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Of Zimbabwe's embarrassing leadership record

24 Jul 2023 at 01:49hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE has not had many presidents since attaining independence from Britain in 1980, having known only three.

The first, Canaan Sodindo Banana, was merely ceremonial.

The other two - Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa - practically turned into tyrants.

In fact, it is probably only in Zimbabwe where generations have never witnessed a smooth democratic transfer of power from one president to another, let alone, one government to another.

No Zimbabwean has ever witnessed one president handing over the reins of power to his successor - something we only watch on television, in awe and envy, happening in other countries.

What an embarrassing record.

This is all because none of the ruling Zanu-PF party leaders, who became head of State, was ever democratically elected in their own party.

Mugabe toppled Zanu founding leader Ndabaningi Sithole in 1975, in an unconstitutional move, without going to congress.

This was after accusing Sithole of betraying the liberation struggle by renouncing it while in prison in exchange for his release.

Mugabe was to rule Zimbabwe virtually unchallenged - from independence until he was also ousted unconstitutionally and outside congress - via a military coup d'├ętat in 2017, which ushered in his sacked deputy, Mnangagwa.

With such an unenviable and clearly unsustainable claim to power, is it surprising that Zimbabwe's  presidents have never felt comfortable and secure in their positions?

No wonder both Mugabe and Mnangagwa, were and is, always on edge - fearing an internal uprising or an opposition victory in a genuinely free, fair and credible election.

Because these leaders' rise to power was not through a popular vote, it is to be expected, regardless of how long they have been in office, they are not sure how the citizenry feel about them.

It becomes even worse when the same citizens, notably in rural areas, are regularly subjected to violence or threats of violence, politicisation of food and agricultural aid, and the abuse of traditional leaders who are made to force their subjects to support  Zanu-PF.

How then can a leader be certain that these people will vote for him in the relative privacy of the polling booth?

That is why as the country heads for the August 23 harmonised elections, Mnangagwa feels it necessary to stifle all constitutional efforts made by the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party led by Nelson Chamisa to campaign freely.

He is even haunted by the emergence of his former Zanu-PF colleague, ruling party political commissar and Cabinet minister under Mugabe, Saviour Kasukuwere.

It is incredibly shameful that a president who claims to be popular - due to his "outstanding achievements" ever since grabbing power six years ago - can do everything to hinder his rivals from exercising their democratic rights.

I was actually shocked to learn that the Zanu-PF administration had overnight promulgated new regulations for the erection of billboards along the country's roads,  because Kasukuwere had put up one.

This development comes as other Zanu-PF members flood the courts with applications to have Kasukuwere disqualified and barred from participating in the forthcoming elections.

This is despite him having successfully submitted his nomination papers to the nomination court to contest for the presidency as an independent candidate.

This court challenge was made under the pretext that Kasukuwere had rendered himself ineligible to run for office because he had not been in Zimbabwe for over 18 months - supposedly in violation of the country's Electoral Act.

Of course, the High Court, on July 12, 2023, ruled in favour of the disqualification, prompting Kasukuwere's legal team to immediately file an appeal at the Supreme Court.

All these moves are undeniably motivated by Mnangagwa's insecurity and uncertainty as to his popularity even within Zanu-PF itself.

What are we to expect from an individual who usurped power without the constitutional support of the party's rank and file?

That Mnangagwa's stronghold is predominantly rural where the majority of those suffering and enduring untold impoverishment in Zimbabwe reside, makes him even more jittery.

Driving to a village homestead can be the most torturous experience - a fact even Zanu-PF bigwig, Patrick Chinamasa once attested to, when he was forced to abandon his vehicle, and walk to his rural home.

These are the same areas without meaningful development - lack decent educational and health-care institutions, and without access to potable water or electricity in their homes.

I am sure Mnangagwa is quite awake of the fact that these people are not dimwits, who will continue accepting crumbs from the table of the powerful, which is why he keeps arm-twisting them to support him.

As it turns out, Zanu-PF has not developed anything of substance since 1980 - even the urban roads and water provision of which Mnangagwa blames the opposition of failing to maintain - were all products of colonial Rhodesia.

The main reason there is virtually zero development in rural areas is because the Rhodesians had not done the job for Zanu-PF.

The deplorable state of the country's rural areas makes it even more unsettling for both Mnangagwa and his party to allow the opposition to freely campaign which is why CCC is being treated like an illegal entity.

Several of its rallies have been barred by the police on flimsy grounds. For example, in Masvingo several CCC supporters were recently arrested for "toy-toying", which was regarded by the police as public nuisance and rallies banned because of lack of ablution facilities.

Wow, talk about double standards!

So, only Zanu-PF supporters can demonstrate or march to their hearts' content, and be bussed from across the country to venues clearly lacking ablution facilities to cater for all those thousands - yet the opposition cannot do the same.

Because Mnangagwa and his administration are so insecure they are prepared to go as far as violating the Constitution, which stipulates under section 155(2) that "all political parties and candidates contesting an election or participating in a referendum (should be given) fair and equal access to electronic and print media, both public and private".

He and his party are not even ashamed to flagrantly violate section 61(4) of the Constitution which states that "all State-owned media of communication must be impartial, and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions".

Can anyone ever imagine someone like me being interviewed or asked for my opinion on ZBC, or any of my articles appearing in The Herald or Sunday Mail?

Yet, that is exactly how it should be in any genuine democracy - moreso in Zimbabwe, where the supreme law mandates that to happen.

All this and more says a lot about the President and his government who are prepared to violate the country's Constitution, which he swore to defend and uphold.

Does this not show that the man is not as popular and well-loved by the citizenry as he would want us, or himself, to believe?

He feels the need to bus crowds from across the country for a rally in Zaka or Epworth or Chipinge?

Actually, a truly confident leader is comfortable with smaller crowds - since these rallies are ordinarily targeted at a particular community and its surroundings.

Quite frankly, had I been a presidential candidate, and held a rally in my hometown of Redcliff, for instance, I would be more than satisfied with a gathering of a few hundreds.

Nonetheless, bussing supporters from across the country - bragging of such figures as 140 000 - betrays a leader who lacks confidence, and is in desperate need of validation and affirmation.

Mnangagwa is fully aware that he lacks the necessary support for a resounding victory in a truly free, fair and credible election.

Whenever I see his shenanigans, a certain image always plays out in my mind. I imagine an athlete, in a 400-metre race, who opts not only to start 100 metres ahead of his competitors - but also has them bound in leg irons, with heavy loads strapped to their backs.

What would that say about this athlete? Would this show someone brimming with confidence, or simply a pathetic individual who does not believe in their own abilities? If they win the race can they genuinely celebrate in front of the world?

Surely, after doling handouts, free agricultural inputs, so-called empowerment projects and whatever mediocrity packaged as economic development - why is Mnangagwa still so terrified of the opposition?

I thought his works would campaign for him and his party. Is there really any need to clamp down on divergent views and voices of dissent to prove one's popularity?

Which reminds me that barely eight months after ousting Mugabe, Mnangagwa dismally failed to ride on the wave of an emancipator to convincingly win the 2018 presidential elections against Chamisa.

This, despite the fact that Mugabe's departure was long overdue and was loathed by ordinary Zimbabweans. As it turned out, Zanu-PF legislative candidates actually garnered more votes than Mnangagwa.

Source - newsday
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