Mugabe is not popular at all

Published in the British newspaper, The Independentof March 16 2012, and in The Herald of 17 March, Alex Duval Smith’s column titled “How Mugabe won over a nation: again” is a classic demonstration of how some foreign journalists sadly misread our political situation.

Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe

Smith claims that President Robert Mugabe has, once again become very popular with the indigenous population as a result of both his disastrous fast-track land “reform” programme and the current economic indigenization programme. Well, nothing can be further from the truth.

I do not know where Smith gets his information, but I am sure he must have been talking to all the wrong people. Smith fails to realize that Mugabe lost the 2008 election to Tsvangirai in spite of the fact that he had already implemented the land programme. In fact, Mugabe also lost the 2002 election to Tsvangirai – but the election managers manipulated the results in order to make it look like Mugabe had won.

Mugabe is not “riding a wave of popular glory” at all. Rather, the man is now generally regarded as a serious liability to the welfare of the people of this country. For example, there is real fear that his pursuit of the indigenisation and economic empowerment policy is likely to further ruin the national economy in the same way that the reckless land reform programme did.

It is common cause that few of the more than 300 000 school leavers generated by the education system each year in this country have any hope of getting employed. This unhealthy situation is blamed on Mugabe and his knee-jerk economic policies and belief in his own rhetoric. So how can all of that make the man popular with Zimbabweans?

As for the popularity that comes from the exploitation of the Marange diamonds, the nation strongly suspects that some of the top leadership of this country, particularly those in Mugabe’s political party, are stealing the proceeds. There is limited evidence that any of the money earned from diamonds is getting through to the Treasury to benefit the nation as a whole. It is complete fiction to write that Zanu (PF)’s popularity has “wrong-footed” the MDC.

The truth of the matter is that as a result of the three-year old inclusive government, the MDC has become even more popular than it was in 2008. In both urban and rural areas, it is quite difficult to identify any person who will openly admit that they are supporters of Mugabe and his party. It therefore befuddles the mind how Smith might have gathered the information in his grossly misinformed and misleading column.

Smith further claims that, buoyed by his recent popularity, Mugabe is threatening to call for elections this year, “with or without the new constitution.” Some of us are convinced that both Mugabe and his party are desperate to have elections this year under the much amended Lancaster House Constitution, which effectively creates an uneven political playing field in favour of the former ruling party. Mugabe and his party clearly understand that they cannot win a free and fair election conducted under a democratic constitution.

Indeed, at age 88, Mugabe will struggle to convince any sensible Zimbabweans to vote for him and his party. Holding elections under the current constitution, and before the full implementation of the agreed reforms, would also enable Mugabe to deploy the army, the police and the prison service officials to campaign for him through acts of violence and intimidation. A popular leader does not need to make use of such tactics in order to win elections. A better Zimbabwe is possible.

Post published in: Analysis
  1. Pythias Makonese
  2. Ismail

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