Dust to dust: who’s next?

There was fear, expectation and trepidation throughout Zimbabwe when the famous Nigerian prophet, TB Joshua, indicated that an aged and ailing African head of state would die within 60 days. Zambians thought that this would be the end of Michael Sata.

Malawians thought the reference was to their detested dictator, Bingu wa Mutharika. Zimbabweans wished it would be the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, Robert Mugabe. Angolans thought that this would be the end of their unpopular socialist leader, Eduardo dos Santos. Well, now we know that the poor old man referred to was none other than Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi.

Millions of Zimbabweans both inside and outside the country were sorely disappointed, not because they loved wa Mutharika even a little bit, but because they so detest their own dictator that they wished it had been him.

The passing of wa Mutharika and the events following his demise contain numerous lessons for all of us. First, we now realise the significance of having a clear line of succession which is agreed and acceptable to the people. The Malawian Constitution provides that should the President be incapacitated in any way, the Vice President should take over the reins of power. Wa Mutharika had, two years before he died, expelled Ms Joyce Banda from the party, but he had not replaced her as Vice President.

Some members of Mutharika’s party tried to prevent her from taking up the mantle arguing that she no longer was a member of the departed President’s party. Fortunately for her, good sense and constitutionalism prevailed, and she was sworn in as Malawi’s President. Malawians must be congratulated for being the first southern African country to be led by a female President. Let us hope that the trend will continue and that Africa will finally regard women as equally capable of leading their countries as men are.

We have two Vice Presidents, but it is not clear which of them will take over when Mugabe vacates office unceremoniously for any reason. Should John Nkomo take over, it is likely to be argued that Zimbabweans accepted him because he is a man. Should Joice Mujuru take over it is likely to be viewed as aimed at sidelining the Ndebele people in favour of the Zezuru or Shona people.

It is therefore important that our next constitution, now in the making, should clearly spell out the succession line to avoid political instability when sudden death or other forms of incapacitation occur. We hear that wa Mutharika was grooming his own brother to take over from him, but his sudden death scuttled the whole sordid plan.

The third lesson we need to learn from events in Malawi is that there is no one who is invincible. Death can visit anyone, whether President or common citizen, at any time, and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent their death if God’s time has arrived.

Those who pray that they should live until they are 100 have now been adequately warned that they might even struggle to reach 90. It is therefore time to set the house in order, lest your legacy is trampled upon long before you are interred.

Perhaps the last lesson we should learn from our neighbouring president’s death is that excessive polarisation of the populace can easily lead to serious levels of political destabilisation. Throughout Zimbabwe, there was a lot of fear of what would happen to all of us should sudden death visit our dear leader.

As things stand right now, there is very likely to be considerable disagreement within Zanu (PF)regarding who should take over. This is likely to manifest itself by way of assassinations, arrests, disappearances and other evils. We should all work towards living with each other in harmony regardless of our political allegiances. We do not really know who is next, do we? What we know is that there will be many other prophecies, and they will be accurate again.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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