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Mugabe falls on his own sword

by Staff reporter
22 Nov 2017 at 09:42hrs | Views
The world's oldest leader -  Robert Gabriel Mugabe -  threw in the towel late yesterday afternoon, putting an end to a chequered political history by any standards, one that started when he became Prime Minister of independent Zimbabwe following the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 which led to the emergence of a free Zimbabwe in April 1980.

The 93-year-old politician, who would become president in 1987, fell largely as a result of factors that emanated from within his own bedroom.

Mugabe, who spent almost a week negotiating with the military after their intervention -  which they had ostensibly christened "Operation Restore Legacy", never thought he would have such an inglorious exit.

Born nearly 94 years ago, on February 21, 1924, at Kutama, Zvimba, in Mashonaland West Province, Mugabe was educated at Kutama College and Fort Hare University after which he worked as a teacher in the then Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Ghana.

He became part of a group of nationalists who waged as bitter armed struggle against the Rhodesians during the bush war which led to the independence of Zimbabwe.

Until yesterday, Mugabe was the only leader Zimbabwe had ever known since gaining independence from Britain in 1980.

His fall, which came after the sacking of his long-standing ally Emmerson Mnangagwa two weeks ago -  a direct aftermath of his wife Grace's determination to succeed the 93-year-old as leader of the southern African nation -  came after a lengthy period of intransigence following a military intervention.

At midnight, on Tuesday last week, Mugabe's grip on power slipped as the military, which had on Monday warned it would step in if he did not put an end to the instability in Zanu PF, seized power in a "bloodless" transition.

Malcolm X's words echo in most minds today: "Power in defence of freedom is greater than power in defence of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power comes from our conviction to produce action, uncompromising action."

Like the rest before him, Mugabe's demise was always going to come to a catastrophic end. He would be consumed by his very creations.

Mugabe must have been so power drunk that he could not see that all his pillars were gone -  the party that had only a month ago roundly endorsed him as its presidential candidate for next year's general elections had shown him the exit door, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans -  most likely the same crowds who had cheered him on during his presidential youth interface rallies -  poured onto the streets of Harare last Saturday to express their displeasure over his continued rule.

Parliament had just put in motion yesterday, a process of impeachment that would no doubt have stained Mugabe's legacy further.

A self-confessed Marxist-Leninist, Mugabe led the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) from 1975 after the toppling of its first leader Ndabaningi Sithole.

Mugabe was imprisoned from 1964-74, fleeing to Mozambique on his release, where he led the liberation struggle against Ian Smith's white minority government.

A few years into his governance, Mugabe ordered a crackdown on suspected bandits in an operation which left 20 000 people dead in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, respectively.

A North Korea-trained army unit -  the Fifth Brigade -  was accused of slaying civilians in an operation which targeted disgruntled members of Zapu's military wing Zipra -  who questioned the way the country was being governed.

The traits of dictatorship were already manifesting themselves in Mugabe.

His political survival hinged on outfoxing rivals, real or perceived.

In 2014, he orchestrated the downfall of his deputy for 10 years -  Joice Mujuru and high-ranking party officials -  who were all sacked from Zanu PF on untested charges of plotting to topple the veteran leader.

In July last year, he fell out with war veterans when they issued a damning communiqué criticising his rule.

The communiqué ended their special relationship which dated back to the years of the 1970s liberation struggle.

The last straw for Mugabe, however, was his rash sacking of his longtime aide and trusted lieutenant, Mnangagwa, on November 6.

Mnangagwa, who had replaced Mujuru as the vice president, had been with Mugabe for nearly 54 years.

The 75-year-old was seen as the natural successor and had strong backing of the security sector, especially the military.

Mugabe's failure to decisively deal with the Zanu PF succession and the manner in which he tried to resolve it lately -  by using his wife Grace as a foil -  became his downfall.

A ruthless dictator, Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe as a personal fiefdom for all these years and spent close to a week fighting off a determined military negotiating team, refusing to step down. When Mugabe finally resigned yesterday afternoon through a letter written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Harare went mad at the unexpected news.

Although the conditions of his final decision were sketchy at the time of going to print, Mugabe must have received total immunity for himself and his family.


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