HomeOpinionTime running out for Mugabe to step aside

Time running out for Mugabe to step aside

By Jonathan Moyo

WHATEVER perspective one takes on the Zimbabwean crisis it is now clear that the endgame has come for President Robert Mugabe.

ustify>Yet the only person who does not appreciate this self-evident fact is Mugabe himself who is in chronic denial under the delusion that everyone else is wrong and that he is right and mistake-free. This more than anything else now accounts for the continuation of the Zimbabwean crisis.

It remains to be seen how Mugabe is going to play his endgame as the crisis deepens. Will he continue to put his political interests above those of the country and will he continue to blame everyone else but himself?

However he plays his endgame, the outcome is certain to lead to a radical policy change or regime change failure in which Zimbabwe will be engulfed by unprecedented anarchy and chaos.

Because the Zimbabwean crisis has been left unresolved for too long since 1997, and because the ruling party and government have remained in denial about its causes and effects, the crisis has now become institutionalised. This is what has led to massive economic collapse, institutional breakdown and the erosion of public values.

And Mugabe has become the embodiment of the institutionalised crisis such that his departure alone would be cathartic for the country.

An institutionalised crisis is necessarily beyond the patchwork of policy tinkering and it will require an overhaul of one sort or another. This is why a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will necessarily require a fundamental policy change in terms of a new economic vision and strategy supported by the international community and constitutional regime change by way of a new democratic constitution endorsed by the electorate in a free and fair referendum.

The alternative would be anarchy and chaos, which is not an option at all.

Time is running out for Mugabe to do what Tanzania’s founding president, Julius Nyerere, did: step aside and let government be run by a dynamic, competent and accountable leader from his party while concentrating on gradually reduced party responsibilities.

Mugabe needs to show that he is capable of statesmanship and that he has the leadership quality to put the national interest above his self-preservation. So far he has failed dismally.

A Nyerere option even at this eleventh hour would give Mugabe a face-saving opportunity which he can use to safeguard his checkered legacy and to secure the long-term interests of his very young family. He can do this by publicly indicating to Zimbabweans in clear and categorical terms that he not only accepts that his time is now up but that he also understands that Zimbabwe desperately needs a new policy framework underwritten by a constitutional regime change.

Such a bold move by Mugabe would be much more meaningful than his current idle and misplaced talk about building phantom bridges with the British to nowhere from a crisis which he has created. No-one wants to build bridges with Mugabe to help him escape consequences of his misrule.

It is important for Mugabe to clarify his future because so far he has not been honest with himself and suffering Zimbabweans. He has been playing hide and seek with the nation while dishing out patronage which he confuses with patriotism and breeding cronyism and instilling fear all over the place which he confuses with respect and loyalty.

Slightly over a year ago Mugabe hinted, not to Zimbabweans but to the foreign media in Malaysia, that he might retire in 2008. He had also done the same to the Kenya and Zambia media before that. But since then he has been sending conflicting hints through his cronies who keep pretending otherwise by telling him what he wants to hear.

Mugabe’s blunt propagandists have flooded the media with Machiavellian suggestions that, notwithstanding his old age, palpable incompetence and growing unpopularity, he may very well seek re-election in 2008 because the Zimbabwean constitution does not have presidential term limits.

Lost to these propagandists is the writing on the wall that Mugabe would be humiliated big time if he dares voters in 2008 by seeking reelection.

Not to be outdone by the propagandists with whom they compete for Mugabe’s patronage under the false cover of patriotism, some security men have been falling over each other scheming the enactment of a dubious constitutional amendment to enable Mugabe to extend his rule to 2010 by subverting the electoral will of the people in 2008 through a patronage election by the two houses of the Zanu PF-dominated parliament sitting as an electoral college.

Curiously what seems to have eluded Mugabe and his supportive yet divided propagandists and securocrats is the God-given truth that their boss is made of weak human flesh and has a temporary spirit just like the rest of us and is therefore not immortal. In view of Mugabe’s clear old age, he can succumb to the inevitable.

