Perils of self-righteousness

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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe turned 89 yesterday.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya

It would have been great to be among those who sent birthday greetings to him if one had a way of doing so, simply because it was an auspicious occasion for him, his family and many others.

Besides, longevity is a blessing, not a curse as some would like us to believe.

Even if there is a stark reality of problems associated with old age, most people would want to age beautifully, take a rest and enjoy spending time with family and friends in the twilight years of their lives and careers, while reminiscing on the past and taking stock of achievements and failures in life.

This is probably what Mugabe should have been doing by now.
But his mantra is that he is still active; as he said last year “at this age I can still go some distance, can’t I?”

Of course, Mugabe can still go some distance in longevity. However, that is entirely irrelevant.

What is important for him as a leader is that after years of long service he must appreciate it is time to go. No matter how good a leader may be, there is always time to go. No one is indispensable.

Even those believed to have papal infallibility are now realising this –– which is why it is ridiculous in this day and age for leaders, including monarchs and those with ecclesiastical responsibilities, to claim a divine right to rule.

Pope Benedict XVI (85) announced on Monday last week his resignation with effect from next Thursday after seven years in office, citing “lack of strength of mind and body” to continue his dual roles as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Catholic Church –– coincidentally Mugabe’s church as well.

By so doing Benedict XVI, who could claim a divine mandate and rule for life, left a good legacy and showed the way. He will become the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so voluntarily since Pope Celestine V in 1294.

But clinging on is not the only problem with Mugabe. There is another, perhaps more hidden, character flaw with him: his self-righteousness.

It may well be that Mugabe is well-intentioned when he talks about his life and role as a leader but unfortunately his remarks almost always come out exhibiting sanctimoniousness, a veiled holier-than-thou attitude perhaps expressed succinctly and clearly in the media yesterday when he was quoted as saying:
“In my small way, this is the task the Lord might have wanted me to fulfil among my people and as I carry the burden of fulfilling it, it being a divine task, I read it as a bidding of God. A commandment, that is how you serve your nation,” Mugabe said.

“The bidding says you move forward ever. Do not retrace when you are right. No backward movement when you are right. Your principles must be well defined. If they are those principles meant to enhance your people so they fit on the great neighbourhood, then there is no retreating. Principles become sacred.”

Quite apart from insinuations of a divine right to rule –– which is preposterous –– this unmistakably shows Mugabe in self-righteous mode. His remarks betray some dubious moral superiority which he wants to project, derived from his view that his beliefs, philosophy and actions are of greater virtue than those of others.

Put differently, he seems to believe he is infallible, has heroic endurance, moral courage and physical immortality. Moreover, Mugabe seems to believe he is right, has always been right and will continue to be right even though there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

In other words, he is consumed by hubris and self-righteousness.
This delusional approach and denial of reality has largely bred his vile dictatorship and all the concomitant evils it has wrought on this nation and its people.

All the same, a belated happy birthday Mr President!

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