By Phillip Pasirayi
AT a time when we expect fair-minded people to cringe at the levels of hopelessness, poverty and deprivation in Zimbabwe authored by the Zanu PF gove
rnment, we still hear people who continue to declare that President Robert Mugabe must be a life president.
Some of the people who make these remarks, like Oppah Muchinguri, the Zanu PF secretary for Women’s Affairs, look respectable at least until they open their mouth.
The levels of desperation and discordance in government and Zanu PF have reached fever-pitch levels as exemplified by groups declaring President Mugabe as the Zanu PF candidate for elections scheduled for March next year.
What this means is that the centre can no longer hold and even those groups and senior politicians declaring Mugabe the candidate are not even confident and do not believe that they are doing the correct thing.
They know that beyond the rallies which masses are forced to attend, particularly women and young children, Mugabe’s support is at its lowest ebb in post-Independence Zimbabwe.
The question that many people ask today is why groups and individuals are falling over each other to endorse Mugabe’s candidature in newsrooms, in the streets and at rallies and not waiting for the proper procedure at the party’s annual congress.
It is clear that Mugabe had lost the plot to factions within his party who are in touch with reality and want change of leadership. There is ample evidence that there exists a group in Zanu PF that is opposed to Mugabe’s grand plan to be life president.
This group thinks that although Zanu PF’s policies have led to the collapse of the country’s economy, the party can still be rehabilitated through change of leadership and injection of new blood.
So far Mugabe has shown that he is capable of dealing with any form of dissent within Zanu PF because of the many channels through which his system of patronage continues to feed and thrive.
Today Mugabe’s government is surviving on patronage leading to the many feuds between various camps that try to outwit each other and curry favour with the president. Mugabe has been shrewd in playing the various camps against each other rather than against him.
This astuteness is exemplified in having many people directly report to the president and not through the various heads of government departments.
For instance the director of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happypton Bonyongwe reports directly to the president, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Levi Nyagura reports directly to the president, the governor of the central bank, Gideon Gono reports directly to the president, police chief Augustine Chihuri reports directly to the president and the list goes on.
The system of governance is weak and open to manipulation by the Head of State for his selfish interests. In this system, a Minister of Finance may be less influential than say a governor of the central bank.
For instance, the Minister of Finance may not even know when and how decisions to change the country’s currency are taken because the central bank governor would have discussed it with the president. So apart from the much talked about Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joice Mujuru camps, I posit that there are various camps in Zanu PF which all seek to win Mugabe’s attention for appointment to key government posts.
It is true that the people who have spoken the loudest and declared Mugabe the candidate arguing that he still has got “unfinished business” that he must be allowed to finish are doing so not for the good of the country but for selfish agendas.
These people know too well that a Mugabe win in next year’s election spells disaster for the country and its people. The current levels of foreign currency shortages and the scarcity of electricity, fuel and food will worsen if Mugabe is declared the winner of next year’s elections.
Apart from looting what is left of the national coffers, the regime in Harare has run out of ideas about how to fix the economy and provide food to the starving masses.
But the question that we ought to ask ourselves as Zimbabweans is why Mugabe who has been in power since we attained independence from Britain in 1980 still wants us to give him another chance to ruin our lives?
What does he want to achieve in the next five years, especially with all odds working against him, chief among these being the increasing disapproval of his rule at home and an “unfriendly” international community?
These questions are mind-boggling but can only be understood by tracking Mugabe’s trail of human rights abuses since 1982 such as torture, murder and disappearances for which he will certainly be prosecuted if he leaves office today.
Last week, Professor Jonathan Moyo noted that, “Any person who as Head of State and government, wants to rule for life under any pretext is by definition a danger to society. And anybody and any group that supports and endorses such a person’s continued stay in office under whatever pretext is by definition very dangerous to society.”
Long and overdue incumbency is inimical to democratic practice. Mugabe’s continued stay in power is an endorsement of the human rights abuses his regime has been instigating against civil society and opposition. Mugabe’s re-election means that those who used to have one meal per day will have none and those who used to have electricity three days per week will have it once a week.
The people of Zimbabwe must refuse to be duped into voting for Mugabe whose policies have ruined lives of young children and those that are yet to be born.
Even if a new government comes into power, the process of rebuilding our public institutions and to restore confidence in them is going to take time and a lot of resources. The people must refuse to be held to ransom by a bunch of people who are enjoying whilst the majority of people are suffering.
The people who support Mugabe as the Zanu PF candidate next year want to be rewarded with cabinet posts or retained in their current positions and not for the good of the country.
These people include Oppah Muchinguri and Saviour Kasukuwere who will obviously have no meaningful roles to play in the post-Mugabe era because they have survived through bootlicking the president.
Phillip Pasirayi is a Hubert Humphrey scholar at the University of North Carolina, USA.