IT was Newt Gingrich — the brash American Republican politician who naturally supports Donald Trump in the current race for the White House — who said if lions were to waste time hunting mice they would starve to death even if they caught them.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
“Lions cannot afford to hunt mice because they literally will starve to death, even if they catch them,” he said. “Lions and all large carnivores have to hunt game large enough to justify the investment, so they have to hunt antelope and zebra.”
Gingrich — former US House of Representatives Speaker and a candidate in the Republican primaries in 2012 — went on to elucidate his metaphor, saying some leaders or executives are really big on chipmunks, a burrowing ground squirrel with cheek pouches and light and dark stripes running down the body found in North America and northern Eurasia.
The moral of the story was that some leaders waste time concentrating on petty issues, while missing the big picture in the process.
If there is any leader who does that with perfection, it is President Robert Mugabe. Consumed by hubris — a character flaw often seen in the heroes of classical Greek tragedy, including Oedipus and Achilles—and self-righteousness, Mugabe, especially these days, is not thinking about the wellbeing of Zimbabwe and its people, but himself. He is locked in a battle for self-preservation and an obsession to salvage whatever remains of his tattered legacy.
Mugabe’s frantic behaviour betrays his longing for lost glory, prestige and Churchillian recognition which he once enjoyed, but will never recover given the scale of his leadership failures and the calamity they spawned.
Off his globe-trotting errands, back home, he doesn’t focus on his constitutional duties and job, but rather on the politics of survival now made all the more dramatic by his cutthroat succession power struggles.
While he loves travelling abroad and appearing on international fora flamboyantly sabre-rattling at his critics, it is rare to hear him talking equally energetically and coherently on the economy, job creation and social service delivery back home.
It might well be that despite his degrees in economics he is not comfortable talking about the economy, yet he is certainly fixated with small talk; not big ideas and vision.
Listen to Mugabe talk these days; it’s always excuses for failure, scapegoating and self-defence. He doesn’t take responsibility for anything, which is one of his biggest weaknesses, over and above his appalling incompetence and narcissism.
For dictators are individuals whose self-admiration and vanity is so extreme that they live in a kind of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self takes precedence over everything else, hence the personality cult.
But time has come for Mugabe to be serious.
Zimbabwe’s growing social instability and unrest, exacerbated by serious economic decline, endemic governance failures and corruption, and boiling tensions over his succession wars, could slide the county back into conflict and push it to the brink of chaos.
The country is floundering, with little signs of meaningful reform and sustainable recovery.
Plans to pay off the country’s US$1,8 billion arrears to international financial institutions and secure US$2 billion in new funding are collapsing as shown by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s failure to visit Harare before the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Washington DC from October 3-9 as initially planned.
The Lima Plan, a product of Zimbabwe’s erratic re-engagement process with the international community, is all but dead in the water.
This means political instability and economic chaos will worsen unless and until Mugabe stops gallivanting around the world and focuses on rescuing the country from implosion.
Sadly, he can’t and won’t do that but he needs to realise he has to for his own legacy and wellbeing of the nation and its people.