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Candid Comment: Storm Brewing Around Mugabe

AS 2008 draws to a close Zimbabweans are once again confronted with the reality of yet another bleak year ahead. A rougher and more turbulent year lies in front of us and it will be a long haul before relief.

There is no light at the end of this particular tunnel. As they say the only light which might be flickering is that of an oncoming train — so be warned!

After Christmas and New Year holidays which will be predictably miserable, it is clear 2009 will bring an avalanche of worse problems so long as President Robert Mugabe remains ensconced in power without even a veneer of legitimacy and acceptance by voters and the international community.

Mugabe has finally come round to subtly admitting that he has no legitimacy after his June 27 charade. That is why he is now calling for another election when he has not yet even finished a year into his new term.

The real deal for long-suffering Zimbabweans would be Mugabe’s quick departure, preferably through a negotiated exit, not talks or elections and such other pursuits which won’t resolve this deep crisis.

Elections are an important democratic mechanism to elect leaders and governments, but not in this sort of an environment. Another election under the current conditions would only succeed in visiting a brutal campaign of terror upon already traumatised voters.

Talks remain the only viable option on the table so far but the trouble is they may soon end up being overtaken by events.

The current seismic political and economic situation may rapidly shift and trigger different dynamics that could render talks and negotiating parties somewhat irrelevant.

This is more likely next year largely because Mugabe is cultivating an explosive situation, a deadly political powder keg. He however does not seem sufficiently aware of the volatile storm brewing around him.

The coming year is likely to prove a defining moment for Zimbabwe. If nothing is done to stop this decline, it would be a year of upheaval. The warning signs are there for all to see. Political events between March, when Mugabe first suffered electoral defeat, and the recent riots by soldiers clearly show things are fast changing.

However, Mugabe is precariously out of touch with reality.

Evidence that Mugabe is a denialist who is completely out of touch was provided by Heidi Holland in her book, Dinner with Mugabe, published this year. Asked how he would like to be remembered when he is gone, Mugabe said:
“Just as the son of a peasant family who, alongside others, felt he had responsibility to fight for his country. And did so to the best of his ability. And was grateful for the honour given him to lead a country and be remembered as one who was most grateful for the honour that people gave him in leading them to victory over British imperialism. Yes, for that I want to be remembered.”

There you have it. Mugabe only wants to be remembered for his role during the liberation struggle.

For him history starts and ends with the struggle. No one should measure him by what he has done or not done since 1980. His acts of commission and omission must not be part of his life history, just his heroics during the struggle which, by the way, Edgar Tekere has called into question.

The connection between this and 2009 and beyond is that Zimbabwe is heading for a catastrophe as long as Mugabe is still in the picture, hanging around in the corridors of power.

Holland concludes whatever Mugabe says, he will be remembered by most as a tyrant –– his place in the hall of infamy is guaranteed –– but by others as a sad figure who suffered and sacrificed.

This is an apt conclusion.

Given the dramatic events of 2008, particularly his defeat in the March presidential election first round and vicious fight back through a brutal campaign of violence and murder, Mugabe would undoubtedly be remembered by far too many civilised Zimbabweans as a dictator who wreaked havoc across the land for a whole generation in a bid to seize and keep power at all costs.

Some of course would remember him as a freedom fighter who lost his revolutionary path or a leader of a revolution that lost its way.

But even then his negative contributions evidently far outweigh the positive.

The verdict would not be unanimous, but there would be a broad consensus that he presided over a corrupt and incompetent regime which ruined the economy and crushed dissent via vicious repression.

If any further evidence is needed to prove Zanu PF’s repression, the current wave of abductions does it.
It is very difficult to imagine what kind of a country Zimbabwe would be in 2009.

As long as Zanu PF is in power, the coming year will bring horror. The economic meltdown will intensify, inflation will scale billions, company closures and capital flight get worse, unemployment and poverty will be ubiquitous, starvation rampant and survival very tough.

This is the harsh reality we face as we cross over into a potentially explosive 2009.


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