Egypt and Zimbabwe: Two Types of Dictatorship

As Zimbabweans watch the Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi collapse, one wonders what is running through their mind. I started to reflect on the nature of society and political crowds in the two countries. I began to realise that Egyptian protesters are more passionate about their cause than Zimbabweans. They are prepared to die for their beliefs.

I cannot imagine a Zimbabwean setting himself on fire for any public cause, let alone dying in a suicide car bomb. ‘Indoda iyazibonela’(Every man for himself), Zimbabweans believe.


In the two countries, I can discern similarities in the political leaders of the ruling parties. President Robert Mugabe strongly believes that once his party wins an election, the opposition ceases to exist. Little does he recognise that the opposition is also part of government.

President Morsi seems to be of the same view; since he was elected by the majority, he has the right to ignore those who did not elect him. It is as if they cease to exist. Like Mugabe, only Morsi’s programme seemed to matter. The opposition or any alternative voices, can, in Mugabe’s words, ‘go to hell’.

Both Morsi and Mugabe strongly believe those citizens who did not vote for them are simply no longer citizens. Zimbabwe’s Dydimus Mutasa, a close Mugabe confidant, once publicly said his party was only interested in Zimbabweans who voted for his party. And Mugabe did not publicly rebuke him. Instead, Mugabe later ravished the exodus of Zimbabweans to other countries, boasting that they should leave if they want.

Former President Morsi also thinks democracy is a one-event affair: election day. He strongly believes that after being elected, all citizens should shut up and watch him destroy their country until the next elections.

No debate

‘Elected dictators’ do not have the word ‘consultation’ in their vocabulary. As far as they are concerned, consultation is the same as telling someone their decisions in order to simply receive a subservient affirmation. Nothing is supposed to be debated. Both Mugabe and Morsi failed to understand democracy in its totality. Mugabe once publicly stated that if the people refused an idea in a referendum, he would simply take it to parliament and continue the project. The two men also fail to appreciate that one of the major functions of democracy is the protection and promotion of the minority. True democracy has room to respect the possibility that the majority decision prevails but the minority is not necessarily wrong.

The two leaders, one north and the other south, also seem to fail to understand and appreciate the difference between a party president and a national president. Mugabe seems never to abandon the post of party president. His primary consideration in all decisions is always ‘the party’, Zanu (PF). The nation comes second. Morsi’s passionate concern is his Justice and Freedom Party, nothing else.

No party head of state

I strongly believe we should introduce a law that prohibits a party leader from holding both party and State leader. Mugabe should have resigned his party position when he assumed the State presidency. We would then have a national head of state, not a party head of state.

The two men’s discord is only in that Mugabe has transformed the army into a personal and party militia, loyal only to him and his party, rewarding them handsomely for their services. Morsi has failed to personalise the army, hence his demise. The Egyptian army is, to a large extent, a national army with its own power base.

It remains to be seen what the streets will say if President Mugabe’s rigging machinery succeeds in in the coming crucial elections. The streets of Egypt spoke, and the army intervened to stop the rot. But I am still not convinced that the army, Zimbabwean or Egyptian, should have the power to oversee democracy as they both currently do.

‘The pen cannot be mightier than the gun’, Mugabe’s political philosophy says.

Zimbabwe is a military dictatorship in which the army takes power in order to retain their dictator in State House, while Egypt is a military dictatorship in which the army intervenes to replace the president.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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