Mugabe’s true colours clearer as exit looms

By Chido Makunike

ZIMBABWE and the world have been shocked by the terrorism of the Mugabe regime against the citizens under the guise of a “clean-up” project over the past month.



NT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>It is quite understandable that all the focus so far has been on the horrific humanitarian effects of our tormentor’s wicked actions.


It is difficult to look at the shameful images of Mugabe’s storm troopers cruelly wreaking such misery across the land and see any good in it. But one thing the current actions have done is finally, definitively showed, for those who still had any doubt – the true nature of Mugabe.


It is interesting that even the members of the “Mugabe is right” brigade that has been dwindling steadily over the years have been rendered largely silent by the shock of his inexcusable actions against the interests of the very people that he has always claimed he gets his legitimacy from. Attempts to explain, understand or justify Mugabe’s most recent repressive actions have been few, awkward and so intellectually weak as to be laughable.


Yet while desperate to claim legitimacy on the basis of deeply flawed and dubious “revolutionary”, rhetorical, democratic and other such formalistic credentials, Mugabe has also never been able to hide that true nature, despite being an accomplished actor. Rather, it has been more the case that many sectors of his audience preferred to overlook his widening cruel streak and his embarrassing economic incompetence, desperate for an African hero.


The general reality of post-colonial Africa has been so disappointing, so at odds with the high hopes and the heady promise of the era of the initial waves of decolonisation that many have been willing to turn a blind eye to vicious actions by Africa’s despots that would have raised howls of outrage had they been committed by white colonial rulers. Mugabe has also been hitherto very effective at exploiting the Western world’s white guilt over their historical role in much of the world, at using their own record of anti-African repression to justify his. But with his current inappropriate-for-the-times and cruelly effected upsetting of a large part of the nation’s tenuous hold on the basics of subsistence, shelter and a sense of relative security in one’s own country, Mugabe will find it very difficult to fool any, but the most irrational and rabid of any genuine support that he might have still commanded.


Let us briefly look at the many ways that the real Mugabe has long differed from the image he has been trying to sell us. At one time Mugabe was the doyen of the non-aligned movement, hosting international conferences and speechifying all over the world in its name. Most of the world is adjusting to new relations with an economically burgeoning China, while still seeking more equitable relations with a still dominant West. Yet Mugabe acts like he has personally discovered the East, virtually throwing himself into its arms in a worrying neo-imperialistic relationship forced on him by his poor management with relations with the rest of the world. When he cries “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”, he is merely exhibiting another manifestation of his bitter tiff with Britain for spurning him while his country becomes a virtual client state of China.


At one time one could disagree with Mugabe and yet still respect him for a certain consistency in his approach to various issues. When he ascribed the word “principled” to himself it did not seem as empty as it does now, when he so regularly contradicts himself on so many fundamental counts.


Mugabe has always liked to be considered a cultured and learned man, sophisticated and an intellectual. Yet in a country that he likes to boast his government helped have the highest literacy and formal education rates on the continent, the intellectual and media environment is one of the most limited, dullest and most repressive. How consistent is it for a self-proclaimed “intellectual” to be so afraid of opposing ideas that he has to set up an elaborate infrastructure to thwart and silence them?


Does anyone remember that Mugabe at one time found it fashionable to claim to be a socialist? That seems laughable now given what is now publicly known about how he and his wife Grace are so enamoured of the capitalistic “good life” of consumerism.


One of the most nauseatingly hypocritical inconsistencies he has for too long been allowed by some to get away with is his claim to be a “devout Catholic”. He loves the rituals and the pomp and ceremony of Olden Europe, whether in the parliamentary or religious spheres, but is very deft at abusing their substance, their essence. So there is an elaborate effort to maintain the appearance of the shells of various European institutions in regards to the judiciary, parliament, the civil service and in his private life and religious ritual.


But there is not even an attempt to modify them to make them more relevant and useful for the local situation. Instead there is a completely hypocritical negation of their essence in reality, while verbally shouting belief in and adherence to them from the mountaintops.


In the recent general election he tried very hard to put distance between his reputation for violence by repeatedly using the rhetoric of peace. But the message that his various militia are given seemed to be the same as it has been in all the time he has been ruler: when you need to knock heads, to terrorise in the service of my regime, go ahead, you have impunity to do so.

In the case of the Matabeleland massacres, it was claimed to be an insurgency that threatened to tear the country apart that justified the terror.

In the previous election it was necessary to contain agents of Britain that wanted to recolonise Zimbabwe. But in the case of the current violence of his military machine against people’s homes and remaining sources of livelihoods, that violence seems more a sickly cathartic show of power at a nation that increasingly spurns him, and whose most pressing problems Mugabe is no longer relevant to helping solve.


So Mugabe has helped to make it clearer to all that he is not at all what he and many others have liked him to be: a new generation of enlightened African leader. Rather than a leader who helps his country and Africa separate itself from its colonial legacy by showing a different, beneficial-to-the-people way of doing things, he like many other African rulers, increasingly must resort to the methods of the former oppressors.

Having failed to improve the condition of the country, everything he found in place crumbling around him, Mugabe is going out on a sour note and showing his true nature as the destroyer of a nation, muparadzi wenyika.


* Chido Makunike is a Harare-based writer.