FOR some time now President Robert Mugabe — whose ambition to become Zimbabwe’s life president is now an open secret — has tried unsucces
sfully to peddle the preposterous propaganda that pursuing regime change in this country is a crime tantamount to treason.
It is now clear that from his unpopular one-party-state policy in 1980 through the unity accord in 1987 to the million man march this year Mugabe has been consistently pursuing his ambition to rule this country for life.
This mentality which has been the hallmark of Mugabe’ political grandstanding since 1980 explains why all those who have tried to form or belong to opposition political parties have been branded like enemies of the state.
It also explains why all opposition leaders since 1980 have been pursued, harassed, arrested or charged with treason.
Even after the victory in 1980 all opposition parties still became targets for physical elimination by Mugabe who Edgar Tekere said does not take lightly to any competition against him.
In Mugabe’s eyes political parties existing outside Zanu PF were veritable symbols of regime change thus inimical agents to his ambitions. Referring to opposition parties after winning elections in 1980 Mugabe was on record as having said to his Zanu PF supporters, “Endai munogobora zvigutswa zvese (go and uproot all the stumps)”.
According to Mugabe’s thinking the opposition parties were inconvenient stumbling blocks to his dream to rule forever — they had to be uprooted.
The target of Mugabe’s 1980 post-election venom included Ndabaningi Sithole’s Zanu, Abel Muzorewa’s UANC, Chief Kasiya Ndiweni’s UNFP, James Chikerema’s ZDP as well as Henry Chiota’s NDU.
When Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu became a serious threat to Mugabe’s quest for absolute power two years after Independence the culmination was a near-genocide marked by the senseless killing of approximately 20 000 innocent people in Matabeleland and Midlands suspected to be sympathetic to Zapu and its leadership.
Senior Zapu cadres, among them intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa and Zipra commander Lookout Masuku, were arrested and charged with treason after being accused of plotting a military coup against Mugabe. The two freedom fighters were detained in prison like common criminals in independent Zimbabwe for five years between 1982 and 1987.
Zapu president and founding father of the nationalist movement in Zimbabwe the late Joshua Nkomo was for the same reason pursued by Mugabe, escaping death by a whisker.
An irate Mugabe had declared that “to deal with a cobra you have to crush its head” — Zapu had become a dangerous snake and its head — Nkomo — had to be crushed.
This remains the level of determination driving Mugabe in his pursuit of his shameful life presidency agenda.
To save his life Nkomo had to jump the border into Botswana reportedly dressed like a woman.
Mugabe has reluctantly admitted to these “moments of madness” while Nkomo has captured these embarrassing episodes of our history in his autobiography — The Story Of My Life.
The recently held pro-Mugabe million man march by ruling party supporters confirms beyond any reasonable doubt a suspicion that has endured within Zanu PF and outside since Independence that Mugabe has always harboured the ambition of becoming Zimbabwe’s life president in the mould of Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda.
After leading Zanu PF for the past 30 years since 1977 the now-clueless 83-year old Mugabe has shocked even the most loyal party supporters by clamouring to remain party leader while seeking endorsement by the ruling party for his sixth term presidential bid.
But what remains conspicuous in all of Mugabe’s actions which are characterised by violence, intimidation, coercion, patronage, demagoguery, arrogance and constitutional chicanery is the unflinching pursuit of his selfish desire to rule forever.
It is not surprising therefore that when Mugabe was confronted by the MDC during the 2000 elections he declared: “we have degrees in violence”.
The MDC like its predecessors represented a stumbling block to Mugabe’s self-serving political ambitions.
Naturally MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his supporters become enemies of the state. Characteristically the MDC agenda of regime change was criminalised and the opposition leader dragged to court on trumped up treason charges.
Later on party activists and employees meeting at the MDC headquarters in central Harare were arrested and charged with crimes ranging from terrorism to banditry.
A decade earlier in the 1990 general election, when Tekere and his Zimbabwe Unity Movement attempted to challenge Mugabe’s de facto one party state, they were predictably met with violence, kidnappings, assaults and murders. Muzorewa and Sithole who entered the same election with the financial support of white farmers were warned in no uncertain terms by a determined Mugabe who declared: “we will chop off their colonial redneck”.
Mugabe’s habitual criminalisation of opposition politics and the regime change agenda should be located in the context of his primitive one party state mentality and the enduring but absurd ambition to be life president.
To consolidate his grip on power a cunning Mugabe has in the past rallied unsophisticated bootlickers and overzealous henchmen in the party and government to effect constitutional changes that made dictatorship and his power-mongering antics constitutional.
With the signing of the unity accord in December 1987 and a raft of constitutional amendments that conferred executive presidency on the head of state Mugabe became one of the most powerful leaders in the world with the power to declare war without consulting parliament — the same powers he invoked when he committed Zimbabwe’s troops to a costly war in the DRC in 1998.
Mugabe invariably became state president, the parliament and the judiciary all in one. In the ruling party Mugabe succeeded in booting out his nemesis and powerful Zanu PF secretary general, Edgar Tekere, who fiercely opposed the one party state policy often accusing Mugabe of despotism.
After rail-roading Tekere’s expulsion from the party, Mugabe tactfully used the 1989 united Zanu PF congress to amend the party constitution abolishing the powerful post of secretary general and instead creating the inferior post of administration secretary with diminished powers in the party.
A new post of first secretary and president was created with the deliberate intention of constitutionally allowing Mugabe to usurp the powers of both the party president and the secretary general of the party in the face of a suspicious unity accord. Again Mugabe became not only the leader of the party but the sum total of the party with the powers to appoint everyone in the two most powerful organs of the party — the politburo and central committee.
Democratic elections in the party were conviniently relagated to the lower and less influential organs of the party in the provincial structures.
The reason why the Zanu PF extra-ordinary congress will endorse Mugabe this week is not because Mugabe is still popular in the party because he is not.
The real reason why Zanu PF will fail to isolate Mugabe is because he is too powerful after the powers vested in him by the Zanu PF constitution after the unity accord. As things stand Mugabe is the party and Zanu PF is inevitably destined die with him in the short run if Zanu PF members are not strong enough to stop Mugabe.
To save itself from imminent collapse Zanu PF must isolate Mugabe from the party.
But outside Zanu PF the resolve to isolate Mugabe before regime change is becoming more solid as the unprecedented economic meltdown spawned by Mugabe’s misrule continues unabated.
Regime change as it was necessary and legitimate before 1980 has become even more urgent in Zimbabwe today in order to extricate the country and its people from Mugabe’s colossal grip before restoring majority rule and a process of rebuilding the country’s economy.
But before we can rebuild Zimbabwe and restore majority rule it is imperative to isolate the power-mongering Mugabe whose octopus-like stranglehold on the state has fatally suffocated both the economy and our politics.
Effective regime change and socio-economic reconstruction must begin with deconstructing Mugabe’s sources of power which are the Zanu PF constitution as well as the national constitution. Zimbabweans —including Zanu PF members — must also resolve to deal with Mugabe’s tendencies of violence, intimidation, coercion, patronage, demagoguery, arrogance and constitutional chicanery by any means necessary.
Mugabe must be isolated from his cisterns of power before he achieves his sadistic objective to take Zimbabwe with him to his grave.Those who have aided Mugabe and are committed to sinking with him should also be isolated with him.
It is obvious that at his age Mugabe neither has the ideas nor the energy to rebuild or take Zimbabwe forward. The truth of the matter is that Zimbabwe’s perestroika urgently requires a new protagonist.
* Jacob Rukweza is a sub editor at theZimbabwe Independent.