Tuesday November 21 2017

In Zimbabwe, thieves fall out over sharing their loot

Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba  


It is by the seat of his incontinence pants that Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president, now in office for 37 years, is holding onto power.
The people of Zimbabwe have rebelled against the defiant Robert Gabriel Mugabe and for all intents and purposes, the army has overthrown him.
Like it happens in countries where leaders with an iron grip subjugate people for decades, the citizens get so fed up that their yearning for change finds any kind of change acceptable. Now Zimbabweans are warming up for the replacement of Mugabe. That substitute is likely to be his immediate former vice president and long standing comrade from the days of the liberation struggle in the ‘70s, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, 71.

Overtime Mnangagwa had developed differences with Mugabe because apparently Mugabe was positioning his wife Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu Mugabe, 52, ahead of him in the succession queue. It can be safely argued that if Mugabe had not rubbed Mnangagwa the wrong way, it would still be business as usual; with Mugabe presiding in peace over this long suffering great nation.

Mugabe, who is now described correctly as a corrupt autocrat, has not come this far alone. He has presided over the collapse of most State institutions and padded most influential offices with his Shona kinsmen. They include Gen Constantino Chiwenga, whom the Daily Mail describes as ‘a fearsome individual known for his volcanic temper. He is one of the so-called ‘Dirty Half Dozen – six sinister military and intelligence chiefs, whose junta has kept Mugabe in office for decades, terrorising opponents and rigging elections.’

On these fellows, privileges have been piled on to their satisfaction for the sake of patronage. They own the economy and have huge stakes in real estate, mining, telecommunications, banking, farming, you name it. They were the major beneficiaries of the land that Mugabe’s government forcibly took back from the white farmers in Zimbabwe. To get here, they killed, maimed, robbed, terrorised and manipulated Zimbabweans to keep Mugabe in power for he was the source of their wealth and wellbeing.

To this point, they probably did not mind about him because of the consolation that as an ageing despot, his time was almost up. In case he kicked the bucket, one of them would replace him and the party would go on. The entrance of Grace Mugabe into the picture stood as a threat to that scheme in many ways.
Not being from the liberation generation, she would probably upset the balance by bringing in younger people to replace the historical generation from the days of the liberation war from White rule. She would need her own people to boss over, not a group of ageing revolutionaries to be beholden to.

In the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, she had already thrown in her people in the Youth and Women’s Leagues. Of course, if things went according to plan and these new faces found themselves on the scene following the demise of Mugabe, they would disrupt the patronage network. Possibly to strengthen her position, she would prosecute a few, kill and exile others.

That would bury the ‘historicals’ and threaten their privileges. It is one of the major reasons for people overstaying in power in Africa. The cabal that surrounds the leader is interested in his long stay for their own selfish ends. But they also plan for a safe and prosperous future without him. It is not about love for the individual. He likewise expects them to be loyal and work for his uninterrupted stay in power and be considerate of his future plans. When there is no confluence in these two selfish objectives, you have the current Zimbabwe scenario. Let no one make a mistake, there has never been any honour among criminals. Zimbabwe is not where it is now because Mugabe’s rivals have seen the light or are any better than him. They are just feeling the heat. The major cause of the departure from Mugabe is akin to one where thieves fall out because they have failed to agree on terms of sharing their loot.

All the major players against Mugabe do not come to the table with clean hands. Just look at Emerson Mnangagwa, the dangerous substitute to Mugabe. In the 2000 parliamentary campaign in Kwekwe Central, Blessing Chebundo, the rival who defeated him, escaped death when the notorious youth of ZANU-PF doused him with petrol, but were unable to light the match which had become wet in the commotion. He was also instrumental in the violence which the army visited on the minority Ndebele people in the 1980s. The so-called ‘Operation Gukurahundi.’ Gukurahundi in Shona language is ‘the rain that washes away the chaff from the last harvest.’
Some of the recorded bizarre atrocities include gang-rapes, mass torture and forcing people to dance on freshly-dug graves of their relatives as they chanted pro-Mugabe slogans. (www.bbc.com). If the history of the main characters in the ouster of Mugabe is anything to go by, things in Zimbabwe are likely to change, but still remain the same.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political
and social issues. [email protected]
Twitter: nsengoba