Afro-pessimism: Robert Mugabe
By David Mpanga
“I will never, never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.” Robert Mugabe, December 2008.
If a white fiction writer had dreamt up the Zimbabwe-under-Mugabe plot, he would have been roundly condemned as an Afro-pessimist and a racist. But we have all seen that after ruining the Zimbabwean economy with misplaced policies, purportedly intended to emancipate the downtrodden black man, Mugabe “secured” an 85.51% “landslide victory” by beating his opponents into submission.
Having failed to declare official results for over a month when it looked like the great hero of the revolution was losing, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission reclaimed its reputation for efficiency by counting all of the ballots and verifying the results of the presidential run-off election in one day. So it is back to business-as-usual in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe is back in the driving seat, attending big conferences for African big men and haranguing the West. While Morgan Tsvangirai (of the Movement for Democratic Change) is still the BBC’s favourite opposition leader, hiding out in a Western embassy and giving “secret” interviews, which prove what the Baganda have known for some time; the cockerel’s crowed curses do not kill the kite (ebikolimo by’enkoko tebitta kamunye).
Now the West is aghast as to why African leaders have failed to come out and condemn Mugabe’s actions in unequivocal terms instead of feting him as a hero at the African Union Summit in Egypt.
But African leaders deserve some sympathy here. For once they are doing the right thing by refusing to be hypocrites. They cannot condemn Mugabe for abusing his people’s rights, ruining his country’s economy or rigging elections because all of them are guilty of those very sins to varying degrees. Moreover, by plumbing the depths of moral and political depravity, Mugabe has handed all of the African leaders a “get out of jail free” card by setting the governance standard for Africa so low that Uganda, for example, can now claim to be at par with the Netherlands. So how can you expect our leaders to condemn a man who is their true hero and mentor?
African revolutionary leaders are firm believers in a twisted version of Jesus’ admonition – Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. They see no reason why they should not sin against their own people because the West, being guilty of the sin of colonialism, cannot cast any stones at them.
The West has also come to expect African leaders to sin against their people and therefore finds itself caught up in the morally dubious position of calling upon corrupt and murderous election-riggers that it supports to condemn a corrupt and murderous election-rigger whom it no longer supports.
Yet we, the much-abused African people, are ourselves not without sin. We are guilty of the sin of apathy. We expect that it is the duty of someone else to guarantee our inherent human rights to peace, democracy and good governance. Thus, we have become the perpetual victims of egomaniacal demagogues and warlords who “liberate” us from colonialism or African oppressors at the price of turning our countries into their personal fiefdoms and we, the apathetic Africans, into their slaves. African leaders will only condemn the bad deeds of other leaders if we the African people stop tolerating, facilitating and participating in corruption, nepotism, waste and human rights abuse at home. In reality we are all Zimbabweans to a degree. We are violated by our black skinned oppressors who, ironically, oppress us in the name of liberating us. Only our active participation in holding our governments to account and in guaranteeing our own basic freedoms will stop all of our leaders from becoming absolute Mugabes.
The writer is a lawyer