The extent to which President Robert Mugabe has exploited the issue of the Chimurenga heroes’ skulls illustrates the desperation of the Zanu PF regime to attract support.
This is populism pure and simple. Harare and London have been negotiating the issue for several months, the president confirmed at Heroes Acre on Monday. Discussions began in December we are told.
Quite clearly, Britain wants to avoid giving Mugabe a propaganda gift when the country is on its knees as a result of his policies. He will seize on anything that comes his way.
His reference to the skulls means he has been fully briefed on the issue. But that didn’t stop him making a meal of it as soon as an audience presented itself.
Former Information minister Jonathan Moyo rather neatly exposed the problem: “How can we focus on the economy when the skulls are displayed in a British museum,” he remarked on Twitter, his preferred medium.
Whatever the case, here and now we can see Zanu PF manipulating historical issues to secure a narrow nationalist advantage. Fortunately the country is not swallowing it. Eighteen-ninety six was a good while ago and Zanu PF has had every opportunity to address the issue, just as it did with the Zimbabwe museum pieces in Cape Town. What people want now is food on their tables and that doesn’t remotely seem to be coming despite Mugabe’s promise in the 2013 election campaign.
What the country does need is intelligent economic management which means avoidance of damaging populist measures.
Zimbabwe is currently patting itself on the back for its conduct at the helm of Sadc and the AU. But our per capita GDP is seriously down on 2013. Moyo says he sees the economy bouncing back “big time on the back of the irreversible indigenisation and empowerment bedrock”.
But approval is far from universal. We have had an interesting insight into what the Ivory Coast thinks of Mugabe’s rule with President Alassane Ouattara’s sudden indisposition just when Mugabe wanted to land at the Ivorian airport.
And the problem is not confined to Ivory Coast. Another Francophone leader suddenly reversed his decision to open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair after he was “got at” by the French, so President Mugabe tells us.
What this means in the long-term is a shortage of FDI at precisely the time we need it most. Nobody wants to help it would seem. When the 2013 election campaign was concluded, Sadc leaders breathed a sigh of relief. The country appeared to be on the brink of stability and prosperity.
But it wasn’t to be. Zimbabwe today is far removed from stability and prosperity.
We are, not to put too fine a point on it, a basket case. The issue of the skulls has only compounded the perception that Zimbabwe is a populist state with no appropriate policies.
That is a perception we can do without.