What a brilliant start by the new African Union (AU) chairman. President Robert Mugabe condemns half of humanity through primitive patriarchy to an inferior role and proudly says that is their fate in Zimbabwe.
“It is impossible for women to be on a par with men because their primary role is looking after babies,” Mugabe ruled.
He was speaking at an AU summit last week on women’s empowerment, according to media reports.
“Women get married, they must have babies, they must live at home, that’s a problem,” Mugabe said. “You see, we men, we want children. We make the very women we want in power pregnant, you see and we remain. It’s not possible.”
Assessing what role Mugabe intends to take as head of the AU, analyst Ernest Mudzengi said: “Problems facing the continent are complex and Mugabe will only be exposed to them and no changes are expected.”
The AU chairmanship is rotational and largely ceremonial although state media spiritedly insisted it wasn’t.
“It’s not a very encouraging sign,” one African diplomat said. “The Mugabe style belongs to a past generation, the one that takes power hostage, and this is no longer the AU creed.”
Mugabe’s patriarchal mindset is archaic. As the late American journalist Edward R Murrow once said: “Everyone is a prisoner of their own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognise them.”
That’s what Muckraker will do with Mugabe’s macho prejudices about women — just recognise them!
Well, in the main, Muckraker this week has decided to focus more on Mugabe and his election as the new AU chairman.
While it is understandable that for a misery-stricken country like Zimbabwe where currently there are very few success stories or positive news out there to celebrate, and where non-events can be elevated to major issues, Mugabe’s election as AU chairman would be exciting for his toadies, it was however dramatised to ridiculous levels.
In the end it was as if Mugabe had won a Nobel Prize. Yet everybody knows that he was not elected because he is more competent or has any better vision than others, but on account of that it’s rotational and largely ceremonial to do so.
That’s why nobody really remembers or cares who was the AU chairman before Mugabe; it’s not an issue to many on the continent (it doesn’t change anything) except, of course, to the Zanu PF leader and his sycophants who have nothing much to celebrate these days as their hero continues to destroy his own country and now his party, together with whatever remains of his legacy.
The noise which the state media, whose stories from Addis Ababa read like half-baked opinions, and Mugabe’s lackeys have been making since last week over his AU chairmanship issue was not only meaningless and evidently blockish, but also betrayed frightening desperation to repackage and prop up a failed leader who is badly struggling to shake off his pariah status and emerge from years of isolation to end his career on a high.
In a way, though, the frantic actions and clumsy PR crack by Mugabe’s bootlickers are understandable. There is nothing much positive to say about him; so such a Godsend would be hyped to high heaven until it sounds like a broken record.
Now for the scrutiny of his new mandate: Mugabe becomes AU chairman at a time when the continent is facing an escalation in terrorism in some parts of it and problems like Ebola. Will a leader who failed to deal with a primordial disease like cholera — which killed over 4 000 Zimbabweans in 2008 — be able to handle Ebola?
The political and security situation in Africa is also bad as shown by the state of affairs in the Great Lakes region, South Sudan and the intensifying threat posed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the surrounding countries.
If Mugabe is a combative warrior who advocates “African solutions for African problems”, as he often projects himself, let him take on Boko Haram and let’s see how far he will go with that.
Countries of the Lake Chad basin — Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger — are under growing threat from Boko Haram. African leaders have agreed to send 7 500 troops to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, but will Mugabe’s leadership make a difference?
Of course, it won’t.
To begin with, the AU has no resources and capacity to deal with problems facing the continent. Though it has easily enough farmland to feed itself (like Zimbabwe), the continent still imports around US$50 billion worth of food from overseas every year.
Mugabe won’t make a difference at all. His Sadc tenure as chairman ends in August. What has he done for the region so far? How will he succeed at the AU and Sadc level when he can’t even fix man-made problems he authored in his own backyard?
Zimbabwe’s economy is on a nose-dive, companies are closing down at an alarming rate throwing thousands into the streets, unemployment is now ubiquitous, poverty and suffering are all over the place, and social ills are spreading with lighting speed like Ebola.
Now what can Mugabe, on the sunset of his life and political career, really do? Not much.
The AU, which succeeded the OAU in 2002, has failed, as Thabo Mbeki put it, to undertake a “serious, systematic and strategic review” and this is part of a “malaise that is poisoning the African body politic”.
It is dominated and driven by Africa’s post-independence liberation aristocracy or elite comprising unprincipled, corrupt, incompetent and rent-seeking leaders. Zimbabwe is a shining example of that.
On a more practical level, the AU lacks political muscle and credibility to be an effective source of power on the continent. Currently, its membership includes all African states but Morocco, so that even the most egregious violators of human rights, such as Zimbabwe and others, are represented. This undermines not only its commitment to the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democratic institutions, but also the legitimacy of the organisation itself.
Furthermore, the AU’s lack of resources cripples its capacity and relevance as a serious political player. Mugabe spoke about this, but has no solution as he often does at home.
AU leaders have largely failed to deal with urgent human rights disasters that threaten Africans, displacing millions and forcing tens of thousands to flee abroad.
But when it comes to uniting their voices and closing ranks to obstruct the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has become in some respects the best hope for many of those Africans who have been victims of atrocities by their own governments, African leaders — especially the likes of Mugabe — rise to the occasion.
Now let’s be candid about this. The ICC has many flaws and is not beyond criticism. Like all other international institutions, starting with the United Nations and the Security Council, it has its own problems, and the cases that reach it are open and vulnerable to self-serving manipulation and international double standards.
The fact that the United States and its allies have tried to resist ICC jurisdiction must not be a pretext for leaders like Mugabe to agitate for its disbanding. It cannot yet ensure that justice reaches the gravest crimes regardless of where they are committed, just like the courts in some African countries.
However, it remains the most significant institution and a symbol of achievement of the world community to fight impunity for the most serious crimes perpetrated by the most powerful people.
Over the past few years, significant progress has been made to hold even heads of states to account — such as former Liberian president Charles Taylor and former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. A key step forward has been the recognition that official status is not a bar to prosecution for the gravest crimes.
The notion that sitting heads of state should have immunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is not just appallingly self-serving, but also repugnant given the kind of disincentive it would create for anyone to leave power, as well as the incentive it offers for the unscrupulous to gain or maintain power at whatever cost — by murder, coup or fraudulent elections, just to name a few.
Muckraker understands one of Mugabe’s objectives during his AU tenure would be to engineer a mass withdrawal from the ICC.
This would be disgraceful for a country which has a leader who has Gukurahundi, election-related murders and Murambatsvina skeletons in his cupboard.