Mugabe’s departure will not change anything.


President Robert Mugabe’s obituaries have already been written. The writers are just waiting for the old man to kick the bucket to press the publish button. Mugabe, in power since 1980, is one of the most hated men especially by the West. But he is a darling with a lot of Africans because he has been able to stand up to the superpowers and has on occasions shown them the door.

While in the African custom it is taboo to wish someone dead, a lot of Zimbabweans have celebrated Mugabe’s death, prematurely, and every medical trip to Singapore, despite his advanced years, is a news headline.

Mugabe himself has even joked about his own death.

“I don’t know how many times I die but nobody has ever talked about my resurrection,” he told the international news agency Reuters.

“I suppose they don’t want to, because it would mean they would mention my resurrection several times and that would be quite divine, an achievement for an individual who is not divine. Jesus died once, and resurrected only once, and poor Mugabe several times.”

The death of Mugabe will definitely be the end of an era. But despite all the media frenzy, Mugabe’s death is not likely to change anything, especially within his own Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

For more than a decade analysts have predicted that there will be chaos when Mugabe goes. It is not clear what this has been based on except perhaps the misconception that Mugabe is tightly in control of the party. Some reports have even described him as the glue that holds the party together.

This has, perhaps, been fuelled by so-called succession squabbles within the party. The cardinal error is that Mugabe and his party have been viewed as a typical African party. According to this view party leadership is akin to a chieftainship. Succession has to be decided by the leader before he goes.

So far, an impression has been created that Mugabe is the one who has to choose his own successor before he goes. Surprisingly no one has ever asked who anointed Mugabe to be his successor. Besides, the selecting of one’s successor is not traditional because it is the clan or the elders who decide which house takes over the chieftainship.

What most analysts have not accepted is that despite its social and revolutionary leanings in the late 1970s and early years of independence, ZANU-PF was been built along western political lines. The party is bigger than anyone, including Mugabe himself.

Uzumba-Pfungwe Member of Parliament, Simba Mudarikwa, aptly described ZANU-PF though his sentiments were mistaken for an insult to the party. According to a cable released by Wikileaks, Mudarikwa likened the party “to a troop of baboons incessantly fighting among themselves, but coming together to face an external threat”.

It is precisely because of this that the departure of Mugabe will not change anything. History itself has already proved this. There is an unwritten rule for party cadres that there is no life outside ZANU-PF.

Edgar Tekere who was de facto Mugabe’s number two did not get anywhere when he left the party to form the Zimbabwe Unity Movement.

Eddison Zvobgo stuck to the party till death despite at times being demoted or humiliated because it was clear to him that there was no life outside ZANU-PF. In fact, it was precisely for this reason that those who privately backed the Movement for Democratic Change at its formation never left ZANU-PF.

Solomon Mujuru also never left the party despite his open disagreement with Mugabe whom he publicly said must go. He did not leave the party even though he allegedly sponsored Simba Makoni to challenge Mugabe for presidency.

The death of Mujuru, in very controversial circumstances, should have sparked the chaos that everyone has been talking about if the party was so divided. It did not. And the issue is slowly being pushed to the backburner.

Though Mujuru was touted as a kingmaker, the fact that nothing happened after his death clearly shows that no one is more powerful than the party. This is exactly what will happen when Mugabe goes. NOTHING.

Successor or no known successor, the party will survive. Whoever believed that Mugabe would survive the 2008 election defeat?

Ask any party insider and they will tell you that the Old Man was ready to go, disappointed that his lieutenants had betrayed him.

Who persuaded him to hang on?

In any case which dictator never spends more than a month in his country, flying in and out as he wishes, and coming back to run the country as if nothing ever happened? So why would anyone expect chaos when that dictator goes?

Wishful thinking! That is all what it is. And a lot of people have been wishing for something that has never happened, 15 years down the line and they still cling to that wish.


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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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