Robert Mugabe: "what you see is what you get"

OPINION – The statement ‘what you see is what you get’ seems to aptly describe Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. This is so because he appears to convey the message that ‘I may not be perfect, but I'll be making no efforts to improve, so be warned'' (phrases.org.uk).

For a leader whose party is facing its ‘Lazarus moment’, Mugabe proved that desperate times have forced his party to adopt various desperate measures lately e.g. by burying the succession issue. Some analysts likened Zanu-pf to ‘Mugabe’s wives’ after they confirmed without any debate the 86-year old as the party’s presidential candidate in the election 2011 and by maintaining loud silence on who succeeds Mugabe who is very old..

Mugabe announced at the 11th Zanu-pf national the elevation of Jonathan Moyo to the Communist-style politburo exactly 6-years since his expulsion. In reference to Moyo, Mugabe said ‘I don’t want to call him a prodigal son", a development seen by some analysts as evidence of desperation by turning a blind eye to scathing articles penned by the Tsholostho MP especially the controversial article entitled: ‘There is a sinister agenda at work’ (Zimbabwe Independent, 22/09/06).

In his paper, Moyo lambasts Mugabe, Zanu-pf ‘mandarins’and securocrats and makes one useful revelation for the opposition if they didn’t know already, saying the party’s strategy calls for:

‘state security to infiltrate the opposition in order to destroy it from within. The core purpose of this strategy is to enable state security to determine Mugabe’s successor and the manner or process of his succession on behalf of factional interests in Zanu-pf.’

In the wake of spirited rejections by Welshman Ncube of any chances of his faction uniting with the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, one wonders what has prompted a resurgence of efforts to reunite the two MDC parties ahead of possible elections in 2011. While unity is a desirable ideal under normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances in view of the state security strategy referred to above. Early this month, Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) warned about an infiltration strategy called ‘hemming in’ whereby ‘people are hemmed in’ (Zimbabwean, 06/12/10).

Before the conference ended Mugabe declared on 18th December 2010 that a legal framework must be put in place to ensure individuals and organisations that call for sanctions against the country can be charged with treason (New Zimbabwe, 18/12/10). Criminalising the freedom of expression will obviously have no valid legal basis as it will only make things worse. For instance, in order to claim asylum abroad one would simply call for the retention of targeted sanctions on Mugabe and would have committed a ‘treasonous offence’ according to Zanu-pf law. One would not need to prove membership of a political party, arrest or torture to be justified in fearing for their life in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe under the proposed ‘sanctions law’.

Interestingly enough, targeted sanctions which are intended to restrict named individuals from travel to the USA, Canada, Australia, EU and the UK have been used as an excuse for nearly every little problem imaginable in Zimbabwe – including driving a long distance to work, causing poverty, ‘biting’ education and child mortality.

In March 2010 a provincial governor blamed targeted sanctions for forcing her to commute more than 240 kilometres daily to work ‘at tax-payers’ expense’ (The Zimbabwe Times, 30/03/10). Matabeleland South governor, Angeline Masuku of Zanu-pf reportedly said in a bid to beat ‘sanctions’ she was forced to drive more than a thousand kilometres to work each week in her chauffer-driven government issue Mercedes Benz E280 as she commuted between a farm on the outskirts of Bulawayo and her offices in Gwanda. Meanwhile, Bulawayo Metropolitan Governor, Cain Mathema also of Zanu-pf, allegedly travels a similar distance from rural Tsholotsho to the city. The two government officials jointly clock 2,400 kilometres to and from work in a five day week.

"The problems we are facing are caused by the illegal economic sanctions that were imposed by Britain and her allies. Our major buildings in Matabeleland South are still undergoing construction after many years," Masuku said. Mathema blamed the coalition government for not allocating him a house in the city of Bulawayo. Just how some people find a link between a ban to visit London or Washington with governors’ accommodation in Zimbabwe, is hard to decipher.

