Robert Mugabe's apartheid state

OPINION – As Zimbabwe's unity government inches along in its painful marriage of convenience, one cannot but remember Joseph Conrad's phrase about chaos as a "tangle of unrelated things". For the new government seems to be a tangle of unrelated political views.

So far the new government has been such a polluted concoction of diverse and irreconcilable political agendas that, for it to work, one needs the intervention of both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad.

The political scenario is pathetic: Robert Mugabe announces three days of "National Healing and Reconciliation" and, backstage, his party deploys multitudes of youth militia trained to kill, torture and maim innocent citizens determined to exercise their political choice of who rules or does not rule them.

And in breach of the constitutional provisions which made them what they are, the military service chiefs still refuse to salute a legitimate prime minister, and the commander-in-chief, Robert Mugabe, looks the other way.

After all, hypocrisy hangs in the mind of a tyrant as shiny as the medals he wears on his shirt to announce his defeat of the whole population. Mugabe fears any little discomfort which may follow after giving away even an inch of his power to one who fought for more than 10 years to remove him from his cherished office.

The president’s prefabricated political plans remain intact and he has a strong enough team of technocrats to oil them well to paralyse any new initiatives.

The nation can collapse in several ways as long as his massive ego and personal glory are seen to remain intact. With its capacity for mischief, history repeats itself. It was the same when Mugabe came to power in 1980. The white service chiefs refused to salute then-prime minister Robert Mugabe. Much persuasion by the British made them do so, after they had seriously considered a military coup to bring Ian Smith back to power.

Now it is the black service chiefs who have taken the colonial mantle: we salute only the one we want, not anyone else.

While the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leadership talks of acknowledging the brutality of the past and compensating the victims, Mugabe is busy trying to urge them to unite and pretend that nothing serious really happened. He wants a blanket amnesty for all those he has taught to wield the flame of violence and brutality over the past 30 years.

Mugabe’s power-crippled imagination is not fertile enough to see the images of torture victims in which the local and international media are awash. Mugabe is still busy sharpening his tools of violence for the next round while the new ministers are made to busy themselves with fighting over the crumbs of power that the president selectively allows to fall from his high table.

I think prison and torture teach different songs to the different hearts and minds that go through them. Nelson Mandela came out of prison a compassionate man who would not like even his worst enemy imprisoned or tortured. He has become the world symbol of human dignity, love, pride and respect for others, including minorities. Zimbabwe’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe came out of prison equipped only with ideas of brutality, death, torture of political opponents and an unquenchable thirst for power.

After almost 30 years of his bitter rule, he is allowing his political party to pronounce him "Supreme Leader", on the same level as the grand ayatollahs in other parts of the world.

Mugabe cynically laughs and smiles at the sight of the wounds and corpses of his torture victims.

"They brought it upon themselves when they refused to disperse on the orders of the police," he said when then-opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and many current ministers, were tortured by the police.

Ministers of the new government fight over everything every day. Of the two home affairs ministers, one tells the police to arrest perpetrators of political violence while the other deploys more youth militia to take over schools in the countryside after making the work of the teachers impossible.

The police are instructed to look the other way while men, women and children are tortured. "The matter is politically sensitive," the police say when they see the many victims’ disfigured bodies all over the country. And once the police decide a crime is "politically sensitive", that is simply case closed. The crime victim is on his or her own, to die or run.

Although Tsvangirai is the head of the government, Zanu-PF ministers are loud in telling him they take orders only from the president. MDC ministers’ public speeches and appearances are blacked out from all government-owned media, clearly telling the nation that this animal called the government of national unity is as dead as a dodo.

Zimbabwe has lived under its own form of apartheid for nearly 30 years. Even in South Africa it became clear that it was not only the colour of one’s skin that made a person an automatic victim of apartheid laws. It was the colour of one’s political ideas.

Many white South Africans had the wrong colour of political ideas and they suffered for it — some dying in prison, others killed by letter bombs or driven into exile.

The colour of one’s ideas — that is the Mugabe apartheid. In Zimbabwe the apartheid of my cruel, beloved country is based on the colour of one’s political views and convictions. Any Zimbabwean deemed supportive of the hated colours of opposition politics deserves death and exclusion from all normal life.

In Zimbabwe the colour of Zanu-PF political ideas matches well the physical colour of the apartheid regime that ruined South Africa for decades. I would not be surprised if the body count of political corpses and other victims of apartheid is outnumbered by Mugabe’s bizarre and painful political projects.

Remember the thousands victimised in the 1980s in the western and midlands provinces. In genocide style more than 20 000 people perished in that sad chapter of our history. And Mugabe was not about to give that project up in 2008 as he unleashed the militia and the army to wreak havoc on his political opponents. Describing the 1980s massacres as "a moment of madness", he never bothered to explain whose madness it was.

A few years back a Zimbabwean minister and Mugabe confidant was asked if he was not worried that Zimbabweans were abandoning their country to live as refugees in other countries. The minister, still in government, was quick to point out: "They can all go. We want to remain with only those who support Zanu-PF."

That is apartheid thinking from a black minister of a government who claims to have fought against the same system in Southern Africa.

The minister once wrote a book titled Black Behind Bars about his imprisonment in Rhodesia. I wonder if he still has the courage to re-read what he wrote then, because, as the minister of state security, Dydimus Mutasa has had Zimbabweans tortured and brutalised in worse than apartheid ways.

Apartheid was painful, but when it is practised by black on black, the pain is more horrendous and vulgar.

"Not in a thousand years," Ian Smith once said about black majority rule — or simply the democratic rights of blacks. And as history tends to repeat itself, one of Mugabe’s vice-presidents once proclaimed: "Tichatonga kusvika madhongi amera nyanga [We will rule until donkeys grow horns]."

Eternal rule has been on Mugabe’s political agenda since 1980. The new government, for the Mugabe clique, is mere window-dressing for ulterior motives that have nothing to do with the welfare of our wounded, crippled country.

While Tsvangirai travels the world trying to create goodwill and diplomatic space for a new vision for the country, Mugabe is busy shouting obscenities at the same people he wants to come to our economic rescue. Their officials are dubbed "toilets" (Tony Blair), "that little slave girl" (Condoleezza Rice), "like a prostitute" (Jendayi Frazer, former US assistant secretary of state) and "idiot of that nature" (Johnnie Carson, Frazer’s successor).

Mugabe and his clique take the idea of eternal rule seriously as much as they do not take political partners seriously. After all, Tsvangirai does not have a single academic degree, Mugabe tells himself, so he cannot be taken seriously. Inspired by apartheid thinking, Mugabe’s regime has not moved an inch from thinking that anyone who opposes them is inspired by the imperialists and colonialists bent on recolonising Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has become a divided and fragmented society. The social fabric has been razed by the political flames lit by Mugabe and his loyalists. It is difficult to envision how healing and reconciliation can grow in political soil still watered by new political blood, new political corpses and new political widows and orphans.

The Global Political Agreement simply created a political hotchpotch from which it is difficult to salvage anything useful.

Chenjerai Hove is a prize-winning Zimbabwean writer living in Europe.