When Obama once remarked that “Africa needs strong institutions and not strongmen,” his message was loud and clear; the abuse of the led by their leaders is certainly not what independence is about in Africa.
Zimbabweans are going to the polls next year to cast their ballots for both Parliamentary and Council elections which one politician called a “do or die’ elections. The country is currently reeling from decades of what most human rights defenders and other cpommentators say is “gross missrule,” by the ZANU PF led government. The Zimbabwe of today is a far cry from the Zimbabwe of the 80s and 90s. Despite all the chaos, the Zimbabweans are expected to chose a leader who will extricate them from the sorry state they are currently in.
On the cards are a number of players but the serious contenders have been whittled to two only which are those of, Morgan Tsvangira, a tried and tested unionist and the other is the die hard nonagenarian ruler of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has had the blessing of his party with no other opposing contender in sight. He will be 94 next year and the world’s oldest elected president.
Joice Mujuru is also on the track, she is the embattled former vice Presidebt who worked hand-in-glove with Mugabe for a very very long time. She only fell out with Mugabe after she was accused of plotting to oust him in a coup, a charge she vehemently denies.
Others, are Welshaman Ncube, leader of the other Movement for Democratic Change MDC, Lovemore Madhuku leader of the obscure National Constitutional Assembly party (NCA), Tendai Biti, a former Finance Minister in the inclusive government and leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
An interesting late entrant in the mele’e is Nkosana Moyo, a former minister in the Zanu PF government and exiled businessman, he resigned from cabinet in 2001. He has all the hallmarks of an able leader but critics say he has been out of touch for long.
Matebeleland based leader of ZAPU party Dumiso Dabengwa is baying for a place as well. Dabengwa’s party is one of the longest living party on Zimbabwean soil, the fact that it assumes a tribal (Ndebele) bias has made it difficult to attract membership outside the region as well as other tribes. That said, ZAPU’s presence in the current polical fray is seen as just addimg the numbers.
Yes ZANU PF is probaby on its way out this time and here is why. To start with, soon after winning in what they described as ‘landslide victory,’ Mugabe hastily crafted the Zimbabwe Agenda for suatainable Social Economic Transfromation (ZimAsset for short). This was meant to be a blueprint for social and economic upliftment for the suffering people of Zimbabwe. It had a timeline of October 2013 to December 2018. On the day that the Zimasset was unveilled to the nation, Robert Mugabe said of the doomed-from-start project;
“Zimasset was crafted to achieve sustainable development and social equity anchotred on industrialisation, empowerment and employment creation which will be largely propelled by the judicious exploitation of the country’s human and natural resources. This result based agenda is built around four strategic clusters that will enable Zimbabwe to achieve economic growth and reposition the country as one of the strongest economies of africa,” Mugabe wallowed lyrical amid the claptrap of a subjugated supporters.
The perceived miraculous growth of the country soon after elections has been the direct opposite. Zimbabwe experienced a deteriorating economic and social environment since 2000, way before Mugabe’s proclamation of a revamped country.
As funny as the Zimasset might sound, Mugabe called it a sanction-busting strategy, “hence its focus on the full exploitatin of value additions to the country’s own abundant resources.” The government of Zimbabwe failed to produce the 2 million jobs that ZimAsset had promised the youths and all the other unemployed persons in the country. As its stands, the unemployment rate stands at close to 90%. The streets are littered with vendors who have virtually colonised the avenues, byways and alleys. With no end in sight, most Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring states. Those that remin cant even afford to pay fpor school fees and as for the rural areas, most children are out of school.
Later after the elections, Mugabe travelled to Beijing where a deal was likely to be reached over a $3 billion package which was to be backed by Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth. It was another look east blinding failure.
“Yes people might say the economy is not grinding, but certainly it does take time to grind and as long as you have your initiators in the right place and you know you are getting the resources, you are injecting the resources into the economy, the machine will in due course start to grind faster and faster until the rate of grinding is as we desire.” That grinding is now clear testament of ultimate failure laid bare for all to see.
The ZANU PF regime has already put the engines that churn out violence into gear already. Recenlty, police blocked and arrested some opposition youths in Gweru for exercing their right to be heard. As if that was not enough, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe last Friday called on his supporters to “kick and punish” groups of people he accused of committing acts of political violence in the name of his ruling ZANU-PF party.
