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Mugabe as a benevolent dictator: 2008-2017

Tatenda
Freeman Murenjekwa
This article
seeks to reveal the good and the bad side of Mugabe’s rule from 2008 to 2017
though the late nonagenarian ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years.
His tenure of
office was cut short by a military coup of November 2017. During his tenure of
office, Mugabe managed to use his diplomacy to settle down the political,
social and economic woes bedeviling the country leading to the formation of the
Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009. He was also able to sanction and
control price hikes although the economy continued to decline.
This paper is
also going to showcase the bad side of Mugabe; that is his use of the Machiavellian
philosophy to prolong his stay on power. He was accused of vote-rigging and his
contribution towards economic instability which was accelerated by his cold war
politics cannot be taken for granted. Mugabe’s ‘Look East Policy’ also affected
Zimbabwe’s economic growth. Current President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to
move away from Mugabe’s approach by calling for the re-engagement policy in an endeavor
to kick-start the economy. The writer, however, argues that Mugabe did more
harm than good in as far as improving the political, social and economic status
of Zimbabwe is concerned. However, when juxtaposed with Mnangagwa, it can be
argued that Mugabe was better.
A DIPLOMATIC
CADRE
Mugabe used
diplomacy in resolving political and economic crisis affecting the Zimbabwean community.
In 2008, Zimbabwe was plunged into a political crisis emanating from the disputed
elections which Mugabe was alleged to have vote rigged. In an attempt to calm
the tense political sphere, a union of convenience was facilitated by the
SADC-sent mediator Thabo Mbeki. Mugabe agreed to have talks with the so-called
winner of the elections; Morgan Richard Tsvangirai for the sake of political,
social and economic relief. In 2009, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and other lesser
players signed the Government of National Unity. The period post-2009 improved
in terms of the political, social and economic situation in Zimbabwe. Mugabe
refused to let go crucial ministries in order to further prolong his stay on
power. Tsvangirai was mandated to drive the economy in an endeavor to lure
support from European countries. During this period, the multi-currency system
was implemented by the then Finance Minister Tendai Biti proved to have the
solutions to the country’s economic woes.
Mugabe proved
to be a capable leader in the sense that he was able to sanction economic saboteurs
and contain price hikes. On the other hand, Mnangagwa is too soft to contain
price hikes and he is failing to ease the political, social and economic crisis
affecting Zimbabweans. Most if not all Zimbabweans have lost confidence in Zanu
PF’s so-called austerity measures as fuel queues, price hikes, poor water and
electricity supplies persisted. Some Zimbabweans regard Mnangagwa and Mugabe as
‘Siamese Twins’ in their rulership. Over and above, Mugabe was a diplomat.
Despite his shortcomings, Mugabe could stand his ground and use diplomatic
means to coerce economic saboteurs to minimize unjustified price hikes.
MUGABE’S USE
OF REPRESSIVE STATE APPARATUS
Mugabe used
repressive state apparatus in the name of police, army and the Central
Intelligence Organization (CIO) to deal with opposition. Opposition members and
supporters suffered a lot of atrocities in the hands of Mugabe. According to
Jocelyn Alexander and Blessing-Miles Tendi, Zanu PF used the CIO police and
army to intimidate opposition members and their sympathisers. In retrospect,
when Edgar Tekere formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) in 1989, he was the
first party to pose a real challenge to Mugabe who hoped to run unchallenged
and establish a one party state. Violence against the opposition during the
1990 elections culminated into the shooting of Kombayi who dared to challenge
Vice President Simon Muzenda in Midlands’s city of Gweru. The use of violence
towards opposition party members and their subordinates became part and parcel
of Zanu PF’s strategies to contain opposition.
Apart from
Mugabe’s positive achievements during his tenure of office, Mugabe brutalizes
opposition party members and supporters. Many were left homeless, orphans and
crippled before and aftermath the election period. According to Blair (2002),
Mugabe was a quintessential purveyor of power politics. Bratton (2014), also notes
that Mugabe’s path to the apex of state power, by bullet as well as ballot,
shapes the way he has subsequently governed. However Mnangagwa cannot be exonerated
from Mugabe’s use of Machiavellian philosophy to safeguard his hold on power. Mnangagwa
was Mugabe’s right hand man. Mnangagwa tried to portray himself as a renewed
person who diverted from his predecessor’s path but Zanu PF will always be Zanu
PF as shown by the August 1 incident.
MUGABE and MNANGAGWA
Comparing
Mugabe to Mnangagwa, one can say Mnangagwa managed to divert from his
Godfather’s footsteps by looking at the way he championed democratic space and
his re-engagement strategies. Zimbabweans from all walks of life however have a
nostalgic feeling in the sense that under Mnangagwa’s reign they are suffering
and living below the poverty datum line. According to Southall, there is much
in the transition from Mugabe to Mnangagwa to suggest continuity rather than change.
Southall (2017) notes that Mnangagwa’s cabinet was designed to establish his
authority within Zanu PF, build bridges to potential opponents and re-assert
the ruling party’s alliance with the military. As such it came as a major
disappointment to the mass of Zimbabwe’s who had been hoping against the odds,
that Mnangagwa would separate the wheat from the chaff. According to Thorncroft
(2017), the response of opposition forces to the new government was voiced by
Tendai Biti who denounced it as both ‘betrayal of Zimbabwe’ and a ‘military
junta’. Magaisa argues that Zimbabweans are disheartened by the apparent
failure of the Mnangagwa regime to arrest the deteriorating economic situation.
To him, after Mugabe, the only way was up or so it seemed but the regime looks
and sounds clueless with each passing day. Mnangagwa has so far proved to be a
failure in resolving the economic woes which he and his predecessor created.
Innocent Gonese, the chief whip of the main MDC said “Robert Mugabe was no
good, he was cruel and heartless and in spite of his array of degrees his
appreciation of the law of economics was zilch. I never thought that he could
get someone worse than him. “While others are of the opinion that Mnangagwa
proved to be a failure, his followers are arguing that Mnangagwa has to be
given time to resolve the economy. Their argument being that there is time to
plant and time to harvest therefore they promise Zimbabweans that there is
light at the end of the tunnel. As cited in the Bulawayo 24 news, Trump said
Zimbabweans lived under better conditions during former Mugabe’s tenure of office
than they are doing under Mnangagwa.
Tatenda
Freeman Murenjekwa is a holder of a Bachelor of Arts honors Degree in History
and he writes articles for educational purposes. The views expressed here are
his, and do not in any way reflect the position of TellZim News.

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