HomeEditorial CommentGerontocracy ruins Mugabe legacy

Gerontocracy ruins Mugabe legacy

A gerontocracy can be described as a societal system of rule where leadership is reserved for elders — usually only those over 60 years of age who are meant to rule until they die.

The Oracle Tangai Chipangura

Belief in such an idea was most common and famous in the ancient world where political power accumulated with age.

This is the leadership style that President Robert Mugabe (pictured right) and Zanu PF have pursued — a concept that has led to Zimbabwe wearing the same socks for a whole 35 years!

Curiously though, you will find youthful leaders such as Saviour Kasukuwere defending this moribund system of rule with their lives. Of course, the result of this senselessness is the inevitable destruction of otherwise good and well-earned legacies.

Since he came into power in 1980, Mugabe has recycled himself and a cabal of bootlickers in the closed corridors of power. That is why names like Emmerson Mnangagwa, Joice Mujuru and Didymus Mutasa (until recently), Sydney Sekeramayi, Ignatius Chombo etc. have become synonymous with the Mugabe government.

There would have been many more, had it not been for merciful death!

Mugabe turns 91 next month and, even though he claims fitness of a fiddle, his last public appearance at his party congress in December confirmed that he is after all, a mortal being who, like the rest of us, is vulnerable to old age.

Whoever is lying to him that at his age, he is still fit to captain a rundown country like Zimbabwe, on the strength of accumulated wisdom, puts him in real danger of throwing away a good legacy.

Kasukuwere said last week: “The question you want to ask is, why are young people not doing anything to challenge President Mugabe, who is 90? … He is an outstanding father for our nationalism and we support his position because it will lead to a better life for our people.”

“…It’s not about the age,” he added. “What if you are young and just a drunkard as well as corrupt or young and irresponsible, should we entrust you with the leadership of the country just because you are young? We look at the fine qualities, irrespective of what people are saying.”

The fact of life however is that it does not matter how fit a 91-year-old person may possibly be, actively running a country in an economic cesspit such as Zimbabwe is squatting cannot be an easy task.

Mugabe’s needless grip on power, in the hopeless effort to save Zanu PF from splitting, has resulted in the demise of the country’s economy while, ironically encouraging and in fact speeding up the demise of the party.

Because he wants to die in office, Mugabe found himself surrounding himself with ancient colleagues in both party and government — so as not to appear conspicuously too old. Despite endless outcries over this recycling of dead wood, Mugabe has remained stuck with this gerontocratic mentality.

He therefore has himself to blame for this danger on his legacy. The lame excuse that he is in office because he has been voted for should be dismissed with contempt. Nobody is ever forced to contest an election — or to cheat in the face of defeat.

There is empirical evidence the world over that those who overstay their welcome will of necessity put their host in a state of perpetual discomfort. The name Robert Mugabe was revered like no other in the history of this country in the period leading to and soon after independence.

But that same name now evokes anger among poverty-ravaged Zimbabweans and currently, even among his own revolutionary comrades.

Mugabe’s name features strongly among prominent men in history, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tshaka Zulu, Benito Mussolini, Nelson Mandela, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Kwame Nkrumah, George Washington, Mao Tse Tung, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel, Kamuzu Banda — men whose fortunes blossomed, but had doors of those fortunes necessarily closed when time came.

Some, like the legendary Mandela, left the arena even when millions all over the world wanted them to stay. Others, like Adolf Hitler, took their lives because they feared they would be killed by their own people. Others too, like Banda, old tearful Kaunda of Zambia and more recently Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammah Gadhafi, had their political careers, even life, obliterated by winds of democratic change.

President Mugabe appears stuck in the league of a tiny minority of leaders who fail to acknowledge the principle of political diseconomies of scale.

There is no doubt at all that President Mugabe has individually contributed invaluably towards the independence and well-being of Zimbabwe. But it remains a fact too, that his contribution towards the collective pain and suffering of the people of this country during his reign, now outweighs his achievements.

While there is a strong case for the President’s retirement, there is even a stronger case for his departure. The laws of this country, and indeed the world over, do not permit civil or public servants to be employed beyond the age of 65.

This universally-acceptable position is justified by both intellectual and biological reason that all human beings — even those that claim to be in their positions on an election ticket — are subject to deteriorating mental and physical capacity with age.

It is very difficult to convince anyone, Your Excellency, that at such an advanced age, your capacity for good judgment can still satisfy the demands of millions of young Zimbabweans.

Zimbabweans are not ancient Greeks who were comfortable to be led by centurions. They are eager to see the back of the 35-year-old government that has taxed its subjects to their knees, wrecked the economy and driven hundreds of thousands into unemployment misery.
Feedback:tchipangura@standard.co.zw. WhatsApp: 0773 047 914

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading