If you want to see Mugabe at his best, put him in a corner


Someone once said: “If you want to see Mugabe at his best, put him in a corner.” That is what the West did. In the process they committed a cardinal error.

In the movie Godfather III, Mafia don Michael Corleone tells his protégé Vincent Mancini, “Never hate your enemies, it affects your judgment.”

Western governments hated Mugabe so much that it clouded their judgment. Instead of isolating and forcing him to step down, they turned him into a national, regional and continental hero.

Worst of all, they gave him a reason to hang on to power. His mission became that of fighting imperialism and “regime change”.

To him, the opposition were not genuine Zimbabweans fighting for change because his administration had failed. They were Western agents whose sole purpose was to give the country back to imperialists. It was this argument that won Mugabe the 2013 elections.

If the West had not hated Mugabe so much, he would long have been off the Zimbabwean political scene.

The new constitution drafted in 2000, for example, was meant to easy Mugabe out through the re-introduction of the post of Prime Minister who could slowly take over the reins of government.

The constitutional campaign was spearheaded by two United States-educated, highly intelligent individuals, Eddison Zvobgo, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was personally fed up with Mugabe’s long stay in power; and University of Southern California-educated Jonathan Moyo who had worked for the Ford Foundation in Kenya and had to quit his post at Wits University in Johannesburg to join the constitutional team.

But the West was blinded by its quest to get rid of Mugabe that it sponsored the organisations that campaigned for the rejection of the new constitution. They said it gave Mugabe too much power and another 10 years in office.

But if that constitution had been adopted with these “flaws” both Mugabe and Tsvangirai would have been out of the political scene before the 2013 elections. Instead, virtually the same constitution was adopted in 2013, saddling Zimbabweans with Mugabe, now 90, for another nine years.

The West also made another major error. They misjudged the Zimbabwean public. They thought that it would swallow their propaganda. They even refused to accept that the sanctions that they had imposed on the country were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans, insisting they were hurting Mugabe and his lieutenants.

On the contrary, Mugabe and his lieutenants thrived under sanctions, building mansions, driving the latest SUVs, and amassing companies. It paid more to belong to ZANU-PF than to join the opposition and this sucked in the young people despite the generational gap.

The West and its media created a lie that Mugabe was hated by his own people so much that he was hanging on by force and through rigging elections. The country had collapsed because of his economic mismanagement and not sanctions. They slowly started believing their own lie until it was passed on as a fact and repeated over and over again.

The local “independent” media and non-governmental organisations, that received the bulk of their funding from the West, joined the cue. It paid to be anti-Mugabe. Aid became one of the biggest industries in Zimbabwe.

Most of the aid organisations depended on Mugabe’s continued stay in power to survive because they had specifically been created to solve problems that he had created. So it was never clear whether they wanted Mugabe to go or not because his departure meant that their lifeline would be cut off.

There was even a joke that they called for Mugabe to go during the day, but spent the night praying that God allow Mugabe to stay so that they could get their daily bread.

According to the 2013 ZANU-PF manifesto, there were more than 3 000 aid organisations in Zimbabwe. With a population of 12.9 million, this meant that there was an aid organisation for every 4 325 Zimbabweans yet there was only one doctor for every 6 250 Zimbabweans.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition boasted that it had more than 350 member organisations.

Saying this was scandalous, the manifesto added: “Virtually all of these NGOs have been founded and funded by the same countries that have imposed illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe for purposes of effecting illegal regime change outside the constitutional and democratic processes.

“Particularly egregious in this regard is the fact that over the last four years during the life of the GPA government, some US$2.6 billion has been poured into these NGOs to support nefarious activities that have been camouflaged by the sanitised language of humanitarian and developmental assistance to cover up sinister regime-change intentions.

“The US$2.6 billion has been disbursed via opaque parallel budget channels that are not accountable and which have been used to damage national accounts and Treasury processes.”

The West’s decision to channel its aid through parallel structures and not through the inclusive government hurt its ally, the MDC, most. All key service ministries -finance, health, labour and education- were headed by the MDC.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, the second most powerful man in the MDC, was voted the best Finance Minister in Africa in his first year in office in 2009 yet the West could not trust him to handle their finances, a mere US$2.6 billion over four years.

This had the psychological effect of saying: “We trust you, but not with our money.”

But more importantly, credit for improving people’s lives that should have gone to the MDC went to local organisations that were disbursing the funds. The move also literary told the MDC: “You may be in government but ZANU-PF is still in control. If we give you our money, it will be misused by ZANU-PF.”

The notion that ZANU-PF ran the government was repeated throughout the tenure of the inclusive government. Sadly, even the MDC perpetuated this thinking by playing victim to ZANU-PF throughout even though it had a co-Minister of Home Affairs.

So instead of going into the 2013 elections as the party to beat because it had won the 2008 elections, the MDC turned itself into an underdog and made Mugabe and his ZANU-PF the people to beat.

This is the second take in the 22 000word piece entitled: God, Mugabe and the West. You can read the entire piece here.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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