Mugabe might be a bad leader, but every Zimbabwean is culpable for allowing his misrule

    It is a no contest that Robert Mugabe is a horrendous leader. He has overseen 36 years of utter misrule. But more than Mugabe, we must equally blame every Zimbabwean who has allowed him to do as he pleases says Whitlaw Mugwiji

    By Whitlaw Mugwiji

    This piece is inspired by the questions I received in response to my previous article Poor leadership at the centre of Africa’s under-development. Most questions centered on how the young generation can solve this leadership deficit on the continent and in Zimbabwe in particular.

    Mugabe has run Zimbabwe for the past 36 years, ruining so many lives and destroying the future of many young people in the process. Martin Luther King junior says “a man can’t ride you, unless your back is bent”. We therefore must have given consent to his rule or rather misrule.

    I believe that as Zimbabweans, we are not yet serious in removing Robert Mugabe and seeing his Zanu PF gone, particularly the youth and young adults who constitute approximately 41% of the entire population. Imagine, only 14% of those 41% have registered to vote, despite the myriad of challenges facing our country today. When citizens of the Republic are called to come in the thousands to express their disappointment in how the country is being run, we have been weighed and found wanting. We have dismally failed to stand with one another, let alone stand up to Mugabe and his minions.

    Instead we have criticised Morgan Tsvangirai and all the other members of the opposition. People who have given and continue to give their all, trying to rebuild a prosperous Zimbabwe for all. Acie Lumumba, as he is commonly known, recently asked people to stop bad mouthing those who are trying to fight for change. I agree with him on this issue. It is time for all of us to step up and play our part. Ko vakuru havana kutiudza here kuti hakuna mombe inofurira ivete (haven’t our elders told us that there is no cow that grazes on behalf of the sleeping cow).

    Young people are the leaders of tomorrow: Myth

    Young people more often than not have embraced this myth that they are the leaders of tomorrow. A lie perpetuated to keep them disengaged in the continent’s challenges. No wonder that young people have been lackadaisical in playing leading roles in this struggle to improve the welfare of our people. They have allowed themselves to be used hoping to get the bread crumbs falling off the political high table.

    As the saying goes “many things are taught in time, but to teach the right thing at the right time is what counts for good”. It is indeed time we debunk this myth and awake the consciousness and the revolutionary zeal of our young people. They are not tomorrow’s leaders, but today’s leaders.

    Debunking the myth

    Age is a very high price to pay for maturity. I strongly believe one can be young and very mature. I hope reciting these few historical examples will help awaken our young people to their potential.  

    Alexander the Great succeeded his father at the age of 20. During his military campaigns he conquered parts of Asia and North Africa. By the age of 30 he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. He is regarded as one of the greatest military commanders the world has seen. Yet he died only aged 33.   

    The African-American Civil Rights Movement was led by two men both in their thirties: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King junior. They both confronted the brutal and racist American system head on. One preaching nothing but love and the other a radical, preaching violence as the necessary self defence against oppression. They were both assassinated in their thirties, but five decades later their legacy lives on.

    Bringing it closer to home, Thomas Sankara seized power in Burkina Faso at the age of 33, with the goal of eliminating corruption and the dominance of the former French colonial power. In the four years he ruled before his assassination in 1987, he managed to improve literacy levels from 13% to 73%. His administration redistributed land from the feudal landlords directly to the peasants, making the country self-sufficient within three years.

    Let no one fool us into believing that we are too young to play a meaningful role in our country.

    Have we forgotten that that during our liberation struggle, thousands of teens and young adults crossed the border to train and fight the colonial regime. Joyce Mujuru became one of the first women commanders in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) in her early-twenties. Dumiso Dabengwa became the head of Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) intelligence in his thirties. Nikita Mangena became the commander of ZIPRA in his mid-twenties. General Tongogara became the commander of ZANLA in his thirties. When did we forget that age does not define maturity?

    The distinction between the young and the old

    There were two preachers, one senior and the other junior having a conversation. So during the conversation the senior preacher kept referring to the other preacher as young man. After a while the so called young man became annoyed and asked why the other preacher kept referring to him as young man, even though he had a granddaughter. “Yes I keep calling you young man because I was hoping you would ask. I want to teach you the difference between a young man and an old man. You see, a young man/woman is one who looks forward to the future. Their thoughts are completely focussed on the future whereas an old man/woman looks back into the past”.

    It must come as no surprise that Zanu PF keeps referring to the past and devotes little or no attention at all towards our future. Zanu PF is an old party, run by old people.

    We are the solution we have been waiting for

    We must reclaim our destiny without fail. If anyone thinks he/she is too young or too small to play a significant role in our struggle, it is only because they haven’t spent a night with a mosquito. Abraham Lincoln says “we cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today”. We need to face the enemy head on. It is our generational mandate and revolutionary duty to mould Zimbabwe and Africa into the country and continent that we all want to see.

    We are the solution to the continent’s leadership deficit challenges we have been waiting for. Instead of complaining on the lack of leadership in our governments and political spaces, let us go and occupy those spaces. Instead of complaining of incompetent leadership running our local governments, let us go and occupy those positions.  

    I am not a great fan of Barack Obama, but I agree completely with his sentiment that “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”.

    • Whitlaw Mugwiji is a political analyst for Khuluma Afrika – a center for analysis, commentary and investigative journalism. 

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