THERE is a particularly astonishing scene in a National Geographic documentary Inside North Korea, which gives rare insight into life in the reclusive state under the leadership then of “Dear Leader” Kim Jong il.
Candid Comment Stewart Chabwinja
In the footage, an elderly lady is captured breaking into tears over a diagnosis that she was going blind.
What makes this prognosis particularly painful, she bemoans, is that when she eventually falls blind, she would not be able to look at and be inspired by the several framed portraits of the late “Great Leader” Kim il Sung that adorn her wall!
Such is the cult of personality around the late Kim il Sung in the country dubbed “The Hermit Kingdom” that, according to the documentary, Kim il Sung’s statues are cleaned daily to keep them spotlessly clean.
The epic outpouring of grief after his successor and son Kim Jong il’s death in 2011, with tens of thousands of North Koreans lining up the streets to wail loudly and uncontrollably, made a lasting impression.
While in Zimbabwe the country’s political leaders do not elicit quite the same levels of sycophancy, members of the ruling Zanu PF party, and increasingly those from the troubled main opposition outfit, MDC-T, appear to have taken a leaf out of the North Korean book.
The sugar-coated kowtowing ways of Zanu PF members, especially bigwigs gushing superfluous superlatives to ingratiate themselves with President Robert Mugabe to safeguard their benefits from an extensive patronage network, are old hat.
Mugabe has, among other terms, been glorified as “an angel”, “God’s other son”, “a liberator of unparalleled audacity”, “… a tourist attraction” and “divinely appointed king of Zimbabwe”. The party’s national political commissar even declared given the chance, he would want to be Mugabe’s son!
This glorification is despite Mugabe’s atrocious governance record which has, among other failures, seen the country endure record hyperinflation, unemployment of above 80%, sham polls, investor flight and unsustainable domestic and foreign debt.
But, following strife over leadership renewal after last year’s general elections, some MDC-T party’s heavyweights have been lining up to sing praises to leader Morgan Tsvangirai whose tenure faces internal challenges.
“He (Tsvangirai) is the founding father of democracy in Zimbabwe, the doyen of constitutionalism,” declared party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa at a recent rally. “You can’t replace a person chosen by God.”
He was ably supported by the likes of party deputy national chairperson Morgan Komichi who likened Tsvangirai to the biblical Moses. They are, however, literally worshipping the same leader damaged by bed-hopping scandals in the run up to last year’s crucial elections and accused of supinely allowing Mugabe to ride roughshod over him in the coalition government.
This nonsensical grovelling at the expense of serious debate must cease as it will not take the country anywhere.
The grovelling quoting of scriptures is clearly a subterfuge to forestall any talk of leadership renewal, especially by those riding on the coattails of Tsvangirai.
Revealingly, some of these master-flatterers were quoted by WikiLeaks disparaging the same leader they are now propitiating for their political survival.