If someone who died after seeing the first five years of Mugabe’s reign was to come back to life, he would think he is lost. “Take me to Zimbabwe!” he would cry. It’s utterly shocking what Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s leadership have become. However its a common fact that human nature is unpredictable.
Let’s investigate why Mugabe has remained in power for this long. At 90 doesn’t he feel tired? Isn’t he old enough to pass on the button stick to someone much abler than he is? Why does Mugabe cling to power helplessly like this? This article is written with the hope that we scan Mugabe’s mind and extract some ideas as to why he won’t let go. We might actually help Mr. Mugabe too, if he happens to read this article, so that he may know that people can read well behind his nationalist rhetoric.
1. Fear of the International Criminal Court of Justice (I.C.C)-
Mugabe fears for his own life. As much as he might appear to be this fearless, champion of the cause of the African people, Mugabe knows that the world has documented his abuse of power, genocide, abuse of human rights, electoral theft and corruption. All this warrants for his arrest and possibly execution at the Hague. Once he resigns he becomes powerless and might be handed to the Hague for judgment regardless of his old age and frailty. The instinct of self preservation is what makes the old man cling on to power for fear of a very painful death. It is very false that Mugabe is a stoic and is unafraid of the hangman’s rope considering how he has amassed wealth for his own comfort for a very long time, something that is diametrically opposed to such a philosophic temperament as stoicism.
2. Fear of the collapse of ZANU PF
There is a fear that ZANU PF will collapse once Mugabe retires. With most of its founding members deceased the comradery that united the revolutionary party has died with them. The young turks in the party are all Mugabe’s bootlickers for the sake of material gain, not that they are politicians who carry the calling of developing Zimbabwe. The want money and power to abuse just as they have learnt from Mugabe.
Also, don’t forget Mugabe has ruled ZANU PF using the divide and rule tactic. He often pits his opponents against each other interchangeably so as to divert focus from him and his prolonged rule. In 2004 Mugabe used the gender equality/ quota system excuse to ward off Mnangagwa from becoming the Vice President of the party, a development which would have strengthened the latter and even sharpened his avarice for power to Mugabe’s danger. Now, Mugabe is turning the tables by using Mnangagwa to purge all Mujuru loyalists. This way, though it might be argued that Mugabe is fomenting the power struggles in ZANU PF he successfully manages to remain the centre figure and ultimate unifying figure.
3. Security chiefs won’t let him go
During Mugabe’s incumbent reign, his security chiefs have amassed great wealth in the form of farms, businesses and property, mostly by extra-legal means. Besides their shady business activities, the chiefs were also said to be participants in events such as the Gukurahundi Genocide, ordering kidnappings, torture and execution of opposition party supporters and leaders. They were able to do all these things under the auspices of the Mugabe regime. Should new leadership ascend to power, it would leave the security chiefs susceptible to prosecution both within Zimbabwe and without. Needless to say, their great and ill acquired wealth would fall under the spotlight and their opulent life could sink into mere mediocrity. Because of the reasons outlines above, it behooves the security chiefs to keep Mugabe in power. He is the only leader whom their can trust to preserve their interest. Even if Mugabe is to relinquish power to someone else, he would probably be under pressure to leave it to someone allied with the security chiefs.
4.Lack of security guarantee for his family
Recently Grace Mugabe has come into the spotlight for attempting a meteoric rise to power, acquiring a miracle degree and taking the leadership of the women’s league, whilst it had been suggested the Robert Junior ought to head the Youth league. Commentators cite that a dynasty seems to be in the making. These events make sense in light of the incumbent president’s refusal to appoint a successor and retire. His family which, like the security chiefs has acquired many farms, properties and businesses risks losing them should an antagonistic successor rise to power. It is probably to prevent this from happening that he has maintained his hold on power whilst having his family aligning themselves with powerful personalities and investing some of the power in their own hands.
