Political analysts say in fact Mugabe has a long history of being two-faced and misleading on a variety of issues by “indicating left when turning right” as long as such manoeuvres help him maintain his grip on power.
They say Mugabe has shrewdly managed to manipulate political and economic situations to his advantage, in the process suppressing debate about his leadership and succession. Political violence or threats of it and factionalism have helped him to cling onto power against strong internal and external opposition.
This year on Independence Day (April 18), Mugabe used his speech to call for “peace” ahead of elections he wants held this year, saying Zimbabweans have suffered enough from violence.
During the burial of Zanu PF politburo member and veteran nationalist Edson Ncube at Heroes Acre last Friday, Mugabe slammed factionalism and the imposition of candidates in his party. He said these problems, coupled with greed, were going to destroy Zanu PF.
Professor Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, believes Mugabe’s growing double standards are a manifestation of his diminishing control of complex forces and circumstances around him.
“The issue here is that there is a continuous lack of grip on forces that have kept him in power,” said Masunungure. “He has awakened to the realisation that the centre cannot hold any more, hence his rhetoric which makes him navigate around issues like factionalism and inter-party violence. In fact, he has been overwhelmed by the multiple centres of power around him,” said Masunungure.
Just over a week after he had said Zimbabweans should shun violence Mugabe arrived at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair singing a different tune. He told his party’s supporters at the airport that “now is the time to remove all the snakes on our way and ensure that Bulawayo and the whole of Matabeleland is vibrant”.
Mugabe seems to like the snake metaphor. During the 1980s, he used the same figure ofspeech to signify a crackdown against Zapu and Nkomo, his former allies in the liberation struggle. What followed after that is now a matter of public record: massacres of innocent civilians who had resisted voting for Zanu PF; killings which still haunt the nation.
Mugabe has always used political double-speak and deception to manage events and manoeuvre his way through difficult situations.
Another political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mugabe was two-faced and a good performer on stage because what he usually says on public platforms is often the exact opposite of what would be happening on the ground, although sometimes his rhetoric is indicative of his intentions.
“Mugabe is an excellent performer and that has always been his modus operandi since the formation of Zanu PF in 1963. He is the first beneficiary of factionalism and has thrived on it,” Mangongera said.
“He is the main culprit in candidate imposition because he imposes himself as the permanent Zanu PF leader and every time they (Zanu PF) want to go for congress he whips all the provinces into line so that he is not challenged. He is a ruthless schemer who thrives on double standards.”
Mangongera said violence and factionalism had helped Mugabe maintain power, so his remarks on the issues must always be treated with a pinch of salt.
“He has thrived on violence and factionalism to maintain his firm hold on power. On the ground, he might appear to be castigating it, but the reality is that he has used violence to hold on to his post,” he said.
Besides, politics, Mugabe also has a record of constantly somersaulting on economic issues, especially on the controversial policies on macro-economic fundamentals and matters like land reform and indigenisation policy. During the 1980s, Mugabe strongly resisted pressure from Nkomo to redistribute land, saying his hands were tied by the Lancaster House constitution, although he always told villagers he was going to give them land.
In the 1990s Mugabe’s government, which had run down the economy through commandist policies, accepted IMF and World Bank economic policy prescriptions and adopted Esap Programme, although he routinely condemned the IMF.
Mugabe has also previously claimed he would not criticise African leaders in public, especially when he was under fire from Botswana President Ian Khama, but of late he has been publicly blasting his African Union and Sadc colleagues.
Mugabe has also been inconsistent on the land reform policy. While he publicly repeats the one-man-one-farm slogan, he has allowed Zanu PF ministers and other senior officials to have multiple farms. He has also openly denounced corruption, but failed to act.
He has also been inconsistent on indeginisation. Only late last year, Mugabe told Implats chief executive David Brown to “go and tell your shareholders that we don’t intend to take over (Zimplats). We don’t want to steal or rob that which does not belong to us”.
However, a few months later Zimplats was seized.
Blessing Vava, a local political commentator, said Mugabe was a master of double-speak .
“Mugabe has always been a master of double-speak, preaching peace at national events and violence on Zanu PF platforms,” said Vava. “Remember at one time he declared that ‘we (Zanu PF) have degrees in violence,’ so how come he can now suddenly say no to violence which he has used in all elections,” Vava said.
“He is one of the most unreliable and unpredictable leaders on this planet. He is not to be trusted or relied upon. His rhetoric must always be interrogated.
Vava believes Mugabe has managed to consolidate power by promoting factionalism and through a campaign of violence and intimidation when it suits him.
In the run-up to the 2008 elections, Mugabe told CNN parties were free to campaign and people could vote as they wished, but a bloodbath followed forcing MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of the presidential election run-off.
Despite Mugabe pretending to be committed to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) when it is convenient, he has flouted the agreement willy-nilly. Alexander Rusero, a lecturer in Mass Communication at Harare Polytechnic, believes Mugabe’s dilemma is that of a captain who has lost control of the ship.
“Mugabe is very good when it comes to instilling discipline in the party. He can whip everybody into line, but unfortunately he is now acting like a captain who is losing control of the ship. The man is in a Catch-22 situation in which he has to manipulate factionalism in order to manage the succession debate which is threatening to spin out of control in his party,” Rusero said.
Analysts say while Mugabe has sometimes delivered on his promises, he has however often failed to live up to his rhetoric.