THE world has been watching and reading about the protests in Egypt with great awe and admiration of the calm bravery and resilience of the ordinary people in their determined fight against tyranny.
Although the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship has not yet collapsed, it has definitely stumbled and is now limping after being crippled by a defiant mass movement. Hitherto seen as firmly entrenched and impregnable, the Mubarak regime’s foundation is clearly sinking in the sand.
Unable to resist the overwhelming tide of the angry masses, Mubarak (82) has yielded and agreed to step down in September, offering a mixture of panicky concessions and reforms after Egyptians marched a million strong to demand that his 30-year-rule end immediately.
The watershed riots in Egypt were triggered by demonstrations in Tunisia, themselves sparked off by an act of self-immolation against an entrenched dictator, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who was eventually swept out of power by the irresistible wave of popular protests. In Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for nearly 32 years, is battling against Tunisian-inspired demonstrations. The same is happening in Jordan. King Abdullah replaced his prime minister on Tuesday after protests. Algeria and Sudan are also simmering with civil unrest.
The Middle East, a region of vast oil reserves and thus strategic in global geo-politics, is resultantly now in turmoil. Violence and confusion reign supreme. There nations, cultures, religions, history and politics collide and the clashes reverberate around the world.
Egypt, which has 80 million people, is a very strategic country. Mubarak’s departure would reconfigure the politics of the Middle East, with geo-political implications for the United States, European countries and Israel. Egyptians are also demanding an end to foreign interference in their country although this is not an anti-imperialist movement as our shackled state media would like to suggest.
Oil giant Saudi Arabia would also be affected and consequently global economies.
The Maghreb uprisings have left dictators in the Middle East — and elsewhere – quaking in their boots. But what lessons and reflections can Africa south of the Sahara draw from the neighbouring Maghreb and Middle East regions? What lessons can Zimbabweans glean from the Egyptian situation?
Although Egypt and Zimbabwe are different in terms of history, culture, religion and even politics, important lessons can be drawn from the unfolding Egyptian crisis.
The first lesson is that leaders must not overstay in power. People resent leaders who overstay their welcome no matter how popular they may be. President Robert Mugabe has simply overstayed his welcome. What makes it worse is that he wants another five-year-term at the age of 87!
People have a strong revulsion for leaders who privatise the state, treat it like their own farms, loot and engage in primitive accumulation, and rule with fascist instincts.
They hate leaders who amass and flaunt wealth in the face of a sea of poverty. They dislike people who steal from them, impoverish the nation and then talk nonsense afterwards.
The other thing is the desire of people to be free. No matter how lethargic or docile, people will always demand democracy, civil and political liberties, and social justice. Economic and social problems, including unemployment and poverty, cannot be ignored forever. People, particularly the technology savvy youth, quickly lose patience with corrupt and incompetent systems which can’t deliver.
Further, people have smouldering resentment for political repression, terror and human rights abuses. They hate leaders who use security forces, particularly the army, with impunity to crush dissent and hang onto power against their will. They don’t want to live caged like rats.
People want freedom and prosperity, not terror, corruption and lies. This is what Egyptians are rioting against. President Mugabe and his cronies must wise up and learn from that. They can only take people and their simmering anger for granted at their own risk.