Can Robert Mugabe’s political career end like Mubarak’s? A few thoughts of what it would take.

Posted: June 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

SADC leaders have threatened political death for Mugabe with their statement that elections cannot be held without reforms; Mugabe may well be too old to contest by the time reforms are in place to go for elections. And if he is not dead by then, indications from Egypt are that he could face a genuine risk of being put on trial for crimes against humanity, just like Mubarak. Those who saw him after the summit confirm that he looked defeated, signalling the beginning of the end for his once vibrant political career.

Egypt as leader

Once again, Egypt has taken a lead in African political events as last week The Court in Cairo sentenced the country’s former leader to life in prison for his role in ordering the deaths of protestors during the revolt that ousted him. It’s not every day you see a Country Courts sending to prison its former leader as we saw Mubarak being whisked away – tearful and very scared – to start his sentence. Even though there are protests against the Court for the acquittal of Mubarak’s lieutenants, Mubarak’s case still marks significant

His game has ended with tears, fear and darkness in Jail

progress and the wider Arab Spring protests and their results are pregnant with ideas for other nations, especially Zimbabwe, that wish to take a new road towards peace and freedom.

Lesson 1 – For Mugabe

The sentencing of Mubarak is a bitter lesson for our president Mugabe that sooner or later one’s sins catch up with them and there will be no chance of pretending otherwise when judgement day comes. It is simple: you cannot go around bullying people and get away with it forever. Who would have thought that Mubarak would be sentenced by the same courts that he once presided over?

Lesson 2 – For Zimbabwe’s oppressed people

For oppressed people in Zimbabwe, the clear lesson is that it is not an easy job to secure justice and freedom from dictatorships. There is need to sacrifice even more if we are to end tyranny. A lot of lives were lost in the Arab Spring, whether during peaceful protests as in Tunisia and Egypt or during violent conflict as was the case in Libya. While we do not want to shed blood and I strongly believe in the non-violent path for protest, the key fact we learn here is that dictators will not go through mere threats without action. The actions to be taken need proper articulation of their goals and intentions, and above all, massive coordinated efforts and wide participation. Demonstrations in the Arab Spring were well defined and coordinated by united fronts with explicit goals of changing the political status quo and clear issues about which protests were convened. In Zimbabwe today, we seem to lack that coordinated wider approach and clear understanding of our aspirations. I certainly don’t mean to undermine the valuable work that our

Be Afraid, Very Afraid – A message from Mubarak

democratic activists and political parties in Zimbabwe have done, which has exposed them to hardship and pressure, and for which they have made significant sacrifices. I am just saying that maybe in our quest for democracy we haven’t yet reached a stage at which all of us believe that in order to achieve stability we need to overthrow the current rulers and replace the old system of dictatorships with a more transparent and responsive political system. This is what people in the Arab Spring thought at least and they have shown impressive commitment to their democratic causes well beyond the immediate change of leadership. They have achieved their first goals of removing dictators and now they are dealing with new approaches to leadership and government organisation, while also keeping key reform issues on the agenda.

Lesson 3 – For everyone

Another important lesson is that we need each other as citizens if we were to overthrow our corrupt regimes. This mutual dependence may involve reaching out to sectors of society to try and convince those that work with dictatorships to withdraw their support. In the eyes of many Zimbabweans, government structures like the military, central intelligence and the police have been viewed as unfriendly forces supporting dictatorship and are widely seen as enemies of the ordinary citizen. For a new democratic dispensation to be on course, we need a massive rethink of how we see some of these people: to see them as possible allies and sources of our strength against dictatorship rather than unchangeable enemies. We learnt this from the Arab Spring where its success was bolstered by massive defections from security structures who joined the people’s revolutionaries. Zimbabweans are presented with a chance to work with these people before we reach blood spill like the Libya scenarios. It is a tough call to ask but those political leaders who want a return to democracy must speak out loud to reach the security structures and encourage efforts to close the gap between them and ordinary citizens. It may be hard for the most entrenched security structures to respond well but I am sure if we reach out consistently and thoughtfully some day we will get better results. The same goes in reverse of course. The security structures in Zimbabwe must be prepared to reach out and do what is right when the time comes for them to do so.

Lesson 4 – For lawbreakers

The last and final lesson must serve as a warning to all those that break the law with impunity under dictatorship. Just because the court in Egypt acquitted Mubarak’s lieutenants, it doesn’t mean the same will happen in Zimbabwe. The game has changed in Southern Africa and the recent SADC communique on Zimbabwe’s election road map reflects significant change of positioning from a SADC that was known to keep quiet about human rights abuses to one that will not shield those who break the law. Mugabe and his friends must see the light and the sooner they do this, the better for everyone.

  1. Rejoice Ngwenya says:

    “…. we haven’t yet reached a stage at which all of us believe that in order to achieve stability we need to overthrow the current rulers and replace the old system of dictatorships with a more transparent and responsive political system.” In simpler terms, by being ‘part of’ the GNU, we have lost our potency as activists, rather have resigned to that ONLY a constitutionally-driven ballot system will deal a mortal blow on tyranny. How wrong we are!

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