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How patriotic is Mugabe?

WITH political turmoil in Zanu PF over President Robert Mugabe’s volatile succession and the damage it is inflicting on his deeply divided party, as well as attendant ominous threats to national stability persisting, one cannot not help but ask whether Mugabe is capable of reading looming signs of trouble and taking an early exit to spare the country unnecessary pain.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya

If Mugabe is the nationalist and patriot he often claims to be, he should now take a step back and reflect seriously on his rule and its consequences.

At some point — and now is the opportune time — he needs to look at the bigger picture and stop being driven by personal interest and self-preservation. He needs to think about his own country first for a change, not his political survival.

Further Mugabe must now ask himself: Is this the Zimbabwe he envisioned and wanted when he joined the liberation struggle and when he was in jail for a decade and later at the frontline in Mozambique?

If he is truly a patriot as he would have us believe he must take stock of his rule and ask whether his protracted reign has improved his country and the people’s lot.

That Mugabe is a nationalist is not in doubt — he really believes Zimbabwe is a superior country, without question, but whether or not he is a patriot is questionable.

It is important not to confuse nationalism with patriotism, although they are not mutually exclusive.

Undeniably Mugabe sacrificed at lot, together with other nationalists, to fight for Zimbabwe’s liberation even though he never misses an opportunity to wax lyrical about his often exaggerated heroics of the past.

However, after that his 35-year rule has been evidently devoid of patriotic content — that healthy pride in your country which oozes progressive loyalty and the desire to ensure its welfare and prosperity, as well as conditions for its citizens to thrive beyond vacuous symbolisms and rhetoric.

It can be argued Mugabe is as nationalistic as he is not patriotic and internationalist. How do you have a patriot who runs down his own country to such an appalling level without qualms? Not only does he lack patriot substance, but the idea that nations should cooperate because their common interests are more important than their differences seems to elude him.

He is caught and frozen in a time warp. He needs to break the Cold War paradigm and unchain his mind to become pragmatic and see the world as a dynamic arena with complex matrices to pursue his nation’s interest.

But what of his record?

Even if we postulate Mugabe started off very well before things went wrong at some point, we can’t avoid asking why then is he not quitting given his disastrous leadership, policy failures and corruption which have ruined the economy, impoverished the nation and driven millions of citizens to be economic refugees in hostile foreign lands?

Besides, given the grisly human rights abuses his regime perpetrated why doesn’t he for stability and progress’ sake tackle and close the ugly chapter before his long overdue departure?

Instead of sitting down to fix his succession and the broken country, Mugabe has been gallivanting all over the world. As thing stands, both his national and party succession conundrums are in murky territory.

He has no clear succession plan, and uncertainty looms over whether a stable transition will take place. There is nothing remotely predictable about what’s going to happen after Mugabe. Given Zanu PF’s simmering internal strife, this puts the nation’s stability and future at risk.

All the while the economy has been on a tailspin, with companies closing down on an industrial scale, while people are being retrenched en masse. This has fuelled unemployment, already at stratospheric levels, and grinding poverty. Because of all this Zimbabwe remains vulnerable to perilous shocks that might trigger political instability and violence whenever he eventually goes. Is this how true patriots behave?

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