Mugabe: What is Thabo Mbeki smoking?

Rhoda Kadalie says the former president is still the same old nationalist dinosaur he has always been

So geriatric Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF wins another election at age 89, starting his seventh term in office. Suddenly the incorrigible former President Thabo Mbeki appears, on TV, from hibernation, extolling the virtues of the ‘free election' and announcing that the "people have spoken" and that their "rights to self-determination" and to choose their leaders be respected.

What is he smoking?

Although the election was declared peaceful, thousands of Zimbabweans were denied the vote. Intimidation is par for the course, hence the US, UK and Australia, have, rightly, questioned the legitimacy of these elections. Yet President Jacob Zuma, echoed the utterances of his bête noir, Mbeki, urging opposition to accept the "harmonised elections" as "an expression of the will of the people." Peas in a pod, Mbeki and Zuma are connected by this arcane sense of African nationalist solidarity, as much as they think they are different.

Stalking around the globe as though sanitized by Zuma's dishevelled administration, Mbeki is still the same old nationalist dinosaur he has always been, with his African Renaissance and NEPAD in tatters. Unceremoniously recalled from office, Mbeki has learnt nothing with the benefit of hindsight.

While claiming Nelson Mandela as their national hero, both he and Zuma are too far removed from the modern icon's wise decision to leave high office after one term. The antithesis of Madiba, they continue to elevate African leaders who personify governance with their own egos. 

Zimbabwe exemplifies, par excellence, that deep reluctance of presidents to leave office. An online reporter so aptly put it: "Mugabe ... has led Zimbabwe for so long that his defiant persona is embedded in the national identity of a country that has suffered economic turmoil, Western sanctions, periodic spasms of violence and periodic mass emigration to neighbouring South Africa."

The longer these African despots stay, the deeper their tentacles reach into the largesse of the economy, twinned with the belief that they have the divine right to rule for life. Behaving every inch like pre-capitalist chiefs, they reduce the electorate to perpetual minors who cannot choose what is best for them, despite claims to "self-determination", code for "we shall determine what is good for you."

More seriously, the Zimbabwe elections are not really about the right to vote; it is about the military's hold on power and their vested economic interests, inextricably linked to Mugabe's vested interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his seizure of prime land and farms in Zimbabwe.

The wily Mugabe's tentacles have penetrated even the United States' Democratic Party. News have just emerged that he tried to influence two of their lawmakers from Chicago to lobby Congress to lift economic sanctions against his country "after being targeted by an illegal $3.4 million lobbying scheme, according to FBI testimony unsealed in federal court" (reported by Emma Dumain from Roll Call 7 August 2013). The report continues: "Two other Chicagoans, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner, are charged with accepting millions in illegal payments from Zimbabwe officials to lobby U.S. lawmakers to remove sanctions against the African nation."

This partly explains the 89-year old's survival, made possible by such corrupt partnerships, chief amongst them South Africa's ANC leaders, the African Union, Zimbabwe's military, international lobbyists (as those mentioned above), and God alone knows who else.

These institutions do not care a jot about Mugabe's legacy because they know, that they will install their cronies, after his death, to perpetuate the corrupt status quo. Central to this plot is to weaken opposition - a sine qua non for the survival of African liberation movements in government.

This article first appeared in Die Burger

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