Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe

It means something: Mugabe’s inauguration as the President of Zimbabwe on 22 August after his sweeping victory in last month’s harmonised elections. It means five more years of all that Mugabe is well known for. It also means that the past 33 years did not give Zimbabweans enough of him…

As I watched our President taking the oath for the fifth time (the other two times were as the prime minister back in the 1980s), I could not help thinking about how this was not new ground for him. Robert Mugabe has been there for six terms – 33 years – at the helm of the administration that minds the affairs of Zimbabwe. And throughout this time, his and his party’s record has not been very impressive. So, what can Zimbabweans expect? I waited for his speech to get an idea…

The shock of non-change
As I waited, I dearly hoped that the speech would not be littered with the inevitable polemic excesses. I also reflected on the ‘humour’ that characterised the elections. During the run-up to the polls, many Zimbabweans thought that the era of Mugabe was inevitably coming to an end. The need and hunger for change seemed to have gripped the country.

Considering that Mugabe still had a lot of diehard and genuine followers, the general consensus was that people were simply tired of the rhetoric and wanted a break from all the history seminars and sermons he delivered at every national, provincial and district event.

But alas! Zimbabweans had a surprise in store for themselves! They still wanted Mugabe in office! Forgive the shock on all their faces after the election results were announced. They still wanted him! That alone must mean something…

History lessons continue
The speech came. The inevitable vocal whip lashed out at the unrepentant Western allies who had the audacity to scorn Zimbabwe’s electoral outcome and are still bent on destroying the gains of our independence through sanctions and their regime change agenda. (What a picture the word ‘regime’ creates!)

The history lectures also came. Suddenly, an old sensation visited me, a feeling of déjà vu, as if I had heard this before. Just as this was not new ground to Mugabe, what I was hearing was not new ground to me… I listened and reflected.

Zimbabwe’s potential cannot be underrated with its educated people, vast resources and a relatively sound network of roads and railways – some of which of course are in serious need of repair and upgrading. A combination of agriculture, mining, tourism and a revival of the manufacturing industry would be enough to improve the lives of Zimbabweans.

A call for modest incompetence
All we really need to make this happen is a sensible government. A sensible government is characterised by modest corruption and modest incompetence, mixed together with reasonable policies. Is Mugabe’s administration capable of that? Its corruption and incompetence cannot be said to be modest. Its policies are reasonable but its implementation record scares the living daylight out of you. Inevitably, one sees a replay of 2008.

But still you hope that this time would be different. For instance, the elections were unusually peaceful. That’s certainly different. So you hope that if the old man has the audacity to still walk back into office after 33 years, chances are that he has something to offer.

Don’t laugh. I’m serious. How else can we explain his longevity? He survived the demise of Nkrumah and other old guards, and refused to settle for less, like Mandela did. He lives. He rules. He still wants to rule. I trust that it must mean something. I sincerely wish it means something.

The speech ends with an invitation to enjoy. What the heck?! Who doesn’t want some free rhumba and Macheso? Pass me the cigar man. Nyika ine varidzi iyi!

Indeed, the country has its owners…

By Tanaka Chidora

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