Mugabe’s not language of statesman or winner

The latest betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe by the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community through their hasty and scandalous endorsement of the deeply flawed July 31 elections can only further entrench governance in Zimbabwe as a game of deceit, menace and one-upmanship.

It is not rocket science to have foreseen that Zanu-PF, which has “won” disputed parliamentary and presidential elections since 2000, would be further emboldened by the latest turning of a blind eye by the AU and SADC to its abuse of the Zimbabwean electorate.

Basking in the false glow of a stolen victory, the leader of the party, President Robert Mugabe, has wasted no time in taking advantage of the impunity conferred by the AU and Sadc crony systems to gloat and rub salt into the wounds of perplexed Zimbabweans.

His resort to using un-statesman-like and menacing language in an outburst during Heroes Day celebrations when he told those challenging the outcome of the elections to “go hang” was particularly jarring but was inevitable.

It showed he lacks sufficient conviction in his supposed landslide victory to refrain from commenting until the legal challenge being mounted by the MDC was finalised. The fact that the case was dropped is irrelevant.

As someone waiting to commence his seventh term of office, Mugabe should conduct himself as the president-elect of all Zimbabweans, including those who did not vote him.

It is difficult to fathom why the Zanu leader is so bitter against his vanquished political rivals if he beat them fairly and has nothing to hide. Conventional wisdom says he should have welcomed the MDC legal challenge as a chance for the truth to come out and for him to be exonerated. That he is not anxious to reassure Zimbabweans of his integrity and thus regain credibility is a worrying sign of what could be in store for the nation.

The octogenarian continues to behave as though the position of head of state is a party post, hence his failure to use the Heroes Day festivities as an opportunity to put party bravado aside and reach out to Zimbabweans of all political persuasions.

This combative approach and use of crude language should be below the dignity of a national leader but Zimbabwe’s president of 33 years seems to relish it. Zimbabweans deserve better.

Even former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the AU election observer mission which endorsed the theft of the July 31 polls has not always escaped Mugabe’s tongue-lashings.. He was once subjected to a withering attack after calling on the Zimbabwean leader to consider retiring and passing the leadership baton on to someone else.

However, the man who has posed the strongest challenge to Mugabe’s unyielding grip on power, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been the most regular victim of Mugabe’s verbal abuse. He has been regularly called a puppet of the West and dismissed as a mere “tea boy” who could never qualify to be the president of Zimbabwe.

These crude attacks have been extended to include mocking the former trade unionist about his physical looks. He has been publicly described as “chamatama” at rallies, an uncharitable reference to Tvangirai’s chubby facial visage.

Tsvangirai is no saint and has a multitude of faults but he represents a significant segment of the electorate. In reality, these are the people Mugabe is telling to go to hell.

The AU and Sadc should ask themselves whether they should be throwing their weight behind a leader who has reduced Zimbabwean politics to these ridiculous depths.

Mugabe can afford to be so vitriolic and insensitive because he himself is protected by the insult laws under the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The provisions of these statutes have been regularly abused and misinterpreted to criminalise even legitimate criticism and scrutiny designed to keep the government responsive and accountable to the people.

Mugabe’s insensitive outbursts spark incredulity and embarrassment among Zimbabweans who see how leaders such as Nelson Mandela are adored and respected by their people long after they have left the political scene. The behaviour of the Zimbabwean leader causes many to cringe. As head of state it should be below his dignity to resort to hurling insults at his political opponents. Mugabe fancies himself as a Continental hero and Elder Statesman but he has still not mellowed at almost 90 years of age to give up these juvenile ways.

It is difficult to think of any other head of state who disrespects his own people to the extent of subjecting them to such regular displays of lack of decorum, tact and magnanimity.

By routinely using abusive language the Zanu leader sets a bad example for the nation not only as head of state in the 21st century but also as a human being, a man, husband, father and senior citizen.

If Mugabe‘s language against political opponents and those whose views do not coincide with his is rude, he reserves his most scathing vitriol to demean females of the species. He has mocked what he considered uppity women on the international diplomatic scene who have crossed his political path by speaking out on issues related to Zimbabwe.

In 2005, then United Nations Habitat Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka became a casualty of Mugabe’s tirades. She was attacked as an agent of Western powers and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s puppet. This was after Tibaijuka had written a report describing Mugabe’s Operation Murambatvina, during which hundreds of thousands of abodes were demolished as inhuman and cruel.

The Tanzanian-born UN official was accused of having come to Zimbabwe to fulfil Tony Blair’s regime change agenda.

Eight years later, Mugabe’s tongue is still as unrestrained and chauvinistic as ever. At the beginning of July, he ripped into Lindiwe Zulu, South African President Jacob Zuma’a international relations adviser.

Her sin was to speak out against the rush to hold the last polls on July 31 without affording all political parties enough time to prepare. For apparently being the only voice of reason within the SADC bloc as well as Zuma’s facilitation team in Zimbabwe, Zulu was dismissed by Mugabe as a “street woman”. “Really as a country, did such a person think we, as a country would take heed of her stupid utterances”, Mugabe roared while addressing supporters at the launch of his party’s manifesto on July 5. Like a child throwing a tantrum, he then threatened that because of Zulu’s views, he could pull Zimbabwe out of Sadc.

Zimbabwean women should ask themselves whether their head of state thinks of them any differently if he can be so abusively dismissive of female officials representing other governments.

The power of patriarchy within African societies and politics ensures that Mugabe can insult women with impunity whenever he wishes . He could not get away with it in a more democratic country. In the United States, a radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, sparked a nationwide controversy in 2011 when he called Sandra Fluke, then a law student, a “slut” and “prostitute”.

Mugabe’s sexist insults make a mockery of his pronouncements about Empowering Zimbabwean women. The danger posed by the complicity of regional and continental blocs in the continual disregarding of the will of Zimbabweans as expressed through their votes is that it makes elections irrelevant.

With the focus of these blocs being to shield Mugabe, Zanu-PF does not have to win to remain in power. The electorate has been taken out of the equation. And without guaranteed free, fair and unrigged elections, the people of Zimbabwe have no mechanism to protect them from rampant abuses and tyranny.

The octogenarian claimed during his Heroes Day outburst that his party had delivered “democracy on a platter”. His definition of democracy is evidently different from everyone else’s. He spent the greater part of 2011 threatening that elections would be held in March 2012 whether his partners in the coalition government liked it or not. That is his idea of democracy for which continental bodies give him a pat on the back each time he wins a disputed election.

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