By Garikai Mafirakureva
In the 60s and 70s, death was something that was so scary. A somber atmosphere would engulf the village, and fear of the unknown seemed to grip every living creature under the sun.
It was so frightening that we slept with our heads covered with blankets, drenched in sweat which later turned freezing cold in the early morning, during what seemed to be the longest nights ever on this planet.
The situation was so terrifying that even the dogs seemed to have forgotten how to bark or grunt, frogs seemed unable to recall how to croak, and even night insects seemed not to remember how to chirp or whistle.
The silence was so deafening for days. It was only broken by the arrival of a wailing relative who lived in a distant area, who was immediately joined by other moaners. The high pitched shrill would send a chill down our spines forcing us to leave whatever we were doing and gather in silence.
Only elderly people talked in hushed voices. We were not allowed to play our usual games. In fact, death was feared and respected at the same time.
However, recently I was shocked that a lot of people went crazy on social media, celebrating Robert Mugabe’s death without a slightest grain of contrition.
I wonder if this is because death is no longer feared or respected. Is it that death has become so common after the ravaging Aids scourge, turned from being epidemic to being endemic in the past years, or is it that people are just being overzealous for nothing?
I know power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but wishing someone in power dead is being a bit wayward.
What most people seem not to realize is that Zimbabwe is sitting on a ticking time bomb, that celebrating Mugabe’s death before his final departure, is not only displaying a complete lack of feeling but is also being so naïve and short sighted.
Are most people celebrating Mugabe’s death able to foresee what their celebrations mean if their predictions come to pass?
If we look at the situation in Zanu PF right now, from a different perspective putting into cognizance its factionalism along tribal lines and if its intra-party fighting is anything to write home about, then President Robert Mugabe is the only person standing between us and a political turmoil or worse- a civil war.
First, it was the Gamatox that wanted its allotment of the liberation dividends, then Lacoste started fighting from another corner and lately the G40. These people’s want for power is so frightening. It makes one wonder how Mugabe’s sudden death is remotely a good thing to the seemingly clueless and compromised opposition.
It is an open secret that most of Zanu PF leadership, if not all lied down with dogs and woke up with fleas and they have long passed their sell by date and are now products too dangerous for human consumption, but they insist they are better than Mugabe.
However, if Mugabe had done us good and left office in 1990, all these people who are believed to be working behind the scenes to succeed him, would have had their own time in office and left. Leaving our beloved country in one piece, but he however, thought otherwise.
So for the time being, I would personally prefer that he lives longer until he sorts out the succession problem he created, I don’t think he should die, at least not now, until he is ready.
In fact, he should wring out every last bit of living he can, while sorting out all the nasty succession mess, he dragged this country into.
We all know that if he had relinquished power after ten years in office, most of the political and economic ills that are currently harassing the country diabolically at the moment, could have been avoided.
However, instead of passing on the baton, Mugabe chose to cling to power for so long, presumably on the mere basis of him being the longest serving first secretary of his party, blocking the political space for would be successors. This obviously led to the current scenario the country is facing at the moment.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the rumblings from his critics, in and outside Zanu PF, this culture of hanging on to power has become a norm. Only a few in Zanu PF and opposition like Sekai Holland, Cephas Msipa, Edmund Garwe and perhaps Canaan Banana voluntarily retired. The rest won’t give up power own their own accord, to the extent that four vice presidents have died in office.
Regrettably, this problem seems to be contagious, because even in the opposition some leaders have died clinging to their posts, like Gibson Sibanda, Ndabaningi Sithole, Isaac Matongo to mention just a few. Even some ailing leaders currently holding high position, are not sincere to their supporters and seem to take politics as a life-time career.
This continued cling to power, have groomed a class of African presidents described as, demented and schizophrenic dictators who would bludgeon their enemies’ heads to a million smithereens during the night and eat them at breakfast.
Unfortunately, it is believed that even when these dictators, notice that time has drawn nigh and inevitable, they desperately try anything possible to delay the end. This is why it is on record that a voluntary exit by an entrenched dictator has never been documented in the history of mankind.
However, be that may, 36 years is too long a time that Zimbabwe would have been under the leadership of a fourth president right now.
If Mugabe dies now, he automatically ceases to be part of the solution, and become the problem himself, which I believe he is not at the moment, unless he dies without cleaning up the whole mess he created. He should just pave a smooth transition and leave everything in place. If we wish him dead now it will be like throwing out water with the baby. I believe he is still very useful.
Most people might be angry and impatient but this is possible given the scenario of Dr.Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Malawi’s first president since it got independence from Britain in 1964, who died after conceding defeat to Bakili Muluzi in the country’s first multi-party election.
Who would have imagined that after 30 years, at the helm as one of Africa’s longest ruling dictators, Kamuzu would bow gracefully and congratulate the incoming president wholeheartedly and wishing him that he would be able to usher Malawi into a new era?
Despite the controversy, which surrounded his rule, he was given a state funeral when he later died in a South African hospital, at the age of 101.
It just takes Mugabe’s will to clean up the mess and usher this country into a new era without shedding a single drop of blood.
In Tanzania, Julius Nyerere ignored all pleas from his loyalists to stay on, and stepped down.
Despite a lot of pressure, he believed he had done all that he could to help his country and felt Tanzania needed new blood and new leadership to deal with its new problems.
He made it clear that he believed a peaceful transition of leadership would be an important achievement of political maturity that he would regard as a significant accomplishment.
Just next door, in July 1996, the late former South African president, Nelson Mandela was on television confirming rumours that he would not stand for re-election in 1999. This was just an assertion of what he had initially said when he was sworn in as the country’s first democratic president in 1994.
Unlike our Zimbabwean constitution that piles ultimate power on the president, the South African constitution has a stipulation that states that the president can only serve for two terms as the head of state.
According to Mandela, he felt one term was enough as he had already laid the foundation for a better future for all.
One lesson that can be learnt from Mandela is, his diplomacy not to publicly choose his successor. Maybe it was because of the fierce competition that was between Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa, who were both favourites for the position.
Most analysts are of the view that Mandela and some old guards of the African National Congress (ANC) endorsed Mbeki behind the scenes, automatically swinging things in his favour. Mbeki was ultimately elected ANC president in 1997, thus putting him in line of the country’s presidency ahead of Ramaphosa.
One of the biggest undoing of opposition parties in Zimbabwe has been looking up to the west to arm twist Mugabe out of power for them, name calling and celebrating social media rumours, which exposed their lack of political maturity.
Can anyone in the opposition tell us how Mugabe’s sudden death will benefit the country, or how that would bring bread on our table? It seems they don’t have any idea that the problem is not Mugabe only but Zanu PF as a party, because even if wakes up dead today, they will have to content with his party.
This makes the premonition which is now a permanent feature on Mugabe’s annual vacation calendar, or on his regular visits to the east, just like one travelling to a certain area in the thick of night for the first time, using a long winding road.
When he wakes up the following morning he thinks he can retrace his way back, only to realize he had lost his bearing.
So the opposition has only two options. Either shape up or ship out. Take Mugabe head on and pushes him out office or engage him one on one and persuade him to hand over power peacefully and stop using innocent supporters as collateral damage in a bid to fulfill their egocentric political ambitions.
- Garikai Mafirakureva is an independent commentator. He writes in his own capacity.