While the mass euphoria over the exit of Robert Mugabe from the commanding office of Zimbabwean corporate nationhood rouses and simmers among the general population, Zimbabweans and, indeed, Africans must needs remind themselves that the emergence of one probable tyrant Mnangagwa in replacement of the other tyrant Mugabe is merely scratching the surface of the issue.
Thirty years ago Robert Mugabe was the celebrated hero of the Zimbabwean nation and of the ultimate total Southern liberation promise. In 1987 while the Apartheid regime in South Africa continued to play pariah politics with the most basic human rights violation and repression of expression and creativity, Zimbabwe under the promising Mugabe played host to a joint world creative artistes’ festival in 1987 tagged Graceland. This African Concert saw the participation of exiled world class South African performers like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing defiantly along with the great American singer and song writer Paul Simon and calling to Bring Back Nelson Mandela, Bring Him Back Home to Soweto! Everywhere then in the capital city of Harare, life size portraits of the first and only Zimbabwean president made such a royal spectacle urging all Zimbabweans: LET US RALLY BEHIND OUR AUTHENTIC AND CONSISTENT LEADER Cde. RG MUGABE. This was in the heydays of Mugabe’s popularity.
This memorable concert of African liberty was second only to the historic independence festival of Zimbabwe. 1980 saw the attendance of immortal Bob Marley and the Wailers to the newly independent southern African nation where the rallying cry for African unity rang high and glorious with the imperishable lyrics, ‘Zimbabwe’, and ‘Africa Unite’ which Marley sang in dedication to the great hope rising from within that beloved nation of the ancient kingdom of Matabeleland.
Sadly the entire dream soon turned to a mirage with the passage of time. By 2015 Mugabe had gone on to become the world’s oldest living sit-tight head of state, rivalling or beating his cohorts in Gaddafi’s Libya, Moi’s Kenya, Banda’s Malawi and Museveni’s Uganda some of whom had preferred to die as supreme leader rather than abdicate the throne that had become their divine mandate as of medieval European kingship institutions.
It had taken just nearly forty years for the loud mouthed Mugabe to preside over the retardation of Zimbabwe and the stupefaction of a continent, quite in the manner of other political tyrants before him. Like Napoleon Bonaparte of post-revolutionary France, he had joined the path toed by barbarian emperors.
By the August of 2017 Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader was about the only voice crying out in the wilderness of national damnation and expressing genuine shock and total disappointment over the new decision by government to declare President Robert Mugabe’s birthday a holiday. Yet here was a man who had ridden upon the absolute trust and goodwill of his people, beginning as a courageous liberator and representative of the soul of African freedom and dignity.
In his acceptance speech of 25th November 2017 Emerson Mnangagwa started out in the tradition of the emerging African hero with the assertion of being ‘humbled by the decision of my Party Zanu-PF, inviting me to serve our great nation…’ Nonetheless Mnangagwa is not a humble leader being called upon to lead. He has been part of the chicanery and foul politics of idolatry by the ruling party. And Zimbabwe is not a great nation either. It never has been great under the Zanu-PF. On the contrary Zimbabwe’s once famed but now notorious political party, Zanu-PF, has robbed and pauperised that tiny southern African nation with the endemic corruption and power wrangling that surpassed the eighteen years of PDP-APC induced democratic misery in Nigeria, and the persistent disgraceful dance of corruption and graft in the ANC government of South Africa under a compromised Zuma, regrettably soon after Mandela had left office to the new black draconian lords in power.
Zimbabwe might well be in the teeth of Mnangagwa the Crocodile whose antecedents, it is feared, might prove far more bestial, far more reprehensible than Mugabe’s, especially considering the hasty pardon and political pampering of the noxious greedy dictator who left unemployment at a whooping ninety three percent in that country. Like Nigeria, and all over Africa, it seems that Protectionism is the word, where it is anathema to call past leaders to account for their misdeeds while they were in power. Robert Mugabe is going away with all his loot while the Zanu-PF political machinery positions another ambitious strongman in his place who has declared. ‘I am required to serve our country as the president of all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, region, tribe, totem, or political affiliation.’
Zimbabweans nonetheless must remain watchful.
It is in the nature of all of Africa’s petty tyrants to avow messianic universalism of vision only to serve a back-hand stroke of betrayal in the process.
Paul Biya is still on the rampage in Cameroon muscling and murdering Anglophone dissenters of his interminable Francophone tyranny in that country.
Most thinking Nigerians will never forget in a haste their current pretender to reform in the person of Muhammadu Buhari who on his inauguration in 2015 had averred ‘I belong to nobody; I belong to everybody’. Barely some months after this promise the same president went on to fill the nation’s cabinet and security forces with Islamists of northern entrenchment, family members and sycophants, thereby earning for himself the inglorious reputation of unrepentant nepotism among the hypocrites of national unity.
Nigeria has led this show of shame and continental retardation with her retinue living and dead tyrants and political murderers. From Babangida through Abacha and Obasanjo none of these past swindlers of the African dream has been held to account. Nobel laureate Soyinka laments why the streets of Nigeria’s cities can still be named after a monster that presided over the liquidation of the economy and executed uncountable members of opposition.
Sani Abacha ought to have been shamed posthumously and stripped of all his ranks for the infamy of mindless looting he brought upon Nigeria. Babangida, Obasanjo, Abdulkarim Abubakar are all walking tall, and bent with age, in the streets of Nigeria, celebrating and perpetuating the rot they bequeathed to the bulbous giant of Africa.
Let Africans learn to hold their leaders to account. The endemic rot in Nigeria’s ruling parties, the shame and disgrace of Zuma in South Africa’s ANC, the mendacity of Uganda’s Museveni ruling since 1986 and averring to rise from the grave after death to continue his rape and despoliation of his African conclave of Uganda, are being sustained by the unthinking complicity of the African masses whose lack of discernment hardly seems able to break free of the herd instinct that allows for every tyrant to be eulogised and deified just for the sake of a crumb from the psychopaths table. Or for the grand folly that the emperor sitting astride the bamboo table is one among their own –borrowing the words of the ebullient Nigerian writer TM Aluko– kinsmen and foremen.
Chin Ce sent this short piece from his country home in South East Nigeria