President Robert Mugabe is certainly making the most of his tenure as chair of the African Union.
He has spoken out against the British and Americans, his favourite targets, and expressed sympathy with the late Muammar Gadaffi’s regime in Libya.
More recently he has come out against two-term limits, thereby running against the tide of Sadc policy which seeks to curb overweening leaders.
“We put a rope around our necks saying leaders can only have two terms,” he said at the opening session of the AU assembly in South Africa.
This was seen as a reference to Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term but was also seen as a swipe at Mugabe.
“It is a democracy if people want a leader to continue,” he said implausibly.
Some things need to be spelt out for our nonagenarian president. He may indeed be entitled to another term but the negative publicity emanating from rulers clinging on to power is not worth the political cost as Mugabe is slowly discovering.
Zanu PF may feel triumphant over their by election victories but all they do is provide a negative impression of a dictator who won’t let go. Now they are fighting among themselves which is the all-too predictable outcome of the two-thirds issue.
The irony of all this is that the AU and Sadc will approach the European Union for funding in the absence of their own resources.
This means Sadc in particular will go cap in hand to their sponsors despite the persistence of destructive policies. That is particularly true of Zimbabwe where the Mugabe regime is pursuing damaging policies. South African taxpayers will end up picking up the tab.
Again, we should note Mugabe’s loyalty to Gadaffi, who inflicted the most appalling human rights violations on his populace. Zanu PF has never bothered about such niceties. How much attention did the AU give to Itai Dzamara’s abduction?
“Stand up against West,” the Herald quoted President Mugabe saying in Johannesburg.
“Stand up against Mugabe” would be a more appropriate exhortation. What has been his contribution to democracy in Africa we need to ask ourselves.
It would also be helpful if somebody could tell him that Tony Blair is no longer British prime minister! What did all those heads of state think having to listen to a lecture on Blair and Gadaffi from a redundant ruler?
Africa wants to move on. That includes young and dynamic leaders who have a vision of where they are going, not old-guard rulers who, when they don’t like what journalists write, punish them with abduction.
What could be a clearer message to the world of Zanu PF’s redundancy than that?
Now Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, having toured Matabeleland with his sell-by date views, tells parliament that we should forget about the past.
He sounds confused. Perhaps we can help.
We liked MDC Renewal Team International Relations Committee chair Gorden Moyo who had some choice words for Mugabe who appears to have missed the irony when he poked fun at Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza who was standing for a third term in his country.
“Mugabe should be equally reminded of the same perilous road that he has taken over the last 35 years of uninterrupted reign,” Moyo said.
“His long distance rulership, sit-tightism and stayism has been characterised by genociding practices and tendencies as signified by Operation Gukurarahundi, Operation Murambatsvina, Operation Kakudzokwi, Operation Mavhoterapapi and Operation Red Figure, among others.”
His bashing, Moyo said, was akin to seeing a jot in Nkurunziza’s eyes when while a log is hanging on his own.
Douglas Mwonzora pointed to the contradiction of constitutional guarantees that the president does not uphold.
“The constitution sets term limits,” Mwonzora said “and so do other constitutions of advanced democracies.”
“The issue of people wanting to stay in power for ever is an archaic way of running nations and having a president issuing statements that are contrary to the constitution is embarrassing to say the least. Mugabe signed our constitution into law but goes on to say things that run directly against the very same document.”
No wonder people outside the country see its governance as dysfunctional and backward-looking.
Muckraker spotted two small things this week for the attention of our colleagues outside the country. Firstly Mugabe was not president until 1987. He was prime minister before that. Secondly we saw reference by Kembo Mohadi to documents being relocated to South Africa “before Independence”.
South Africans do not refer to their “independence”. They talk about their democracy and freedom.
Strictly speaking South Africa got its “independence” in 1910 as set out in the (UK) South Africa Act of 1909 followed by the legislation of 1931 that gave all the dominions their “independence”.
They see 1994 when Nelson Mandela formed a democratic government as ushering in a new era of liberation while 1996 witnessed the completion of work on the new constitution.
Newsday on Wednesday reported that 22 homesteads at Chomufuli Farm in Gutu, Masvingo belonging to beneficiaries of the chaotic land reform programme that began in 2000 were burnt by soldiers, leaving villagers stranded and hence seeking government intervention in the courts.
Why should soldiers take the law into their own hands and demand the vacation of farmers from the land they claim to have offer letters for? Aren’t we witnessing one of the several situations pointing to the shrinking of the so-called Zanu PF support as tensions continue to rise in the beleaguered ruling party?
“In 2002, we benefited from government’s fast-track land reform programme and the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement issued us with certificates of occupation (offer letters) to legitimise our stay,” reads part of the court application by the villagers.
Muckraker needs justification on this one; what role should the army play in any nation — is it supposed to fight against unarmed citizens or is it supposed to protect them? This happens after the media reported that the army had also threatened to invade streets in the cities and chuck out vendors. Are people safe in a militarised state in which the army unleashes terror on innocent civilians? Maybe these villagers are tasting their own medicine considering farm invasions were equally violent.
Sadly the country seems to be blind on the need to uphold the rule of law and soldiers seems so powerful to torment whoever they want at any time. Besides, who wants to re-grab the farm? Is it not a replica of the Manzou Estates invasion, whereby crops were destroyed while villagers were left stranded after their homes had been razed? And did the courts succeed in stopping the “all-powerful” Grace from taking over the land?
Unfortunately the military might in Zimbabwe serves to cement dictatorship which is the greatest enemy it is supposed to be fighting at the moment. Instead of being the hope we should have as impoverished citizens, it appears soldiers enjoy adding more misery on the already subjugated masses. Also some politicians know how best to use the coercive state apparatuses for the wrong reasons.
Let no war be created where it does not exist. Should we call this another Hondo yeminda?