ON Monday next week, Zimbabwe will commemorate its 36th anniversary of Independence from British colonial rule amid a serious national crisis characterised by economic implosion, poverty and suffering largely attributable to President Robert Mugabe’s inept leadership and policy failures.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
That Mugabe’s regime is corrupt and incompetent is now beyond doubt. The evidence is there for all to see: economic collapse, company closures, unemployment and grinding poverty. And, of course, patronage and corruption.
The land reform programme, though necessary, was reduced to a chaotic and violent enterprise. Parastatals, which used to be locomotives of economic growth, are now technically insolvent — mere shells. Their main use now is being feeding troughs for Mugabe’s cronies.
The indigenisation charade is a legalised but damaging racketeering scheme. Extractive political and economic institutions, coupled with a failed leadership, have left a trail of destruction in their wake, reducing the travails of those who fought for the country’s liberation to a story of victory, tragedy and uncertainty authored by a struggle hero-turned-villain.
Even those who were physically in the trenches during the war now agree. Listening to war veteran leaders these days bears testimony to Mugabe’s failures and his betrayal of the struggle. Only captured beneficiaries of Mugabe’s patronage, those on his payroll and frauds remain in his corner.
The ordinary people now know very well where the problem lies even if Mugabe remains hanging onto power by his fingernails. He is only still there on the basis of stolen electoral victories through unconstitutional and unlawful abuse of the military and attendant intimidation and political violence, as well as vote-rigging, as he finally admitted last week.
That Mugabe has now publicly owned up to abusing the army to remain in power is in itself an admission that he has failed and is no longer popular; that’s why he needs to rely on forces of coercion to win elections. The relative peace that Zimbabwe enjoys today is a product of structure-induced, not democratic stability.
Mugabe’s current reliance on colonial-like methods of ruling, which shames Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle heroes still alive and would horrify those who are now dead, is not surprising at all. It’s a pervasive post-colonial African problem.
Besides, it’s also failure to observe Germany philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s advice: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
Part of the problem why Zimbabwean nationalists’ dream of an independent, free and prosperous nation has turned into a nightmare is that Mugabe, who postures as a pan-Africanist and a patriot despite evidence to the contrary, inherited a settler colonial state, but failed to reform its architecture and political economy as part his ill-fated nation-building project.
Instead, he elected to engage in repetition without a difference; with the only difference being that he has now perfected colonial methods of repression better than colonialists themselves.
While he postures as an anti-imperialist crusader through cheap rhetoric, symbolisms and slogans, largely bankrupt on substance, his rule has in many ways preserved coloniality after the triumph of African nationalism over slavery, colonialism and conquest.
Those who pioneered Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and fought to defeat colonial occupation — from Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Magama Tongogara to Alfred Nikita Mangena, and many others — would be turning in their graves if they knew that what they sacrificed for has turned out to be an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been, as Frantz Fanon would have put it.
Instead of drawing the battle-lines against unemployment, hunger, disease, ignorance and poverty, Mugabe is fighting his own citizens for self-preservation. Their constitutional rights earned through blood, sweat and tears; their dreams and hopes are all being crushed by his boot of tyranny. Systematic repression and dehumanisation, from Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina to Itai Dzamara’s forced disappearance, are hallmarks of today’s Zimbabwe.
Obviously, this is not what people fought for, hence Mugabe’s great betrayal of the struggle.