Strongman of Zimbabwean politics goes the way of all dictators
Tuesday night, 14th of November, 2017, the last chapter in the long history of Mugabe in the Zimbabwean public space was opened. He was brought under house arrest by the military as a first step to his forced departure from office. Born 93 years ago on the 21st of February 1924, Robert Mugabe became President of Zimbabwe in 1987 and has remained in power willy-nilly for 30 full years. Before then he had been Prime Minister for seven years (1980-87), following the Lancaster House agreement that brought Ian Smith’s white minority rule to an end. Before that he was the chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for five years (1975-1980).
Mugabe started his political odyssey as a Marxist-Leninist in the 70’s, was imprisoned for sedition (1964-74), before becoming a revolutionary leading the Rhodesian Bush War and turned a socialist in the 90’s. After changing the name of his party to ZANU-PF (Patriotic front), he crushed Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), killing over 10,000 civilians, especially the Ndebele people, using his fifth brigade, he quickly transited from a revolutionary to a dictator. He encouraged the violent seizure of white-owned land. Food production was severely impacted, generating famine, international sanctions and unprecedented economic decline.
He refused to hand over power to any other and got re-elected in 2002, 2008 and 2013 through electoral campaigns dominated by violence and electoral fraud and was planning to run again in 2018 at age 94. Having dominated Zimbabwean politics for nearly four decades, Mugabe had become a controversial and divisive figure. He was previously praised as a revolutionary hero of the African liberation struggle who helped to free Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism and white minority rule. But then he turned a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement, wide spread corruption, anti-white racial discrimination, human rights abuses, suppression of political critics and crime against humanity.
It is regrettable that many men who start as revolutionaries end up as dictators and finally resign, retire, are removed or die in disgrace. History is replete with these men who played god, who forced their wishes on their people and imprisoned or killed those who resisted. According to Wikipedia, a dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power and wields it in an oppressive and abusive manner. History has thrown up men who seized power to make laws, suspend elections, proclaim state of emergency and repress political opponents without following due process. Some of these men were former liberators who have turned into egocentric sociopaths; others are democratically elected demagogues who are now in disarray, but most were or are outright usurpers of political power through military might, hereditary militancy or hijacked revolution. According to Plaid Avenger, while these despots come from diverse backgrounds of debauchery, they all share a core common callous characteristic which put them into the cross hairs of high-powered rifle of history.
These tyrants suppress the freedom of speech and religion, destroy all political opposition, crush or control the press and grab as much of the national resources of the state as they can grab for themselves and their families. Such men include Adolf Hitler ( 1889-1945), Josef Stalin (1928-1913), Pol Pot (1925-1998), Idi Amin (1925-2003), Augustino Pinochet (1915- 2006), Francois Duvelair (1907- 1971), Francisco Franco (1892-1925), Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), Charles Taylor (1948-), Mengistu Haile Marian (1937). Also included on this despicable list of tyrants are Benito Mussolini of Italy, Vladimir Lenin of Russia, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev of Russia, Chiang Kai Shek of China, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam. Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Sanni Abacha of Nigeria also feature on this list.
These men and others too numerous to mention in this space are held responsible (directly or indirectly) for millions of lives lost and crushing the human spirit out of hundreds of millions more. Most maintained their self righteous positions by brutal repression, the use of torture and systematically dis-empowering the peoples of their Nations by keeping them impoverished, illiterate or misinformed via the manipulation of the press. The greatest irony is that some of the deadliest of these despots who became self-absorbed, self-assured, above the law and power hungry first came to power through democratic elections. Most notable among those who rose on this democratic platform are Muamar Ghadaffi (Libya), Kin Jim Il (Korea), Than Shwe (Burma), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea), Omar-al Bashir (Sudan), Ayatollah Khamenei (Iran), Alexander Lukastenko (Belarus), Abdulaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Ali Abdullah Saleh (Yemen), Silver Berlusconi (Italy) and our man of the moment- Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who rose to power through electoral deception and fear mongering. He has killed more than 20, 000 civilians by fabricating stories of rebellion and treason. It is estimated that through his time in office, over 3.1million Zimbabweans either lost their lives or jobs and livelihood due to his” land reform programme” where he bulldozed any village that voiced dissent.
With death starring him on the face and afraid to end up at the International Court of Justice (ICC) in the Hague, Mugabe began to prepare his wife ‘Gucci Grace’ to succeed him and would broach no opposition or competition. Having previously neutralised the opposition posed by his former ally Morgan Tsvangri, whom he ran out of town, he followed the same route most recently. He unilaterally sacked his vice – president, and potential successor- Emmerson Mnangagwa and that opened the last chapter on Mugabe and his stranglehold over Zimbabwe allowing him to go the same way all dictators exit- by disgrace. It is strange that men would fight and kill to grap power, kill and dehumanise others to stay in power, strain by all means to force their will on their people and then be forced to resign, retire, be dethroned, kill themselves or get killed in disgrace. Can the remnants of this tribe still in power- 21 in Africa, 18 in Asia, seven in the Middle East, one in Europe and two in the Americas learn any lessons? I pray that Assad of Syria, Erdogan of Turkey, Maduro of Venezuela, Duterte of Philippines, Musoveni of Uganda, Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Lukashenko of Belarus, Nkurunziza of Burundi, Biya of Cameroun, Derby of Chad, Bongo of Gabon, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea etc who are trampling on their people, playing god and manipulating their constitutions to remain in power perpetually are listening? I just pray.
Mazi Ohuabunwa, OFR firstname.lastname@example.org
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