Zimababwe: Robert Mugabe ‘a haunted and stressed octogenarian tyrant’
by Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana
AT 86, and approaching 87 years of age, Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe is the world’s oldest ruler.
Depending on where one stands, the political life and historical legacy of Mugabe is either a tragedy of cataclysmic proportions or a cruel comedy of farcical extents.
Mugabe has successfully sold an image of himself as a tough man of political substance and historical consequence who is in charge of his affairs and those of his troubled country.
However, a closer critical scrutiny of recent events and circumstances surrounding the man exposes shocking intimations that he may as well be a haunted and stressed octogenarian tyrant who is impatiently awaiting an escape to the safety and comfort of the grave.
In a sense, this might well be a preferable prospect than the idea of facing the dire consequences of his political actions that have created for him more enemies than anyone can handle.
Mugabe’s personal chaplain and spiritual advisor Fidelis Mukonori recently told investigative journalist Peter Godwin that “the old man is tired, he wants to go, but there are others around him who will not let him step down,”; words which are an indicator to the painful captivity and political hostage-status of Robert Mugabe.
This article, which is a deliberate human interest piece, takes a close look at Robert Mugabe’s unenviable political captivity and hopes to shed some fresh insights on African leadership challenges and show how those who began as freedom fighters and role models have — due to greed and power-hunger — turned out to be tyrants and wrong models for African youths.
Evidence has emerged that Mugabe, like many other African autocrats, including Idi Amin and emperor Bokassa, is enslaved and captive to some unsustainable and primitive beliefs in the supernatural.
In killing his opponents and crushing his challengers, he believes that he is an instrument of “the ancestors” and therefore right. Very strange indeed for a man equipped with the fine education that Mugabe has.
An enterprising Sangoma who doubles as a con-artist once took advantage of Mugabe’s strange beliefs to enrich herself. At the height of fuel shortages in Zimbabwe, Rotina Mavhunga claimed that “the ancestors” of Zimbabwe were sending Mugabe processed diesel from under a mountain in Chimanimani.
Mugabe did not only believe her and showered her with farms, cars and money but went on national television to announce that Zimbabwe’s fuels problems had come to an end. For a sophisticated man with seven university degrees to be so duped by a sangoma who did not finish primary school is a pointer to Mugabe’s painful captivity to superstition.
The sangoma had only buried a drum full of diesel on a mountain and connected a hose pipe, claiming that the rocks were spitting diesel from the ancestors. She is currently doing time in one of Mugabe’s jails.
In one of his many dialogues, ancient Athenian philosopher Socrates interviews Cephalas, an old man who boasts that old age has given him “freedom from the enslaving desires and demands of sex”.
Mugabe, at almost 87 years of age, cannot enjoy such freedom as Cephalas; he is subjected to the expectations of a 45 year old woman. Another strange decision for a man of his age to put himself in such a challenging situation, or is it the unfortunate attempt to argue with nature?
It should be taxing physically and emotionally vexing at such an advanced age to minister to the fires and appetites of a young wife.
Not only that, but a few weeks ago British investigative journalist Jon Swain disclosed that Gideon Gono, Mugabe’s personal banker and reserve bank governor was secretly bedding Mugabe’s wife in foreign hotels and farm-houses; news which should be trying to the world’s oldest president.
Not only because of her physical needs is Mugabe’s wife taxing him but in terms of her appetites and tastes for the finer and costly things in fashion.
Mugabe was forced to fire his ambassador to Britain, Godfrey Chanetsa, after he complained that the entire embassy had been turned into a warehouse and storeroom for Grace Mugabe’s expensive goods shopped in Britain.
Mugabe’s young and shopaholic wife is not the only one pressuring him to retain the reigns of power at all cost to sustain her expensive tastes.
His securocrats, the service chiefs that Mugabe sent to conduct Gukurahundi, one of Africa’s most Golgothic massacres are fiercely opposed to his exit from political office.
They were sent to massacre more than 20000 Matabale civilians who supported the late Joshua Nkomo, in the process displacing thousands into exile in South Africa and beyond.
These are the men who have become Mugabe’s “brothers in crimes against humanity” who fear that once he is gone they will be prosecuted. They include Mugabe’s air force chief Perence Shiri, army chief, Constantine Chiwenga and ministers Emerson Munangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi.
While Mugabe might escape prosecution on grounds of his very advanced age, his security men, mainly in their sixties and fifties are good candidates for competent prosecution.
Making matters even worse for Mugabe and his securocrats are the many groupings of angry Gukurahundi survivors and victims in South Africa and overseas who are lobbying the international courts to take action, while, recently, Genocide Watch International announced its intentions to have perpetrators of Gukurahundi prosecuted.
Besides the securocrats who fear being prosecuted and hanged for crimes against humanity, Mugabe himself understands that, like Saddam Hussein who used to be the darling of America but was later on they hanged for human rights abuses, he can suffer the same fate. Mugabe was such a valued client of Britain and America that the queen of England knighted him in 1994.
After killing and displacing many white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe and spewing insults and venom on the West, Mugabe knows that the Saddam Hussein scenario is not very remote.
International gay rights groupings are also adding salt to Mugabe’s injuries by lobbying and using whatever influence they have to have Mugabe made an example of, after he described homosexuals and lesbians as “worse than dogs and pigs”.
Mugabe is also captive to the political entrepreneurs and tycoons that surround him.
In the year 2000 he committed Zimbabwe’s national army to a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that cost Zimbabwe billions of foreign currency and many lives in terms of the thousands of soldiers who died in combat. In exchange for the brave favour, Mugabe and his cronies were rewarded with lucrative diamond mines and other business opportunities in the Congo.
These politi-preneurs know that they stand to lose their rich pickings should Mugabe be allowed to step down from his post.
Recently, a Zimbabwean business tycoon Philip Chiyangwa pledged his two hundred million United States dollar-fortune to support Mugabe and Zanu PF in their electoral campaign bid.
Mugabe, who used to travel from pillar to post throughout the world amidst pomp and circumstance resulting in him being nicknamed Vosco da Mugabe, is now a confined tyrant.
The smart and targeted sanctions imposed on him by the western countries mean that he can no longer, except for United Nations business, travel to European Union countries but Africa, China and Dubai; a big blow for a man who enjoyed travelling to Western capitals.
Far from the strongman that Mugabe wants the world to believe he is an examination of his circumstances shows otherwise.
He is, in fact, a captive tyrant, enslaved by unsustainable beliefs in the extra natural forces, a demanding young wife, paranoid securocrats, terrified tycoons around him and angry victims of his manslaughters who are working over time to ensure he is prosecuted.
As San Tsu says in The art of war, total victory is not victory at all; as the vanquished is aggrieved he prepares to defeat you in future. The many enemies that Mugabe created for himself in his days of strength are out to get him in these days of old age and weakness; and he knows it
This has reduced the world’s oldest president to a terrified and confined tyrant who is full of fear. The moral that we can squeeze out of Mugabe’s political life and historical legacy is that no one — no matter how strong — can escape the judgment of history. No matter how big one’s hand is it can never cover the sky.
Dinizulu Macaphulana is a Zimbabwean poet and journalist who is studying in Lesotho.