MUGABE LEAVES SHAMBOLIC LEGACY BEHIND
What sort of a “jewel” has Robert Mugabe finally left, which he has not kept in the way President “Mwalimu’’ Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania aptly said was a blessing when he greeted him in Harare at Zimbabwe’s independence celebrations on 18 April 1980?
Or what kind of a legacy has he left, if any, that will be passed on to the next generation of leaders in a country in tatters and deeply divided?
In Zimbabwe today, virtually everything that can go wrong has gone wrong because of Mugabe’s myopic policies.
Political chaos, anarchy and economic meltdown have reigned supreme. Desperation, confusion and frustration have polluted the atmosphere and political intransigence persists. Who will remove the ‘Jewel of Africa’ still in the intensive care unit?
Mugabe and his cronies, calling themselves political leaders who delivered independence and cutting short economic prosperity, had become rogues. Diamonds discovered locally and during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo were pillaged and looted; nothing benefiting the country and its people.
War veterans’ aspirations turned into a nightmare; no economic opportunities, no political freedoms or rights, no food on the table, no cash and no culture. Zimbabweans in general have also felt hollow; together with war veterans their sacrifices for independence were in vain.
What was the point of the liberation struggle? Even today not many Zimbabweans are able to clearly understand and respond to this critical question with enthusiasm.
Wealth simply shifted from the whites to the black elites in the form of so-called political leaders while the masses wallow in poverty.
With the old man now gone; a revolutionary turned dictator, he has left a deeply polarised country without any sense of the common good. National institutions and processes are heavily politicised along party lines leaving their national character undermined.
Zimbabweans have suffered the effects of the disappearance of the State and its replacement by party politics; creating obfuscation of the distinction between the State and the party in the minds of the leaders, professionals and Zimbabweans in general. This scenario has placed us where we are today — a “jewel” in shambles left by Mugabe.
Opposition parties have also been confused and struggled to imagine genuinely national and inclusive systems and processes.
State structures are now serving the narrow party interests of the government of the day.
When political leaders refuse to serve some citizens because they did not vote for them, they abdicate their responsibility.
Citizens have a responsibility to respect established State structures, but they are also entitled to disagree with them.
Mugabe has left us a legacy and thinking that all members of the ruling party are members of government; making decisions about national issues and using State structures for their own ends.
National matters have been taken to the ruling party’s politburo or central committee for decisions when they should go to the elected government.
What’s more, a wife jumping excitedly and viciously onto the bandwagon of political decision making through processes that were not accessible to public scrutiny and accountability. Anarchy was the result.
Zimbabwe is a free society where state institutions are understood to be distinct from government and political party business. Otherwise, life becomes, in Thomas Hobbes’ words, “solitary, poor, brutish and short”. No doubt, we have seen this occurring in our own country.
The political system in Zimbabwe left by Mugabe has illustrated unnecessary power and influence.
The political realm has dominated everything from economics, health, education, culture and religion. Any progress and advancement in a particular area was automatically interpreted in narrow party-political terms and interests.
A successful professional, for instance, declared his or her party-political allegiance in order to benefit from ill-gotten wealth or to survive and make progress. Some businesses, academic enterprises and other professional endeavours succeeded or failed on this basis.
The domination of the party-political realm had become so narrow that many professionals were now prostituting their abilities. Politics came into the allocating of housing, land, employment, scholarships, food aid, security and dignity.
Pressure was put on universities, schools, the media, the Reserve Bank, private companies to show approval of specific party-political policies. Government ministers and others who attempted to follow professional advice, opposing party policies along the way, were fired or demoted.
Observed from the short-term perspective, Zimbabwe under Mugabe had become a tragedy. With Rhodesia as an apartheid State, formerly ending in 1980, everyone had high expectations of freedom for all, especially the poor and marginalised.
Zimbabwe became a legitimate nation with the potential to set up democracy as a system of good governance and as an ideological practice. Both black and white acknowledged to fully participate in the new dispensation and it was a government that belonged to all.
We thought the arrival of Zimbabwe as a free nation would guarantee freedom and growth. However, we failed to recognise that the only guarantor of freedom was a State that rises above the interests of an individual as “one centre of power” surrounded by a cabal, to secure the common good.
However, all is not lost, especially with Mugabe now dumped into the dust-bin of history. In the long term, both major political parties, Zanu PF and the MDCs combined and the smaller but relevant parties, make up necessary sensibilities to the growth of Zimbabwe as a nation state.
The injustices of the past must be dealt with within the framework of democracy and in the spirit of justice. Proven criminals, masquerading as political leaders or politicians must be brought to book and face the music to set examples for the future.
The key to balancing these essential sensibilities is the establishment of strong and effective State structures, clearly distinct from parties and government and providing guidelines and limits to governance processes.
In order for this to take place, there is need to build effective national systems and procedures, cultivating specific democratic virtues and discouraging vice. Success should not rely on who is in power and which political party is in government.
Within a decade of independence the economy had already showed signs of decline and the slide accelerated up to the present time under the watchful eyes of the mediators and army commanders.
How did Mugabe’s leadership that inherited a promising Zimbabwe in 1980 manage to change the country from prosperity and hope to what has eventually become economic collapse, desperation and isolation in a space of almost four decades?