ThE late former President Robert Mugabe may long have gone, but the man left a lot of pragmatic lessons for politicians and would-be politicians in Zimbabwe.
An intimate look at Mugabe’s brand of politics and the ramifications thereof can patently leave any politician wiser.
Mugabe took over a country that functioned efficiently with an enviable health delivery system, a vibrant education sector and robust agricultural activity that even had Zimbabwe being declared the breadbasket of Africa.
For a time, Mugabe rode on the wave of already set-up systems without many people detecting that something was going wrong. It was at the turn of the century that things really began to show.
Of the things left by the white man, infrastructure included, very little was done to upgrade or at least maintain them. Probably, the best allegory that captures the Zimbabwean story would be that of a man who inherits a brand new spanking Mercedes Benz vehicle. The man starts driving the car as usual, simply ensuring he fuels the car. However, as years go by, the man, whether by default or by design does not find it necessary to take the pricey vehicle for regular maintenance. He neither changes oil filters or anything, but just drives the vehicle until it’s a ramshackle, drawing people’s laughter everywhere it goes.
Tyres haven’t been changed since inheriting the vehicle and the oil becomes supremely dirty, yet somehow the man insisted on running the vehicle, essentially declaring that his ramshackle was gold and some other people want to steal it from him.
For the better part of his rule, Mugabe had utterly failed economically. Failing to give sensible answers to serious questions at the time the man shifted to a default gear, where he cast blame on the European Union and the United States, blaming sanctions for his failures. It became Mugabe’s favourite pastime each time he took to the podium locally or internationally.
Just like what happens even at a personal level, when someone denies responsibility for their problems in life, things do not get any better. Mugabe became probably the most hated man in Zimbabwe’s history when he waged his senseless verbal jousts against America and London.
The man would insult and throw vitriol at these countries at the time, but that did not carry the day for him.
Back home, resentment for him was growing. He even splurged on a “One million-man march” denouncing the British and the Americans and the sanctions, but the unpalatable truth remained that failure to manage the economy was his and not the West’s.
Shifting focus to an external force is a clear signal of haplessness in leadership. Mugabe refused to take responsibility to the end, that he was bailed out by none other than his nemesis, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) president Morgan Tsvangirai at the formation of the Government of National Unity.
All the kicking and screaming he did at international fora did not yield any change, but brought shame upon his rule. It is definitely a wrong turn once one starts to abdicate responsibility, choosing instead to blame a mythical force for their demise.
The current administration in Zimbabwe ought to learn from Mugabe; the lessons are quite fundamental. Decrying sanctions has never been and will never be a panacea to the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe gained international notoriety for human rights abuses, torture, harassment and intimidation of government critics.
It was precisely those actions that stoked the fires of global resentment against his rule. Of course, he would clutch at straws and hide behind the land reform façade.
To him, he was being persecuted for taking land from the whites, but this was far from reality. A country gravitates towards being a rogue State the moment it suppresses dissent and victimises opposing views, the very elements that made the DNA of Mugabe’s reign.
The emergence of the MDC was not in itself the cause of Zimbabwe’s troubles, but rather a response to the free-fall of the economy and national disaster that was occurring while people watched.
Like Tsvangirai captures in his autobiography, at first, he thought little of getting into politics, but was indeed thrown into the deep end. The art of shifting blame has never helped humanity from time immemorial.
After making Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, Ian Smith was hit by sanctions; it is even more ironical that the nationalists then, Eddison Zvobgo, as spokesperson in particular, continued to call for sanctions against the Smith regime as it upped its oppression of the locals.
Today, the opposition is denounced left, right and centre for calling for sanctions, the very thing which liberators did against an oppressive government. The Smith story is curious in that, the man managed to hold things together in the face of sanctions. The health systems never took a tumble as we see it today. Roads did not become craters, neither did civil servants lose their sense of worth as we live with today.
The sanctions charade represents chaos and cluelessness. No nation ever progressed while shifting blame on another. Address the atrocious human rights record!