FORMER Mozambican president Armando Guebuza light-heartedly told President Robert Mugabe (91) at the Sadc meeting in Victoria Falls in August last year that he was the only leader to have attended all of the organisation’s 34 summits.
“We are grateful to President Mugabe who is the only leader who has attended all 34 Sadc summits since April 1 1980 in Zambia when the then Southern African Development Co-ordinating Committee (Sadcc) was founded in Kafue.”
Two months down the road, Guebuza handed over power to Mozambique’s new President Filipe Nyusi after serving for two terms from 2005 to 2015. At the same function, Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba also told fellow regional leaders that Victoria Falls would be his last summit.
“I have led my country for nine years and will be stepping down as required by the Namibian constitution following two consecutive terms. This is the last time I am addressing this summit as president,” said Pohamba.
Ironically, speaking at Pohamba’s farewell banquet in Namibia, Mugabe, Africa’s longest serving president, praised Pohamba for a “smooth transfer of power”, a stark contrast to Zimbabwe’s elections routinely marred by violence, intimidation and systematic rigging for most of the 35 years Mugabe has been in power.
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In the southern African region, most countries have experienced leadership change and of late each time there is a smooth transfer of power in the region, Zimbabweans take to social media to express their longing for a change in leadership at a time they are enduring a resurgent economic crisis.
As Zambia celebrated the inauguration of its sixth president since Independence in 1964 in Edgar Lungu, some Zimbabweans turned to Twitter wondering if it could happen in Zambia why not in Zimbabwe.
The same also happened when Nyusi took over as Mozambique’s fourth president. While South Africa has had four presidents since black majority rule in 1994, Malawi has changed presidents five times since independence in 1964.
Tanzania is set for its fifth president, with President Jakaya Kikwete saying this month: “I can’t wait to step down in October after my two terms in office. After 10 years, you need to move on. It’s been 10 years since I came to this high-profile office … I was very young, just 55. But what I can tell you about this job is that it is stressful and thankless.”
Kikwete was quoted as saying during a speech in the United States.
Kikwete (64) became Tanzania’s fourth president in 2005 and is serving his second and final term.
In contrast, Mugabe has refused to let go of power. The veteran leader has over the years ruled out stepping down, claiming the country and his Zanu PF party could not do without him, which begs the question wither Zimbabwe when nature eventually takes its course?
While some party loyalists have publicly endorsed Mugabe as president for life, Zanu PF has for a long time been entangled in a vicious succession battle which has claimed the political lives of several party heavyweights including former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, ex-spokesperson Rugare Gumbo and former vice-president Joice Mujuru for allegedly plotting Mugabe’s ouster.
The party purges are ongoing, with fears increasing that this is at the expense of rescuing the sinking economy.
Mugabe has claimed if he were to go Zanu PF would disintegrate, an assertion which might be true although clearly self-serving.
In as much as factionalism is a cancer that erodes the cohesion of any political party, in Zanu PF it has helped Mugabe to stay put for the past 35 years as he has always emerged as the lone unifier.
Mugabe was re-elected last July amid rigging claims that have become routine, and has vowed to serve out his five-year term, with sycophants in Zanu PF and his patronage network pleading with him to run again in 2018 when he would be 94.
This is despite the fact he is currently dogged by health issues including eye and knee problems and reportedly prostate cancer, which have necessitated frequent, costly trips for treatment in the Far East.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mugabe’s 35-year rule has been an extension of bondage from the colonial Ian Smith regime.
“We got out of Rhodesian bondage on 18 April 1980 and plunged straight into Mugabe-Zanu PF bondage and we are still stuck in that. We just changed from a white oppressor and white despotic regime to a black oppressor and black despotic regime,” Saungweme said.
“There is little to celebrate in the last 35 years because Mugabe and the Zanu PF regime successfully reversed most of the gains of Independence. We have inadequate freedom of expression, we have enforced disappearances, we have universal suffrage on paper, but yet in actual terms, the elections are a sham and do not reflect the will of the people as embodied in the principle of universal suffrage.”
When Mugabe eventually steps down one way or the other, it will be with an eroded legacy for due to his economic mismanagement, he will leave the country without even a currency as the Zimbabwe dollar was lost to hyperinflation in 2009.
Above all, it has become patently clear Mugabe’s government is clueless on how to solve the current economic malaise, with despondency, doom and gloom enveloping the country.