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Now they say Mugabe's AU post immaterial

by Staff reporter
01 Feb 2015 at 13:11hrs | Views
Analysts and prominent political figures say the assumption of the ceremonial chairmanship of the African Union by President Robert Mugabe will neither dim the critical spotlight on him and his warring Zanu-PF party nor help to resolve Zimbabwe's well-documented political and economic crisis of the past 15 years.

In interviews with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, analysts also said it was very unlikely that Mugabe would also be able to impact positively on the myriad problems affecting the continent given the ceremonial nature of the position, his advanced age and Zanu-PF's ongoing factional and succession wars.

They said while the position was an honour for Zimbabwe - albeit a costly one for the cash-strapped country as Mugabe and his officials were likely to travel even more than before at a huge cost to the fiscus - a positive change in the country's fortunes would only happen if Zimbabwe's leaders improved their poor governance record.

"Of course, this is a huge honour for Zimbabwe to lead the AU. But just as we have seen with the president's leadership of Sadc, that does not in itself translate to positive spin-offs for the country.

"The hope is that with the president back under the continental spotlight, this will by implication mean that both his government and his ruling party will realise that they too are even more under the microscope and hence the need to behave and govern the country better," said analyst Shephard Muntungwa.

Ibbo Mandaza of the think tank SAPES said when individuals who became leaders of the AU chair were controversial figures like Mugabe, there was bound to be a lot of negative talk.

"But the post of AU chairmanship is not about individuals but the organisation itself. The question then is whether the organisation has the capacity to deal with conflict. Can they deal with Boko Haram, for example?

"Over the years the AU has shown that it has no capacity and one cannot therefore blame the incoming or outgoing chairman for its failures. At the end of the day, the post is ceremonial and is more rotational and less about heads of state.

"Who even knew the person Mugabe has replaced as AU chairman. It is only the controversy that surrounds Mugabe that is causing hype otherwise everyone will soon forget about him," Mandaza said.

MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said Mugabe represented the past and not the future of Africa.

"Africa deserves a new breed of leaders who believe in transparency, democracy and good governance.

"Mugabe and Zanu-PF stole the 2013 elections and it grossly offends all democratic and progressive-minded Africans to have the AU being led by a man who has trashed democracy in his own party and has reduced his own country from a breadbasket of the continent to a basket case," he said.

Former Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said all patriotic Zimbabweans should welcome Mugabe's appointment as AU chairman.

"We agree with his stance that African resources must be utilised by Africans for their benefit.

"We however would want to see more of what we preach, the democracy we talk about in flowery language being practiced at home. It must help us build truly democratic institutions which advance peace and tolerance not just talking about it at the top of our voices.

"We want to see the advancement of all forms of freedoms, including economic and freedom of expression," Gumbo said.

Speaking at a Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) public forum in Harare ahead of Mugabe's assumption of the AU chairmanship, analyst Charles Mangongera the significance of the recently concluded Zambian elections was not so much its outcome, but the reception that Mugabe had got there.

This, he said, underscored the disdain that a growing number of people in the region now had towards the new AU and Sadc chairperson.

"Despite feeble attempts by ZBC and other State-run media houses to create the impression that Mugabe got a rousing reception, many neutral observers who have seen footage of the jeering would agree that this is a significant departure from the usual applause that Mugabe has always been greeted with when he graces regional capitals.

"Although it is probable that (Zambian opposition leader Hakainde) Hichilema's supporters were frustrated by what they considered to be a rigged election, it is clear that their attitude towards Mugabe symbolises the resentment that many in the region and on the continent, particularly among the young generations, have towards Mugabe," Mangongera said.

"The reason I am raising these matters is that as Mugabe assumes the chairmanship of the AU, there is an expectation that he will carry the monumental responsibility of dealing with the myriad challenges that the continent faces and therefore his stature and integrity will be very critical in determining the extent to which he is able to do this," he added.

"In my view the Zambian incident, which as I have argued above, symbolises some kind of collective resentment of Mugabe, is a good measure of his reputation and stature in the region, which has obviously been dented by his continued stay in office and his brutal response to growing opposition especially in the period 2000-2008," Mangongera said.

"But more importantly Africa faces the challenge of a growing population, which is increasingly becoming young, but has not enjoyed the fruits of independence for more than four decades now," he said.

"The biggest problem today is that of a ruling class that seems so distant from the citizens, a ruling class that has used the State as an avenue for personal and factional elite accumulation at the expense of economic and social progress for a majority of the citizenry."

"...Mugabe himself is a good example of this ruling class given the fact that he presides over an economy with 85 percent unemployment and in which half the country's skilled personnel is in the Diaspora," Mangongera said.

"Many on the continent, who are oblivious of the scale of Mugabe's brutality, wonder why Zimbabweans have not occupied Africa Unity Square and sent him packing to Zvimba," he said.

Zeroing in on what he called "the irony of Mugabe's chairmanship of both Sadc and the AU in the context of events that we have seen unfolding in ZANU-PF over the last three months" — which culminated in the brutal purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies, Mangongera said this had precipitated a serious crisis in the ruling party.

"Hitherto this, Zanu-PF had exhibited a façade of elite cohesion but the fissures finally resulted in an implosion that is unprecedented in the party's 50-year history," he said.

"It is highly unlikely that those who have now assumed control of the party apparatus will be able to reach out to those that were purged to rebuild elite consensus. It is also highly probable that Mugabe's departure will take away any pretence of civility and bare knuckles fights will ensue as soon as he exits the stage, itself a threat not only to the party but also to national peace and stability," the political scientist said.

"The question therefore becomes whether Mugabe will be able to deal with the myriad challenges that I cited above when he is faced with an imploding party back home," he said.

"I submit that the fight to retain control of the party will consume Mugabe, who in any case is exhibiting signs of frailty, so much that he will not be able to offer the kind of leadership that is required to tackle the multiple crises the African continent faces."

"As a shrewd power player Mugabe will be cautious to avoid the experience of former ANC and South African President Thabo Mbeki who became so consumed with his mediation role in the Zimbabwean crisis by the time he got off his private jet in Johannesburg to se that Luthuli House had recalled him from his position as President of the Republic," Mangongera said.

Source - dailynews