This story has a striking resemblance with that of a boss who would not buy heaters for his freezing staff and had them hypnotised into thinking they were warm (The Sun, 23/12/10).The employer bought coats for the ‘lads’ in his cobblers workshop where temperatures had plunged to -13 degrees centigrade, but because doors were left open to clear solvent fumes, the workers were reportedly still feeling cold. However, just a five- minute session with a hypnotist saw them stripping down to shorts and T-shirts, saying they were too HOT! (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3315242).

Mugabe claimed poverty in Zimbabwe had remained high because of the ‘debilitating effects caused by targeted sanctions’ while addressing the United Nations plenary meeting on Millennium Development Goals in New York in September 2010 (SWRadioAfrica, 22/09/20). Similarly, ‘sanctions’ were blamed for biting education in Zimbabwe this month after a ‘key German ally’ reportedly rejected the release of a 15 million Euro tranche due to ‘infighting among key Unicef funders who are divided over Zimbabwe’s diplomatic relations with the European Union’ (Financial Gazette, 03/12/10). Mugabe’s wife, Grace on 9th December 2010, blamed sanctions for high numbers of maternal and infant mortality rate in Zimbabwe (RadioVop, 09/12/10).

The truth is that Zimbabwe’s economy was already in freefall before targeted sanctions were imposed on 200 individuals and some state enterprises that were seen as propping-up Mugabe’s regime especially over accusations that Zanu-pf rigged the 2002 presidential election. It could be argued as a fair comment that the reluctance of the South African government to release a report on Zimbabwe’s 2002 elections despite two court orders could be due to fears of opening a can of worms and unintentionally help justify the case for targeted sanctions on certain individuals.

Desperate measures have seen senior priests in the Anglican Church faction led by ex-communicated Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga declaring their church’s unwavering allegiance to Zanu-pf and that the church will pray for Mugabe and no other leader (Newsday 20/12/10). On the other hand, the new Bishop of Harare Sebastian Bakare, who is at loggerheads with police-backed Kunonga told The Daily Telegraph that riot police had attacked "nearly all" of Harare’s 58 Anglican churches in 2008. "People are too scared to try to worship in their churches in case they are beaten," he said.

If all was well within Zanu-pf there would be no plans to nationalise western private businesses or expel diplomats from western countries. There would be no plans to set up Zanu-pf schools to ‘orient’ young people about its ideologies ahead of 2011 elections (RadioVop 23/12/10) because it’s too late. In any case, the intended beneficiaries would be too young to vote in 2011. The ‘look East policy’ envisages propaganda centres to be dotted all over the country modelled along those run by the Chinese Community Party.

Despite freedom of information being enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the so-called Global Political Agreement (GPA), police and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Agency operatives are reportedly confiscating solar powered, wind-up radios that were donated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to rural communities because they are allegedly ‘selling out the country by listening to foreign broadcasts’ (ZimbabweJournalists, 06/12/10).

The Supreme leader had a compliment from the cables released by Wikileaks for being ‘fit and healthy for an 85-year old’ rather than earlier reports alleging failing health, but Mugabe’s healthy appearance comes at a price to the taxpayer. He has round the clock medical care 24/7, something not being enjoyed by people of the same age even in some of the country’s hospitals, therefore he has an unfair advantage. However, the cables noted that Mugabe "could not sit still" and "constantly pulled up his socks" during the meeting with American diplomats last year. Latest reports in 2010 quote MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti as saying Mugabe allegedly sleeps during meetings.

If that is the case, instead of wasting public funds seeking medical attention abroad, Mugabe should build modern health facilities in Zimbabwe including those for cancer treatment which can be used by all the people. Funds for hospitals and ambulances can come from the sale of Mugabe’s redundant Russian made helicopter which according to media reports is now being used by one of his ministers because he does not like it.

Mugabe would have done the country a lot of good by persuading the securocrats to apologise and say sorry for their alleged offences against humanity and step down in return for no retribution so that Zimbabweans don’t have to sleep with one eye open come election 2011. Surely, he can do more than ‘what you see is what you get’.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London zimanalysis2009@gmail.com