The chef who poisoned his own broth

I had decided to abandon talking about President Robert Mugabe’s threat to disown Bulawayo and Harare for voting for MDC-T in the July polls - until I learnt that his message had already permeated the grassroots with so much oomph. Because of that, I will not relent.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

I am told that winning Zanu (PF) MPs and councillors are telling MDC-T supporters that they should not expect anything from them, “advising” them to approach their losing horses to give them livelihood projects, food and all the other things expected from office holders. Like President, like MP, like councillor, so to speak.

When Mugabe made his threat, I nudged the person next to me as I followed the proceedings at Heroes Acre during the interment of Mike Karakadzai on a public telly and asked: “What message is the Old Man trying to send?” His students, clearly, did not miss a single lesson from his speech, and, being the docile disciples they are, are practising it in full.

We have seen this kind of retributive tendency from Zanu (PF) in the past. Earlier this year, for instance, I almost cried while doing an investigative piece around the manipulation of food aid. I was listening to an old woman testify how she had been excluded from the grain loan scheme because her son, who works in Gweru, was suspected of belonging to MDC-T. I was also left utterly dejected when I listened to the story of some orphans whom the Zanu (PF) structures had thrown out because their late parents had been MDC-T.

The narrative, therefore, is not new. But I am worried that the gangrene is going to spread like a veld fire, mostly because Mugabe’s talk is unbecoming of a national leader. Even if he meant it as public rhetoric, the point remains that there are so many people holding positions of influence who have swallowed his spin rod, line and bait.

But the propaganda is set to swallow the fisherman, Mugabe himself, too. All along, I assumed that the Old Man was so much seized with leaving a lasting legacy for himself. Readers will remember that I invariably attributed his pre-election calls for peace to his anxiety to make people remember him as an amicable, constructive and relenting leader in his political twilight towards the grave.

With a single breath, confusingly, he has destroyed all that possibility. Now, I and certainly millions of others will remember him, with much distaste and pain, as a cruel leader who brooked no dissent, and sought to punish all those who dared tell him that the robes he thought he donned were in fact his birthday suit, a bizarre and shameful nudity.

More than a million people who voted MDC-T, and millions of others who did not vote, will also hate him for condemning them to the dust bowl of poverty, marginalisation and retribution – simply because they dared to make choices in keeping with their constitutional and statutory rights. Many will go hungry, as the coming farming season waves before us the placard of starvation because of continuing poor policies, corruption and patronage.

As that happens, President Mugabe will be snugly tucked up in his lavish Borrowdale home, dining and wining with Grace, Chatunga and his family. He might have forgotten what he said at Karakadzai’s burial, but we have not.

Right now, there is no water in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and the other towns, and it seems no-one appreciates the high possibility of a relapse into the cholera era. Why should I not forgive people living in those places if they conclude that their voting sins have come back to haunt them?

What will people think if the industries in Gweru and Bulawayo are not resuscitated, and the Zambezi water project remains in the pipeline as it has done all these decades?

The Old Man must surely have understood that by threatening the two biggest cities as he did, he was in fact taking out the gas can to torch further violence, vengeance and hatred among his people, while at the same time entrenching fear among us.

When he boasted of possessing degrees of violence, we know what happened. People were tortured and maimed; many were killed and so many children are now orphans because of such reckless speeches.

That, certainly, does not look like the type of legacy any respectable statesman would want to nurture for himself. I would have wanted to sing a glossy eulogy for Mugabe, but these are the words, if permitted, I will scratch on his tombstone when he dies: “Gone at last, here lies the chef who poisoned his own broth”. – For feedback, please write to [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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