HomeOpinionMugabe's shadow scary even in retirement

Mugabe’s shadow scary even in retirement

By Denford Magora

PRESIDENT Mugabe’s retirement in 2008, as announced by him twice now, is actually a non-event.

f”>It is a non-event because he has also said that he will not be retiring from politics “until the Almighty says enough is enough”.

This means, even after he stops being president, Mugabe will remain “active in politics”, an issue which calls for debate. It is important because Zanu PF is likely to continue running the country even after President Mugabe leaves the presidency.

If, after he retires, Mugabe remains an active politician as he is threatening, then the dangers of this move should be fully explored now.

If Mugabe remains active in politics, it means he will remain active in Zanu PF. He will be active in shaping party policy as he seeks to secure his legacy from outside of Munhumutapa Building.

He will, as a result, still retain the power to make or break careers in Zanu PF and, by extension, also in government.

Within the party Mugabe remains a towering figure, with massive, almost (almost, I said) unanimous support within the ranks of Zanu PF members.

Personally, he can count on the allegiance of the armed forces and virtually all of the power factions within the ruling party. His influence over these organs and factions of the state is unlikely to be diminished by leaving office.

It means no one will get into office if an ex-president Mugabe does not want them to. No one would even dream of becoming president of the party or the country without his blessing.

Knowing the man as we do, we can also be certain that he will continue to influence government policy from beyond “retirement”, as long as Zanu PF continues in power.

Any minister or bureaucrat who pushes through policies a “former President Mugabe” disapproves of will certainly lose their job.

Ministers will be made to pay for any transgressions against the former president at the Zanu PF Congress, where they could easily be voted out into the political wilderness.

More worrying though, is the risk of an alternative government forming in the shadows. With the former president still active in politics, he would most likely attract a motley crew of hangers-on. These people in his immediate circle will make it known to ministers, civil servants and the “leadership” of the country at that time what the old man is happy about or not, what he supports and what he opposes, who he likes and who he does not, what he wants and what he wants done.

The consequences of defying the former president will be known to all. If need be, examples will be made out of some hapless souls just to drive the point home.

In essence, therefore, the risk is that the president will, even in retirement, remain de facto president of both the party and the state. But only if he allows it.

The determining factor will be how the president himself views his “retirement”. All indications at the moment are that he would retire from running the country only in name. He will move to the background, from whence he would direct the affairs of the party and the state.

Unfortunately, if the president decides to remain active in politics “until the Almighty says enough is enough”, it means he becomes the puppet master behind the curtain of power and our problems with the rest of the world will persist.

I have said it before and I think it bears repeating: Zimbabweans have shown that they do not have the stomach for a fight, no matter what is done to them. The shortages, inflation, breakdown of civil services and amenities and everything negative we have seen so far would have driven any other people to embark on a war of attrition with their rulers.

Any other people would have brought the nation to a halt and directed all their efforts at ridding themselves of those who are putting them through hell. But in Zimbabwe, people cry that their hands are tied, they do not want to die “for nothing”, they are powerless etc.

And this means that our rulers now know that they can get away with anything.

Zimbabweans, even if they should attempt to protest, will be beaten up just once and immediately retreat to their homes, from where they will write eloquently insulting letters to the editor. That will not change much. So, another Zanu PF president knows exactly what he has to do to retain power.

Mugabe will still be there to give pointers on how this should be done, under the guise of “remaining active in politics”. The army will still be there for Zanu PF, as will the police and all the other organs of state that have been loaded with Zanu PF loyalists.

By hook or by crook, therefore, Zanu PF will remain the party in power even after the president has “retired”.

By hook or by crook, they will hang on to that power, doing what they have to do to make sure that the people remain as timid, cowardly and miserable as ever.

We should also forget about the rest of the world coming to our rescue. The West has played all its cards. It has nothing left to offer the people of Zimbabwe. The only card they have left is the imposition of comprehensive sanctions against a Zimbabwe no longer ruled by Mugabe but still ruled by Zanu PF.

But widening the scope of the sanctions will certainly not bring any joy.

Those in power will use the little resources still available to the state to widen the scope of their patronage, ensuring that the army, the police and other organs of the state remain faithful to the Zanu PF administration at the time.

Because Zimbabweans are cowardly, they will allow this to happen and simply try to outdo each other in enjoying the patronage. Those with no access to the patronage will continue suffering, pleading tied hands, repression and intimidation.

For this reason, I believe that the president, if he is really serious about retiring, should be seen to be doing so. His involvement in politics after retirement should only be at the invitation of the new government – whether it is Zanu PF or any other party.

He should publicly make it known that he will not seek to influence the running of the country after he has retired. He should also make it known that, after he retires, no one will be entitled to speak for him, whether in private or in public.

He should inform the nation that, when he has something to say, he will say it himself and anyone asking for things to be done “for the old man” will be talking rubbish and should be ignored by the party and the state.

He should thank the army and the war veterans and the police for their support of him and tell them that their loyalty after he retires will lie with the state and its new rulers.

Better still, the president could (and, in my opinion, should) make it known what he means by remaining active in politics. What limits will he set for himself, knowing full well that a new Zanu PF president would not dare defy his will?

What would he be prepared to do and where would he draw the line? Will he expect the country to be run as though he is still at the helm, or will he allow a new Zanu PF and state president to be their own man or woman, to make decisions without fear of repercussions except from the people, in whom true power lies?

What of it, Comrade President? Will you publicly disown any future pretenders and charlatans who would attempt to use your name to get things done in certain ways in government?

Will you, after you retire, allow your name to be used to advance personal agendas and to promote factionalism in the state and in the party?

Or will you allow the new leaders a free hand.

* Denford Magora is a Harare-based marketing executive.

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