Comment: Mugabe not invincible

IT may not exactly resemble a roll call of the French chivalry littering the field of battle after Agincourt, but the number of political nobles at President Mugabe’s court who have gone down to defeat in last weekend’s general election is stunning.


Chinamasa, Nyambuya, Mushohwe, Mutezo, Made, Machinguri, Midzi and Chimutengwende have all paid the price of attaching their standards to the electoral banner of an unhorsed monarch.
For make no mistake, Zanu PF’s defeat can be laid squarely at the door of Robert Mugabe’s disastrous rule. His bid to blame the West for his record of failure simply didn’t wash this time round. The evidence of a self-made calamity was all too obvious. His posturing and blandishments made no impression upon a nation brought to its knees by his own obduracy. At last Zimbabweans found the courage to tell him what they thought of his claims.
A pattern emerged as soon as the first results came in. It was clear that not only had the MDC retained its urban stronghold but had penetrated Mugabe’s rural fiefdom at the same time. Manicaland in particular suffered from the opposition’s depredations. But there were also significant gains for the opposition in Masvingo and the Midlands. Not content with a nearly clean sweep in Harare, the Tsvangirai MDC launched a surgical strike against the Mutambara faction’s Bulawayo stronghold walking off with a clutch of seats there. Prof Welshman Ncube was a notable victim.
“It’s the economy stupid,” Bill Clinton remarked of the issues he faced over a decade ago, and nowhere is that more true than in Zimbabwe today where agricultural production has fallen victim to populist seizures, manufacturing held hostage to economically-ignorant apparatchiks, and investors scared off by maladroit political pronouncements.
Just this week, Botswana’s new president, Ian Seretse Khama, at his installation remarked that he would not allow political expediency to cloud his judgement.
“For the road to political expediency and populism may be lined with cheering crowds, but in the end we cannot escape the cold hard facts of our limitations as a developing country,” Khama said. “Harsh punishment awaits a nation that spends unwisely in pursuit of immediate gratification rather than sustainable development.”
He pointed out that Botswana had become a middle-income country by prudent fiscal management. Zimbabwe was a middle-income country in 1980. Today it’s a basket case with record levels of inflation and unemployment. It stands as a warning to neighbouring states of the danger of populist rulers buying votes by reckless spending and then blaming all and sundry when the consequences become clear.
Indeed, this has been a campaign of dishonesty and deceit. Government media have parroted Mugabe’s claims that this is a struggle of a small country against bullying Western powers. In fact it is the struggle of a people who regard the international community as partners and see its own rulers as political thugs abusing state resources to mislead the nation as to where responsibility for economic collapse really lies.
A younger generation is unimpressed by the stale shibboleths of a corrupt liberation aristocracy. What is so gratifying for the independent press, the opposition and civil society is that their argument for a radically reformed national paradigm has won the day. Zanu PF had nothing to offer except more abuse and more failures. Mugabe so evidently didn’t have a clue how to extricate the country from the hole he had dug for it. He was long past his political shelf-life but intended to keep up the campaign of damage.
Meanwhile, his apologists believed they were serving some sort of ideological cause by speaking up for him. In fact what they were doing was compounding all that was rotten in our midst.
Today we can see through the toxic haze Mugabe’s failed regime has generated and contemplate institutional and economic reform. There is a whole host of friends who are prepared to assist. All they will ask is that we manage our economy prudently — like Botswana.
Mugabe will be remembered as the leader who, with others, liberated Zimbabwe from colonial rule but then lost his way and could only hold on to power by coercion and electoral manipulation. Those around him should be seen for the self-serving barons they are. They have grown rich as the country was pauperised. The Africanist rhetoric steaming from the pages of the state media provided only the thinnest of veils for the violence and looting that characterised the record of the post-2000 elite. Kondozi Estate will be their tombstone.
It is time to remove the roadblocks Mugabe has thrown across the path to recovery. Before that we can allow ourselves a moment for celebration.This is a great victory for the people of Zimbabwe. Whatever happens now things will never be quite the same again. The mould of invincibility has been shattered. A dark cloud has been lifted from the land.