5. Fears the recolonization of Zimbabwe.
Asked by CNN news anchor Christiane Amanpour during a Hardtalk interview in 2009 why it was so hard for him to leave power Mugabe argued that, “You do not leave power when imperialist dictate that you leave.” And when Priscilla Misihairambwi- Mushonga, the then Minister of Regional Integration, was asked one of the few things she had learnt about Mugabe, she said she was astonished to learn that Mugabe actually believes certain things. She said it was to her surprise when she learnt that Mugabe’s recolonization and anti-imperialist rhetoric was something that he believed. Mugabe considers himself the lion of Zimbabwe, and he is afraid that once he resigns his successor might be moderate and court the Western “imperialists” into doing business with Zimbabwe again, which is something that he seriously detests.
6. Identity Crisis:
Mugabe has always identified himself as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe ever since 1980 and he has led ZANU PF for a way longer period than that. He has always been the Head of State and Government, and Commander of the Defense Forces of Zimbabwe , President and 1st secretary of ZANU PF. If Mugabe were to resign today, it will be against his system. His routine will be upsetted, a routine that he has kept for a very long period of time. He would also be lonely. Mugabe has not been blessed with a smart, intelligent family which can keep him company and engage him in some interesting and intellectually stimulating discussions. This has been the case even with the current crop of politicians that Mugabe has been working with. He oftens complains that he nolonger has anyone to share the old stories of his youth with, since the young guys cannot relate. So, surely Mugabe would be a lonely chap, alienated from his life of being president and the revered “His Excellency.”
The great scientist, Isaac Newton describes inertia saying, “Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon.” Mugabe is stuck in a mode. As has been discussed above, he has been the President of Zimbabwe and leader of ZANU PF for a very long time. Any change would shatter Mugabe’s internal clock.
His internal system has been developed to sustain and persevere in the current state of affairs when he has to be saluted everyday, plan on how to deal with dissenting voices, how to show the Western countries that he is invincible and how to keep attracting the attention of the media. He cannot free himself from this mode. He is addicted to being the president of Zimbabwe.
8. Young Wife
Grace Mugabe is the Marie Antoinette of Zimbabwe. She is quite a foreign woman in the same regard that the Austrian Marie was to the people of France under the reign of Louis XVI. Mugabe married Grace when he was 72 years old. He was already an old man then. And it is a fact that things got worse in Zimbabwe after Mugabe married Grace Marufu. Imagine an old man marrying a young and ambitious woman. Grace wanted to really feel the power and the fame that being 1st lady comes with and to achieve this she had to work hard on resurrecting Mugabe. After their marriage Mugabe became increasingly belligerent. Land invasions, electoral theft and persecution of opposition politicians ensured at unprecedented levels. She is behind all this Mugabe madness. Imagine if Mugabe’s first wife Sally was alive and if he had been blessed with a big family, he would be a grandpa now, with his great great grandchildren nagging him to tell them ngano (folk stories). He would be enjoying the fruit of old age which often is seeing your grand children play around. Mugabe’s first son would be in his late 50s. He has been deprived of this blessing and Zimbabweans have to pay for that!
Mugabe has always been a bad loser. He doesn’t enjoy defeat. Perhaps this is a general human response but there are some people who admit when they are wrong and are free to let other more capable people than them take over and correct the mistake. Mugabe actually believes that he is the best that Zimbabwe can ever get. He is the miracle to the people of Zimbabwe he thinks. When he blasts America and the EU in his eccentric addresses he actually feels he is doing a great service to the children of Zimbabwe when the opposite is true. His former cabinet ministers have labelled Mugabe as having stinking intellectual arrogance. He thinks he knows it all. If you are not as intellectually gifted, they said, you automatically lose Mugabe’s respect and good graces, unless you lick his boots all the time.
What if things better when he leaves? Then he will appear as the villain. Mugabe doesn’t want this. He’d rather cling onto power and be compared to no one. Compared against himself, then he is the best.