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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Mugabe may be gone but Mugabeism, the culture, lives on

By Luke Tamborinyoka

This is the week that President Nelson Chamisa prepared to deliver a Hope of the Nation Address, yet the illegitimate regime of Mr Mnangagwa ensured that it showcased the despair of the nation to the world. 

Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

The brutality shown outside the MDC headquarters on Wednesday has been our story for the past 20 years. Our God and our unstinting faith in the democratic struggle have kept us alive. 

Mugabe may be gone but Mugabeism, the culture, lives on, in its most brutal rendition. The culture of impunity endures under a Mnangagwa, in its most despicable version. 

This week, we go down memory lane and again I reproduce yet another piece that I did days after Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017. 

It is an ominous month and we must remind Mar Mnangagwa that those who live by impunity will “die” by impunity.

But the same culture of impunity that the old man left still endures. 

This is the piece that I did after Mugabe was hoist by his own petard. It’s highly likely that Mr. Mnangagwa will go the same way.

Like we had warned Mugabe, the same consign power that is keeping Mr Mnangagwa in office may yet waft him to his Waterloo and probably in the same month. 

I rest my case. 

Robert  Mugabe—hoist by his own petard

By Luke Tamborinyoka

It may well have had to happen this way; to complete a story the same way it was begun. It may well be fair that those who came to power by the gun, those who were kept in power by the barrel of the gun would have to bow out at the behest of the same condign power that birthed and kept them in office.

It has turned out the acrid smell of gunpowder that kept Robert Mugabe in office all these years is the same chilling stench now accosting  him to his Waterloo after a bloody 37 years in charge……the same gunpowder wafting him to the stinking end of an eventful tenure.

His ignominious exit, just like his tempestuous tenure that was littered with cadavers and graves,  could only be a gunnified  one. For one who led a venerated liberation movement—who came into office amid sonorous ululation, it can only be shameful that he is now landing—unloved and unmourned by friend and foe alike—into the dustbins of political history.

And it could not have happened in worse irony and similarity of circumstance. On the day that Gianlugi Buffon, the veteran Italian goalkeeper was kissing goodbye to international football following the Azurri’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, Robert Mugabe was militarily being hounded out of office in Harare. 

Buffon was bowing out following the humiliation of the Azurri’s failure to qualify for the global football’s fiesta for the first time in 60 years. In Harare, a veteran political goalkeeper,so wont to deflect genuine goals by foul means that included crude tackles on his opponents, was being hounded out in similarly humiliating fashion by an army in which he is commander in chief.

Another dynasty was also winding up in the same week in Angola, where the billionaire daughter of former president Eduardo dos Santos, sacked by the new President Joao Lourenco from the oil firm she had been seconded by her father. We await to hear what will happen to the appointments of our own daughter and her husband to strategic national institutions. Indeed, tempestuous eras are indeed winding down for two of SADC’s strongman, both with a combined tenure of almost 80 years in office. 

For Mugabe, the human source of his trouble has always been firmly tucked in his own sheets, literally. Some of us had warned that Marujata, his voluble wife with the penchant to excoriate Cabinet ministers and senior government officials at political rallies would land him in trouble but he would not listen.

Today he stands on the verge of a political sunset, amid the stench of the acrid gunpowder that has controversially kept him in office all these years.

The explanation is simple. Mugabe must take the blame for his unconstitutional ouster. He is to blame. Mugabe ndiye  mwene wazvo  (no pun intended). Put simply, the main has been hoist by his own petard. 

The  fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, as William Shakespeare would say.

However, amid the celebration of the departure of a strongman, we must not lose sight of the hard facts. I wish to start by stating that I am an unrepentant regime change activist in the context of the current regime in Harare, a mission for which I have served on the trenches  of the democratic struggle for the past 20 years. However, it is also my unstinting belief as a democrat that we must, as a nation, vaccinate civilian political processes from military interference, in line with the dictates of the Constitution of the country. 

Our soldiers must stay in the barracks and never dabble in politics, in accordance with the letter and spirit of  a Constitution that we collectively wrote as at people and overwhelmingly affirmed in a referendum. True for some us, Mugabe was an illegitimate President who has been removed illegitimately, which makes to two negatives. I am not sure what the two negatives amount to.

Yet we must, as a principle stick to the dictates of our Constitution. It appears the country is paying the price for the needless ZANU PF culture of State-party conflation, abetted by none other than Robert Mugabe himself who always benefitted from a situation where there is no distinction between State and party. In a situation of that conflation, you can always have the army  doing what they have just done in Zimbabwe. 

Yes, soldiers  may support and vote  ZANU PF privately, but they must certainly not overtly support a party in the course of their duty, as they have now done to the personal detriment of Mugabe, who has himself nurtured this unconstitutional behaviour over the years. 

