HomeEditorial CommentCandid Comment: Mugabe Quiz: Democracy Or Demoniac?

Candid Comment: Mugabe Quiz: Democracy Or Demoniac?

PRESIDENT Mugabe has denied a “deadlock” in the sharing of portfolios under an inclusive government with the two MDC formations.


The MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai has objected to what it says are attempts to treat it as “a junior” partner. There is clearly a problem, whatever its name.

Part of that problem is Mugabe’s uneasiness with democracy which he feels threatens to destabilise established order. More specifically, democracy should not threaten those in power. To him, when not properly guided, people are prone to stray in the name of democracy.

That is what nearly happened on March 29. They needed to be reoriented, as happened on June 27. Democracy, he thus reasons, doesn’t mean that people should be left alone to do as they please because they are apt to misinterpret their own interests.

That explains why the inclusive government with the MDC is having such a prolonged birth. He sees it as a plot to trim his personal authority by sharing it. It’s doubly unfortunate that he must share it with the man for whom he has abiding contempt, especially because of the MDC’s origins and funding. In that context, for President Mugabe the role of the opposition is simple —— to oppose, never to rule.

He made his views clear on the day he signed the power-sharing deal on September 15. Speaking off the cuff, he pointed out that “democracy in Africa is a difficult proposition”. These might be his long-held views, but they are not helped by arrogant Western donor nations when they openly declare what they want to see done and whom they want as president. They give people like Mugabe a credible alibi when they complain about a breach of the United Nations Charter on national sovereignty.

There is another angle to this animal called democracy which makes Mugabe particularly uncomfortable. There was South Africa last week with its model constitution allowing a rowdy mob to run riot and unseat an elected president.

Mugabe commented that South Africans were free to make their choice. It was as if he hadn’t grasped fully that the man who had just been deposed had played such a decisive role, not only in defending Mugabe at his own expense, but also protecting Zimbabwe from a questionable new regime of sanctions. He may not always agree with Mugabe’s policies but Thabo Mbeki understands better than any leader in the region the centrality of land in Zimbabwe’s crisis. New president Kgalema Motlanthe shares this understanding.

It took some sombre reflection away in New York for Mugabe to pour out his grief over Mbeki’s dramatic departure as president of South Africa. Democracy turned out to be such a heartless monster. “There is a man who has been in the seat for so many years as the father of the African National Congress and democracy in one stroke pulls him down,” lamented Mugabe. “Democracy without morality is no democracy for all.”

It is not simply the anguished reflection of one who has lost a pal dealt a cruel blow by mob rule; Mbeki stands as a counterfoil to what nearly happened to him on March 29. Here was a Mbeki high and mighty and triumphant in Zimbabwe today; and then ruthlessly brought down the following day back in South Africa!

Mugabe had praised Mbeki for his mediation in the talks. He said it was necessary to allow him time to rest before recalling him should there be a need. It has turned out to be a momentous valediction. They will never meet again on equal terms. There may not be a replacement for Mbeki who has the same fortitude to resist pressures to do “something” about Mugabe.

But the terror of what had just occurred to Mbeki went deeper. It exposed democracy as lacking “morality” if those who exercised it did not have respect for age, a person’s past contribution and the length of a leader’s tenure of office.

Here was the nub.

Mbeki has been in the ANC for 52 years. He served in the presidency (first as deputy to Nelson Mandela) for just under 15 years and his term of office would have ended in April next year. Mugabe has been at the helm of Zanu PF for about 33 years. He has been prime minister and president for a combined 28 years. This misguided democracy could turn him into history overnight through the ballot, without people thinking twice that “for so many years” he was the father of Zanu PF and president of Zimbabwe!

What has happened to Mbeki may turn out, at least in the short-term, to be a huge blow in the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe, not just because of his reduced clout as a mediator but by hardening Mugabe’s attitude against those he views as plotting a Mbeki on him. In any case Mbeki’s mediation should have been over with the signing of the power deal.

It is reprehensible immaturity that our political leadership expects him to appoint a cabinet for Zimbabwe by allocating ministerial portfolios to the three parties. The quarrel over so-called key ministries of finance, home affairs, foreign affairs and local government highlights the level of mistrust which Mbeki can do nothing to remove.

The ministries are key only to the extent that each party believes they can be used as tools to manipulate rivals and for retributive purposes outside a legally constituted truth and reconciliation commission. It shows utter bad faith. Once again our political leaders are failing to give the nation a vision, and there are many forces crying for precisely this outcome —— that the power-sharing deal collapses with Mbeki’s fall.

By Joram Nyathi


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