PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will today officially open the Zanu PF annual conference in Masvingo at a time when the country is paralysed by chronic economic problems, exacerbated by his vicious succession power struggles.
Editor’s Memo: Dumisani Muleya
This will bring into sharp focus the ancient Chinese proverb that when the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others windmills.
The proverb basically means that when change comes some people treat it as an opportunity, while others resist it.
Change scares some people as it brings new conditions and challenges. Some are even afraid of the unknown.
Yet time teaches us that the only constant in life is change. If we accept that then one will more easily relate to what Greek philosopher Heraclitus was saying in his writings when he said “the way up and the way down are one and the same. Living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old, are the same”.
While Mugabe is hanging onto power by his fingernails, clearly determined to die in office, other progressive leaders across Africa are accepting reality — that change is inevitable.
Outgoing Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama added new meaning to this in an African political context when he phoned President-elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo congratulating him for his victory in the elections a week ago.
Mahama’s concession speech is worth quoting.
“Every election is a hard-fought battle, and this one was no exception. For those of us who choose to be contenders and go into electoral contests, we go about it as a win-lose proposition,” he said.
“With this understanding, I would like to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country’s democracy and would work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to the incoming administration.”
Smooth transition of power is what we need in Zimbabwe. In 2008 and previous elections, Mugabe almost certainly lost but clung onto power through a campaign of terror and brutality. In 2008 he lost the first round of polls and unleashed a fierce military backlash. Grisly human rights abuses and murders were committed, ensuring Mugabe walked back to office on the corpses of fellow citizens. This and many other examples, including other excesses of his corrupt and incompetent regime, showed he doesn’t care about Zimbabwe but himself.
This is what all power-hungry politicians and dictators do. They demand third terms as in Burundi and Rwanda, and possibly the Democratic Republic of Congo, for self-aggrandisement, not the common good. Look at the drama in Gambia now. Defeated incumbent President Yahya Jammeh is fighting to go down with the country.
In a continent where the democratic deficit is endemic, the Gambian election on December 1 was a beacon of hope.
Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 military coup, initially conceded defeat and called the leader of the opposition coalition, Adama Barrow, to congratulate him. The election felt like the end of an era and a new beginning.
However, in a dramatic turn of events Jammeh, a dictator widely known for his erratic behaviour, somersaulted to reject the poll outcome and will of the people.
In a speech on state TV last Friday, he claimed “serious and unacceptable abnormalities” and demanded a rerun of the entire election. He then launched a crackdown, banning protests and ordering the army on to the streets, a familiar option for despots when they lose elections and are cornered.
The euphoric jubilation of the Gambian people turned into a nightmare. It was a coup in all but name.
Mugabe must read the signs of the times though. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power for 37 years, will stand down before next year’s general election.
There have been many leadership changes and renewals in the region and the rest of Africa. In recent years so many autocrats have bitten the dust. Mugabe must wake up and smell the coffee.