Now the stockholders appear bent on liquidating  their stock, literally. After all liquidation means just that—- liquidation!

What we are witnessing, sadly, is the arena of the State being a playground for internal party politics. If Zimbabwe’s military commanders felt they were stockholders in the ruling party, as they have always stated publicly, they were supposed to allow internal party processes to address their concerns, not to use the arena of the State to settle internal party factional disputes. 

Indeed, it sets a chillingly dangerous precedent to allow a State institution such as a national  army to spearhead the  redress of what in essence are internal party issues, in flagrant violation of a national Constitution. 

Some of us are very worried. Given that Zimbabwe is standing on the cusp of a watershed election that is constitutionally due next year, what now for the country?

Now that the army appears to have taken over all processes, including civilian matters, is the safety and credibility of the electoral process guaranteed?

Has the same army also  taken over the biometric voter registration exercise currently underway? And it is a fact that this is the same army whose officials ZEC has confirmed constitute part of the  secretariat of the “independent” election management body.

In other words, what does it say about the purported autonomy of ZEC if a whole head of State can be put under house arrest by the military?

Even if Rita Makarau were to run a credible process does whenever we hold the next election, can she muster courage  to announce that the army’s preferred candidate has lost if these guys can have the audacity to  hold hostage their own commander-in-chief, a whole Head of State? 

In any case, are we still having an election next year, given that to all intents and purposes we have a coup on our hands, with all its imponderables and uncertainties?

Questions, questions, questions.

One more irony is that the army is hiding under the thin veil of semantics; insisting that they have not staged a coup when it is a public secret they have literally taken over, with Cabinet Ministers running for cover like common criminals and a whole President under house arrest.

They Zimbabwean army says we have not taken over, we are simply “pacifying the nation”—just like a rapist would insist with a straight face that it was just coerced sex but please, do not call it rape!

Mugabe has simply been hoist by his own petard; on the verge of removal by the same army that kept him in office when he was shellacked by Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008. The mantra  of “27 June vaMugabe muoffice” was a militarily orchestrated chorus. I will never forget that contrived chaos and violence that led to some of us spending half a year in prison on trumped up charges of banditry and terrorism.

Barely 10 months after my stint in the D- class section of one of Harare’s notorious prisons, I remember the chill that went down my spine when a gun was put on my head as I enjoyed braaied meat with friends at the popular Mereki joint in Harare.

That was on 15 April 2008 and I was being accused of public violence, that story being that I had burnt a bus at the time when Zimbabweans were eagerly awaiting the release of the results that the electoral body was keeping a secret.

I was to ensure another month in prison, only to be released on the day the “results” were finally released. So my two stints in prison all had to do with Those now purporting to be the nation’s saviours.

True, the June 27 contrived run-off poll and its attendant violence was driven by the same forces now bandying themselves as the people’s saviors in the latest coup; the same forces now pledging they want to save the nation from imminent economic catastrophe. 

It is the classic case of the mosquito purporting it can cure malaria!

Since the brazen pick pocketing of the people’s will in the past two elections, Zimbabwe was always a society pregnant with a new one.

Now, if there was the proper will to institute the attendant reforms to ensure the baby’s safe passage, who knows, we could have been on the eve of a proper delivery of a new Zimbabwe come the next election, which we are now uncertain when it will take place given the exigency of our political moment.

Does the military want to prepare the nation for a proper delivery of the baby or they intend to do Cesarean, with them as doctors?

Certainly, Zimbabwe’s  army cannot pretend to play honest midwife in the birth of a new society. We all know the baby they could fish from their pocket and pretend it is the baby the election has birthed! 

Or they could even announce a miscarriage.

The Constitution just does not allow the army to play midwife and, judging by history, there is no guarantee they will deliver a healthy baby. Remember senior army personnel have run our elections before with unparalleled murkiness  

As President Morgan Tsvangirai said this week, we must adopt a roadmap for an expedient return to legitimacy and constitutional order as a matter of urgency. The army may have assisted in removing Mugabe but there must be expedient plans to return the country to legitimacy and to civilian authority.

My brother George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson whose role had been usurped by Mugabe’s wife, is probably rubbing his hands with glee, awaiting a new political life in what he presumes to be Ngwena’s pending dispensation.

He has not bothered to tell us what is happening to his boss at a time the world is speculating on the goings on and/or the exit negotiations. Seeing him seated in the meeting between Mugabe and the military, I was not sure whether my brother was running with the hare and hunting with the hounds; or whether Mhofu had already assumed his new role in the pending dispensation?

Meanwhile, Mugabe’s 10th—and probably his last interface “rally” has turned out to be this ominous interface with the army.

Cruel, cruel fate.

Luke Tamborinyoka is now the Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), having been previously spokesman for the late founding party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.