In that case the nation can wake up to a new day without Mugabe, just like it happened to Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Simon Muzenda. In that event, the constitution as it stands would require the holding of presidential election within 90 days.

All present unequal things in Zimbabwe being there, one can only imagine what would ensue in those 90 eventful days given the self-evident fact that Mugabe has not groomed a widely supported successor because he does not want any while he is alive.

Add to this that Zanu PF does not have any rule-bound, transparent and democratic succession plan to calm and inspire the party faithful who have been made all these troubled years to think Mugabe is Zanu PF and vice versa.

Further add that the opposition MDC is deeply divided and profoundly weakened by that division such that it is currently unable to rally the nation towards a common purpose. Neither of the factions is strong enough to win a national and popular mandate to rule with stability.

Add that Zimbabwe’s state security agencies are classically prone to the use of brutality under the cover of law and order and factor in that the country is in the throes of an unprecedented economic meltdown that has rendered many out there jobless, penniless and homeless while ravaging business enterprises.

It is without doubt that, as things stand, all hell would break loose and there would be blood on the floor should Mugabe not wake up tomorrow precipitating a presidential election within 90 days. Zimbabwe would be on fire under these explosive conditions.

This real possibility of Mugabe not waking up tomorrow followed by a 90-day election is much more serious than the glib hope or wish that Mugabe will be around to seek reelection in 2008 because Zimbabwe’s constitution has no term limits.

The same applies to the sycophantic retort that Zanu PF commands a two-thirds majority that can be used to amend the constitution in order to extend Mugabe’s rule from 2008 to 2010 without a popular vote. What for?

When made aware that Zimbabwe could slip into anarchy and chaos within 90 days of Mugabe meeting his God, his propagandists and securocrats take the delusional view that the country’s security forces have an unparalleled capacity to maintain law and order by nipping any trouble in the bud as they did during the dreadful Operation Murambatsvina.

It is shocking that some politically ambitious security chiefs believe that it is part of unwritten Zanu PF law that Mugabe should remain in office until his death, as happened with Nkomo and Muzenda. They also believe that any 90 days of chaos should Mugabe die in office would be a great opportunity for them to move from de facto to de jure running of the country.

Perhaps the reason the men with guns believe this is that they know only too well that they have been Mugabe’s source of power since 1977 when some of them elevated him to the presidency of Zanu after initially making him their spokesperson. They also know that Mugabe consolidated his power between 1980 and 1990 through the brutal abuse of the state of emergency inherited from Rhodesia which was controlled and run by men with guns who also held the keys to torture chambers.

Furthermore, the securocrats know that to this day Mugabe’s closest and most trusted political and economic advisers are security leaders of the Joint Operations Command created by Ian Smith in Rhodesia to oppress blacks. In essence, the security men know Mugabe has been their hostage president since 1977 and they don’t want him to be replaced, except by themselves!

What this means is that there are some delusional security men in our midst who do not understand how, for example, the Soviet Union, East Germany or apartheid South Africa collapsed when their security agencies were among the world’s most feared and most notorious in terms of their brutality.

The one enduring lesson from these cases of fallen security power is that in the end politics always triumphs over the gun. This is why Mugabe’s unchallenged security strength since 1977 is now his greatest political weakness as he now plays his endgame.

The only person best positioned to deal with this is Mugabe himself through a much-delayed Nyerere option or better still a Nelson Mandela one.

If Mugabe has become so self-serving that he cannot do what everyone can see is the right thing or if his security men have become so irresponsible that they want him to remain as their hostage while the country is bleeding, then the people of Zimbabwe including those in Zanu PF should do the right thing by rising up to the challenge to save the country.

There is just no other option. Otherwise, chaos is looming.

* Professor Jonathan Moyo is a political scientist and independent MP for Tsholotsho.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading