It’s high time Robert Mugabe was certified

It was with disbelief that I read Robert Mugabe’s recent demands for an apology from the EU for the sanctions placed on him and his inner circle since Zimbabwe’s disputed 2002 presidential elections

The thought of him demanding such an apology is hilarious, apart from being downright outrageous. However, as much as his childish tirade is amusing, it is also deeply frightening as it shows just how far out of reality Mugabe is now living.

Mere months after sending Prime Minister Tsvangirai on an overseas aid-seeking trip, he is once more ranting against the supposed interference by the very same countries Zimbabwe is begging aid from. Speaking to his party’s youth wing on the EU’s upcoming visit to Zimbabwe, he implored, “Why are there sanctions? Why are our people being punished? It is because the imperialists want our heritage,” giving a primary example of how Mugabe is able to twist facts to show himself as the innocent victim in the situation, while simultaneously sowing hate of the West.

First and foremost, they are targeted sanctions: travel bans and the freezing of assets belonging to Mugabe and his cronies — designed so as to not further punish the people of Zimbabwe, but rather to affect only those who have played significant roles in the collapse of the economy, the mismanagement of the country and the violation of the human rights of its citizens, and, furthermore, he knows full well why there are sanctions on him, even if he doesn’t believe they are deserved. The anger I feel in seeing him paint himself as a victim is only partly compensated for by the evil joy I feel in realising that the sanctions have succeeded in impinging on his happiness.

He ranted to the crowd, “Who said the British and the Americans should rule over others? That’s why we say down with you. We have not invited these bloody whites. They want to poke their nose into our affairs. Refuse that.” (This was, without doubt, actually said in Shona as one of Mugabe’s favoured phrases, “Pasi!” is so much more glorious than it’s English equivalent of “down with you”). I don’t much mind his anti-white attitude, partly because his anti-West ramblings are now so repeated and predictable that they have lost their sting, but I do still find his apparent double-standards completely unbelievable.

It is undeniable that the West has grievously wronged Zimbabwe in the past, giving Mugabe just cause to insult them, but to do so when they are feeding your people is audacious. I, too, am a patriotic Zimbabwean and would prefer the West to interfere as little as possible in my country, but I am also a firm believer in not biting the hand that is feeding you and when Mugabe is once more feeding his own people, then he can talk, but for now he should just zip it.

Having such sanctions restricting you must be rather ego-crushing, as you discover that although you are the head of an independent African nation, there are those who are higher than you still, and who are able to seize your assets and dictate to you where you may and may not go. Getting them removed is vital to his dignity, but I can’t help wondering whether his desperation to have them lifted has been due perhaps to his wife incessantly nagging him for a shopping spree at Harrods. After all, she’s been limited to the Far East for several years now, and with their displeasure at her assaulting journalists there, the Far East has no doubt lost its appeal somewhat.

Either way, the EU has said that it is not yet prepared to lift the sanctions on Zimbabwe, with the current EU chair, Sweden’s Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, emphasising that “[i]t is not the restrictions that are creating problems in Zimbabwe, it is the mismanagement … not respecting of human rights”. Mugabe, in a seemingly uncharacteristic lack of strategic insight, seems to have self-sabotaged his chances of getting the sanctions lifted by demanding an apology for them before the EU has even really considered lifting them.

I am uncertain why other SADC leaders are so supportive of having the sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies lifted. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma believes that the removal of such sanctions would speed up Zimbabwe’s recovery, and his sentiments are presumably shared by fellow SADC leaders, but I am unable to see how this could be so. Hopefully their motivations in this situation will be revealed, but in the meantime, I will be watching the outcome of the EU’s visit to Zimbabwe with much anticipation, and will continue to wonder when Mugabe will finally be certified insane.

Sarah Logan is a Zimbabwean currently living in South Africa. She is a lawyer and writer who is passionate about social justice and red wine (not necessarily in that order). She yearns for good governance in Africa and plans world domination during the ad breaks in day-time TV. (Mail & Guardian)