Sunday November 12 2017

Of a crass president and a classy actress


By Bernard Tabaire

Mugabe fires one of his two vice-presidents to pave way for the first lady to replace him in State House. Mugabe renames the international airport in his name. Mugabe arrests four for booing his wife. Mugabe charges a young American woman with “subverting the government and undermining the authority of — or insulting — the president” via Twitter. This 25-year-old woman could serve up to 20 years in jail.

There is more.
From Reuters, we learned this: “The government has said from next year the veteran ruler’s February 21 birthday will be known as Robert Mugabe National Youth Day, a public holiday.”

“On August 9 the cash-strapped government announced plans to build a $1 billion university named after Mugabe…”
All this stuff happened in the last week or so. By the time Zimbabwe is done with Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, or vice versa, we will be hearing of things like Robert Gabriel Mugabe Borehole.

President Mugabe turns 94 next year. This man who has led Zimbabwe since 1980 will be running for yet another term. I suppose he wants to do more of the self-indulgent stuff such as already listed. That’s what happens when the Constitution has zero caps either on number of terms someone can serve as president or age cap above which a person cannot run for president.

Anyway, Zanu-PF knows better. Or maybe not.
According to the World Bank, the Zimbabwe economy is projected to grow by just over two per cent in 2017 as it recovers from two years of drought, but is constrained by macroeconomic imbalances.

“The political and economic crises that characterised the economy between 2000 and 2008 nearly halved its GDP, the sharpest contraction of its kind in a peacetime economy. This raised poverty rates to more than 72 per cent, and left a fifth of the population in extreme poverty. Health, education, and other basic services—once regional models—largely collapsed...”

I don’t know the science, but it appears the longer one stays in power at the highest levels the more he looks at himself as unshakable. Delusions of grandeur take over. They drive politics and policy. Damn the people.
The American woman, Martha O’Donovan’s reported tweet said that Zimbabwe was “being led by a selfish & sick man”. Uganda could do well to beware of its own selfish and sick men. It’s not too late.

For every crass president there is a polished actress. A UK magazine tinkered with a picture of the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. According to Ms Nyong’o, as reported by BBC Newsbeat, Grazia magazine removed “part of her hair for the front cover of its November edition”. BBC Newsbeat carried the actress’ Instagram protest post that is worth a read:
“As I have made clear so often in the past with every fibre of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too. Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfils me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are.

I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture. #dtmh”

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.