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Rebranding Mugabe won’t bring the votes

President Robert Mugabe’s nomination as Zanu PF’s candidate in the forthcoming general elections, given his old age is now out of touch with reality

President Robert Mugabe’s nomination as Zanu PF’s candidate in the forthcoming general elections, given his old age, failing health and the way he is now out of touch with reality, is as preposterous as selecting a village headman to act as a rocket scientist leading a Mars exploration mission.

Sunday Opinion by William Muchayi

Since a typical village headman cannot match an engineer in terms of technical ability and capacity to run such a mission, the exploration would be doomed to fail, besides being a costly adventure for both the leader and his team.

Given that he is now struggling with old age complications, detached from current realities around him and unaware of what is actually happening and ought to be done to take Zimbabwe forward, Mugabe is certainly no longer suitable to lead Zanu PF into the next crucial elections. In short, he is now beyond his sell-by date and thus incapable of providing the required leadership in Zanu PF’s mission to win the next polls.

Ongoing attempts by the party to rebrand Mugabe’s image have reached new levels of desperation with the emergence of the “House of Gushungo” clothes brand, which targets first-time voters and the urban electorate, as these two groups will be crucial in the coming elections.

However, what Zanu PF fails to realise is that it is not the outward image of the party that matters the most in luring voters but what it stands for.

Due to extended periods of economic mismanagement and decisions such as the DRC war intervention, unbudgeted war victims compensation, wasteful government expenditures, corruption and a series of misguided policies, the economy succumbed to the impact of structural problems and maladministration.

The failure by Mugabe’s regime will go down in history as one of the most astonishing.

No matter how Zanu PF tries to rebrand Mugabe, as long as Zimbabwe holds peaceful and credible elections in which voters are allowed to express themselves without undue hindrances, he will lose because his policies have been destructive.

The land reform policy was noble, but its execution was flawed. Genuine reforms need to be driven by the quest for justice and progress, not short-term political agendas.

The problem is, instead of rectifying his mistakes, Mugabe is always on the defensive, blaming sanctions imposed by the West for the country’s economic demise.

Although sanctions have ended up having the unintended consequences, it is economic mismanagement rather than sanctions that led to Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.

Contrary to the Rhodesian situation, Zimbabwe still trades and does business with much of the world, including the support it gets from Sadc, Comesa, the African Union and key economic regions like Asia, Latin America and Middle East, which include huge economies like China, India, Brazil and Russia. Western countries still give it humanitarian aid.

Cuba has been under American sanctions for more than 50 years, but has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. By contrast, Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has all but collapsed.

International corruption watchdog Transparency International in its corruption index for 2012 ranked Zimbabwe number 163 out of 174 most corrupt countries in the world. Within Sadc, Zimbabwe is ranked the most corrupt nation.

One wonders whether there would ever be any acknowledgement of failure by Mugabe and his Zanu PF loyalists. Even though they send their children to learn abroad after destroying Zimbabwe’s education system, Zanu PF leaders are still in denial.

When they fall sick, they rush to seek treatment outside the country.

Look at the South African situation, despite continuing inequalities they have managed to maintain their infrastructure and when former president Nelson Mandela falls sick, he is not flown out of the country for medical attention.

Zimbabwe’s education sector has not been spared from the effects of mismanagement. That is why Mugabe and his Zanu PF officials send their children abroad instead of developing world-class local institutions.

This “House of Gushungo” brand designed to target first-time voters and the urbanities will not work if the approach is to mask dictatorship and failure.

How do people begin to see Mugabe and Zanu PF differently when perpetrators of the 2008 electoral atrocities are still roaming the streets? How do voters change their minds about Mugabe and Zanu PF when victims of the Gukurahundi massacres have not had an apology, let alone compensation from the state for the killings?

Repressive legislation curtailing political and civil liberties is still in place, so why would voters think the situation has changed? At the age of 89, Mugabe should be enjoying his pension with his grandchildren and providing advice whenever required.