Addressing a youth rally in Lupane, 450 km (279 miles) southwest of the capital Harare, Mugabe, said ZANU-PF should confront groups of people pretending to be ruling party members “You should not allow those small groups to spoil our name. Wherever you see them, come on, seize them and get them out of the road and give them good punishment,” Mugabe said at the end of a speech broadcast on state television. “You don’t need to have to wait for the police … they are doing harm, they are committing crime, come on, hold them and kick them. Give them the punishment they deserve and call the police afterwards,” he added, amid cheers from the crowd.
Japanese Ken Yamamoto, columnist in one of Zimbabwean private publications once observed that it’s important to underscore key issues about leadership in the twenty first century. First, in this millennium, if the change outside a country is faster than the change inside it, then the end is near. Second, this millennium requires leaders that are of sound mind and clarity of purpose. By purpose, I mean a clear vision of how they want to advance the country and make not only a tangible difference but a remarkable and transformational one too. Third, leadership in this millennium needs a leader who smells or can read the air that means they get it. Japanese youths use the phrase “kuuki yomenai” to describe folks that cannot ‘read’ the air.
“Leaders that are NOT kuuki yomenai understand how global politics works, how and when to go against the current, when to advance a cause and how to do so. They understand how to deal with issues in a twenty first fashion conscious of the fact that we are in a world of fibre optics, a world of the Internet and twenty four hour news cycles, a world of drones and unmanned vehicles, a world beyond the physical, but also a growing virtual world. This century requires, not a dinosaur, but a sharp and alert leader who is ever hitting the ground running.”
A few years ago, speaking at his Zanu PF central committee meeting in Harare, Mugabe pleaded with Zimbabweans to temporarily ignore the country’s economic difficulties and smile at visitors coming for the SADC Heads of State summit slated for later that month. Although he had said prior that the economy was on the mend and poised for growth, Mugabe pleaded,
“We know that our people are going through a very difficult period and that there are no jobs. However, we are asking you to smile and show the region that we are a hospitable people. That we can welcome visitors, let us all smile and for just a moment forget our problems. The people … as a whole should not be found wanting in expressing their joy along places where they may be visited, so that we are not a morose, sorrowing and grieved people.”
It is a shame that a leader can bend so low as to expect his subjects to pretend that all was well. Mugabe has no face at all and the people asked to pretend to have full stomachs cant do that any more. They need a new dispensation, a begining and a new coutry. A country where roads are not splotches of potholes, where buildings are habitable and where the police is the custodian of piece.
Yamamoto recalls thus: “Every sane Zimbabwean knows that roads in Zimbabwe have deteriorated since the late 90s. When I first travelled to Zimbabwe in 1998, the highways were beginning to look tired. Every Zimbabwean has had to deal with potholes playing havoc with their vehicles. In addition, the average Zimbabwean knows that the majorities of tarred wide and narrow strip roads in Zimbabwe were built by the colonial government and have reached their useful life.
The least the present government needed to do was maintain and improve them over and above building new intercity toll expressways with secure embankments nicely finished with adequate road signs and telephones for emergency road assistance. But Alas, Mugabe has presided over the collapse of this infrastructure and he doesn’t even know it! A leader who is so out of touch is not only a danger to himself, but a threat to regional security and the interests of a young generation.”
It seems the chickens are coming home to roost for Mugabe, We hear of the first lady, yes, Grace Mugabe baying for the nonagenarian to announce his sucessor or else there will be chaos. “There is no succession which will take place without the involvement of Mugabe. I know the president says, No! No! I dont want to impose a candidate. But I always argue with him that you have a role, you have a right to chose a candidate… I am asking him in front of you. How come in some country, people like Mandela left Thabo Mbeki. And in other countries hear their presidents left so and so. President don’t be afraid, just tell us who you want us to support,” the first lady is said to have dared the husband amid cheres from the crowd.
The people will speak come next year and this time they will not speak to retain tyrany and anarchy into power.
Mugabe is living a lie. His Presidency is anchored on a lie. His wife is living a lie, (except where she goaded him to pronounce a running mate,) and pretty many of his ministers are living a lie. But the average Joe in Zimbabwe is living the real life of hardship and experiencing the actual school of hard knocks. When a leader is so out of touch, it’s an insult on the intelligence of his followers. And when change is happening faster outside a country than inside it, the end is near.
John Churu is a Journalist and Social Commentator