What’s with African dictators who rule with an iron hand, steal taxpayers’ money, oppress their citizens and then are allowed to negotiate their exit. It’s not enough that Robert Mugabe failed in every way as a president. The despot now also gets to dictate how he resigns.
More troubling, his successor installs himself through a coupless coup as the next president, offering democracy, without having to go through the process of free and fair elections.
Tired of the deposed dictator’s tyranny, Zimbabweans accept the next tyrant with open arms, regardless of his chequered history that should disqualify him from becoming head of state. The transition from Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa is like choosing between herpes and syphilis!
Judith Todd, daughter of former Rhodesian Prime Minister Sir Garfield Todd, in her book, Through the Darkness: A Life in Zimbabwe, charts the rise of Mugabe, his ascent as head of state, the Fifth Brigade that massacred the Ndebele in Matabeleland under his orders and the slow tortuous decline of Zimbabwe under Zanu-PF.
She names names, many which surface in key positions in Zanu-PF, helping us understand how African dictators are conceived and rarely punished for their transgressions. Through their sense of entitlement as liberation fighters, they weave a web around key institutions of power to help them hold the nation to ransom.
Propped up by a corrupt military, a coopted police, and MPs who behave like state beneficiaries, Mugabe knew how to remain president for life, which he nearly achieved given his longevity.
Liaisons with global autocrats, an African Union which mollycoddled him, an anti-Western United Nations which allowed him free passage to countries which should have arrested him, Mugabe’s tyranny endured.
The massacre of the 20 000 Ndebele of 1983 should have stripped him of his title, but guilt-ridden Britain and the Commonwealth turned a blind eye to that atrocity as a quid pro quo for their colonisation of Zimbabwe and detention of Mugabe for 10 years.
The result is that post-colonial generations suffer enormously for the sins of the father-coloniser and father-liberator. Zimbabweans thus bore the brunt of a deal signed in blood.
Liberation movements across the world have shown that transitions from post-independence to dictatorship have been swift. Zanu-PF and the ANC are prime examples of this.
While SA has a semblance of democracy with a world-class constitution and all the checks and balances in place, those very checks have been subverted by policies of racial nationalism that demand control of all the levers of power by the ruling elite.
President Jacob Zuma can easily assert that he is not a dictator because the courts are independent, the media is free, opposition parties thrive and civil society can protest. But these are often a ruse for what is really covered up.
Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe doesn’t need Mnangagwa under false pretences. It needs a truth and reparations commission for Zimbabweans to come to terms with the past under “liberation oppression”. Zimbabwe needs a purgation from the pollution left behind from Mugabe’s rule.