down the country does not resemble a patriot,” he added.

Still wedded to the belief that unemployed youths could be temporarily pacified by attending state-sponsored political reorientation courses instead of creating an enabling environment for employment-creation, Mugabe said youths should be sufficiently reoriented.

“The national youth service programme still needs re-organisation in order to make it more comprehensive and sufficiently reorient the youths towards national values and the gains of our Independence,” he said.

“This development will see Zimbabwe producing graduates who are more patriotic, self-confident and conscious of their national interest and identity.”

This, critics said, would not put a dent on unemployment which is estimated at over 75%.

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