IT was Aristotle the ancient Greek philosopher who said, “politicians have no leisure because they are always aiming at something beyond political life itself, power and glory, or happiness”.
The quotation aptly sums up the situation of politicians who are seen as unique breed.
For Vice-President Joice Mujuru and many other high-ranking Zanu PF officials for whom politics, or more specifically the party’s robust patronage network run by President Robert Mugabe, puts food on the table, recent tumultuous events in the ruling party which have seen them failing to secure seats in the party’s powerful central committee and later the politburo and cabinet suggest they could be destined for the ignominy of obscurity and even a hand-to-mouth existence or livelihood, let alone jail.
After a hectic two months in which Mugabe’s wife Grace sensationally traversed the length and breadth of the country’s 10 provinces denouncing Mujuru for allegedly plotting Mugabe’s ouster and assassination, as well as fanning factionalism and corruption, among other charges, Mujuru and her allies are in the political graveyard after a combination of electoral losses and prohibitions against standing resulted in them losing their positions in the central committee, before Mugabe fired them from cabinet on Monday and excluded them from the politburo on Wednesday.
They were accused of “reneging on their government mandate by expending their energy and time on alleged graft and factional politics …” and seeking to topple President Mugabe.
nduct of the party and its members”.
Many waited with bated breath last Saturday at the congress to learn whether Mugabe would be benevolent enough to bring back Mujuru and her high-ranking allies into the central committee after they either lost or were barred from contesting elections ahead of congress.
Cabinet ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs),Walter Mzembi (Tourism) as well as senior officials Absalom Sikhosana and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu must have heaved a sigh of relief when their names were read out among the 10 appointees Mugabe is empowered to make.
While these were rescued from the dumps, there was, however, no way back for Mujuru herself, as well as Didymus Mutasa (Presidential Affairs), Francis Nhema (Indigenisation and Youth), Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy) and Nicholas Goche (Labour), all booted out of cabinet this week.
Mujuru and her allies are career politicians who have known little else but the “jet-set life” of huge travel and subsistence allowances in accompanying Mugabe as hangers-on; luxurious motor vehicles, paid overseas holidays and servants. The question is where will they all go now? What alternatives does the elderly Mutasa or Mavhaire have?
A tough world of obscurity and hardship awaits.
Ironically this is a world which the same politicians assisted Mugabe construct and consign the majority of Zimbabweans through 34 years of self-serving and disastrous economic policies.
They will soon discover that Zimbabwe is not like more economically advanced countries where ex-leaders like Tony Blair (Britain), Bill Clinton, George W Bush (both US) and Nicolas Sarkozy (France) have all forged rewarding careers as public speakers after political retirement while the likes of former US president Jimmy Carter have started foundations connected with advancing different humanitarian causes.
But for these politicians who from the top table have not only assisted Mugabe turn the country into a virtually failed state and an international leper, and with nothing else apart from political skills tailored for Zanu PF, it could be hell on earth as other former party bigwigs like the late Clement Mahachi and Nathan Shamuyarira discovered upon disembarking from the gravy train.
Shamuyarira, declared a national hero when he died this year, had become a pale shadow of the fire-spitting Marxist-Leninist ideologue that he used to be in his heyday as Information and Foreign Affairs minister in Mugabe’s government.
It was even said his income had deteriorated to the extent that he could not maintain his house which had to be re-painted while the road was repaired ahead of the funeral wake attended by his erstwhile colleagues, who only returned to sing his praises over his coffin before interring him at the Heroes Acre.
Muchachi endured worse, descending to the depths of poverty which included giving up the comforts of a ministerial position in the first post-Independence cabinet for a rustic life tilling an almost barren two-hectare piece of land at his village in Shurugwi.
Muchachi, who was Minister of Works, resigned from his post in 1982 in solidarity with his Zapu colleagues including Joshua Nkomo whom Mugabe had fired on allegations of plotting his ouster and civil war.
When Nkomo and other colleagues were brought back aboard the Zanu PF gravy train after the 1987 Unity Accord with Mugabe, they all forgot Muchachi who cut a pitiful figure in a photo showing him being ferried to hospital in an ox-drawn scotch-cart.
He died at Gweru Hospital in 2001.
Life will probably not become as harsh even if it might be lived in relative obscurity for the likes of Mujuru, Ray Kaukonde who is an accomplished businessman and academics like Lazarus Dokora who could even follow the path of former president Canaan Banana, Tichaendepi Masaya and Samuel Mumbengegwi into lecturing.
After Banana retired at the end of 1987 he was given a golden handshake which included a tax-free pension for life of
£25 443, lifetime immunity from import duties, a secretary, two security guards and a vehicle allowance.
He was one of the rare breed of Zimbabwean politicians who had enough international gravitas to be accommodated in the United Nations commission of eminent churchmen investigating business in South Africa.
This was followed in 1991 by a stint as part of the group of Commonwealth “Eminent Persons” which observed Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) talks culminating in that country’s Independence in 1994, as well mediating in the Liberia conflict on behalf of the Organisation of African Unity.
All of this was interspaced with academic work at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ)’s religious studies department before sensational sodomy allegations in 1997 and a subsequent conviction brought him crushing down.
Masaya, a former deputy Minister of Finance, has lectured at the UZ’s economics department after his tenure in government while Mumbengegwi joined Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo in 2012 as a lecturer in the education department.