From as far back as before its independence, Zimbabwe has fascinated not only its colonisers and other countries overseas but also its own neighbours on the continent. For some reason, it has always overshadowed its neighbours and this remains the same today. Somehow, it is difficult for the international community to ignore Zimbabwe.
There was a lull in anxiety over Zimbabwe from just shortly before independence until about five years after independence when signs of political decay started showing, primarily when Mugabe’s intentions, vis-├á-vis those of the liberation war party, started to emerge and Mugabe started singling out and sidelining fellow liberators who had done more than himself in liberating Zimbabwe. It is difficult not to think of Snowball of Animal Farm. Since independence, the world has refused Zimbabwe to move off the world’s political stage.
Yes, once in a while, Zimbabwe gives way to other “more urgent” and “more pressing” world issues but as soon as the world community sorts out their issues, their attention always returns to Zimbabwe. Now it has gotten to a point where Zimbabwe is permanently sitting on the backburner, never removed off the political stove, as the world deals with one issue or other but always coming back to fiddle around with Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe. Mugabe has restarted seizing “white-owned” farms again. His indigenisation policies, although reportedly under review, remain in effect. Human rights violations and political victimisation of people and opponents, both in and outside his party, is on the increase.
The economy is on a steep downward slide and the European Union is scrambling to talk business investment, regardless of all the attendant issues. A few days ago, Phillipe Van Damme, the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, announced that the EU would soon be signing the National Indicative Program with Zimbabwe “under which the bloc will provide 234 million euros (about US $266 million) to support socioeconomic programs in Zimbabwe over the next five years”. This is at a time that the EU still has some lingering issues with Mugabe over sanctions it imposed on him and some of his high-ranking officials for abusing Zimbabweans, human rights violations and plundering the fiscus.
Just this past Wednesday, Gerard Wolf, head of delegation of the Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF), or the “Movement of the Enterprises of France”, which, representing over 800,000 companies, is the largest employer federation in France, announced that some of their companies are eager to invest in Zimbabwe as they, like Wolf himself, all believe that the situation is good enough to invest, adding that “old partners of Zimbabwe are looking for opportunities as the country has a role to play for the development of Africa”.
That is absolute rubbish. Zimbabwe is in a melt-down, unable to help itself and there is no way it can play a role in the development of Africa. Just ask countries like Botswana and South Africa whose economies are being battered by Zimbabwe’s intransigence. But what the French mean is that Zimbabwe is on its knees, both economically and politically, and that makes it a prime candidate for exploitation. The French are envious of countries like South Africa and China which are harvesting millions on the backs of starving Zimbabweans. As we have seen over the years, money invested or brought into the country for these so-called socioeconomic programs will never trickle down to the citizens of the country.
Like before, the money will always end up in the pockets of the same Zimbabwean thieves the EU tried and failed to punish for stealing money and abusing Zimbabwean people. But then, it is not only the EU and its allies who no longer want to be reminded about Mugabe’s atrocities. Africa itself, which has always conveniently turned its eyes away from what Mugabe has done over the decades, wants to keep this man in the spotlight.
How a whole continent could connive to have this man, a champion of human rights abuses, an arrogant political bumbler and a man who has single-handedly destroyed a once prosperous nation, become head of SADC and the Africa Union is a mystery never meant to be solved. The name Southern African Development Community has connotations of developing the southern Africa community. Even one of its aims is “to reduce economic dependence of SADC countries on South Africa” and the man whose country used to export just about everything to South Africa and Europe has made Zimbabwe another economic province of South Africa and is the one all the regional presidents have picked to shepherd SADC’s development aims to fruition while millions of Zimbabweans are economic and political refugees in South Africa.
There is something obscene and depraved about Africa’s leaders. What really do they think a 91-year-old man can do for SADC that he failed to do in his own country for 35 years? The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, which takes into consideration broad policy areas that affect economic freedom (rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets and which was just released on Friday) notes that Zimbabwe is the most repressed economy in sub-Saharan Africa and in the bottom five worldwide due to government intervention, policy inconsistency and corruption.
It ranks Zimbabwe at 175 out of the 178 countries in the survey, just ahead of Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Zimbabwe is even ranked below war-ravaged Central African Republic. At 91, Mugabe is Africa’s oldest serving president and its third longest reigning president (April 1980). He is very close to Africa’s longest reigning presidents in Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni (January 1986); Cameroon’s Paul Biya (November 1982); Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos (September 1979) and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema (August 3, 1979).
So, apart from African regional leaders of SADC making Mugabe their chairman for the next year, Africa’s continental leaders are almost certain to follow the stinking suite and “elect” Mugabe leader of the African Union. To African leaders, there is nothing wrong with this scenario they have created because political diversity, which depends on free and fair elections, is an anathema to them all. “It’s not a very encouraging sign,” an African diplomat who declined to be named told a New Zimbabwe journalist.
“The Mugabe style belongs to a past generation, the one that takes power hostage, and this is no longer the AU creed.” It is sad that in 2015, any African citizen who has a complaint against his own government can only land on Robert Mugabe’s doorstep to complain about issues in his country yet Mugabe commits worse than those presidents he supposedly “leads” as chair of these groupings. How seriously do we take African leaders when they shamelessly behave like this?
How can other nations respect us and our views when we are so intellectually handicapped to the point of asking a burglar to guard our property? So the tragic soap opera continues. The world does not seem fed up with Zimbabwe yet. Like a bad play that continues to run with little interest from people, there is always the curiosity to know how the awful story and its actors ended up. Curiosity is fending off fatigue over the Zimbabwean issue.
So Zimbabwe continues to make headlines around the world but for the wrong reasons and to no one’s benefit. But there is no greater tragedy in Africa than the collection of nincompoops we are forced to address as “Your Excellences”. There is nothing excellent about African presidents.