Why is Mugabe still in power?

Because of the opposition

Firmly in power? … President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s problem is not Mugabe. Your problem is the opposition. That is because Mugabe is still in power for one reason and one reason only: your opposition leaders are working at a level no higher than school children fighting over sweets. They are not behaving in the adult, responsible way that is needed if a tyrant is to be removed.

I hate saying this because I am fully aware, as the whole world is, of the enormous sacrifice many members of your opposition have made over the years: abuse, wrongful imprisonment, brutality and murder. How many bodies lie in unknown, unmarked graves?

But, unfortunately, bravery alone does not win battles. To win, one must still fight in the right way. And it hurts to see people hurling themselves impotently against a solid door when all the time the key was there if only they knew how to use it.

This article is as much for the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe so that you can see what your opposition leaders ought to be doing – but are not – to help you escape oppression and poverty, and how you can apply pressure on them to find and open that door.

Because there is only one way to remove a bad government, and that is by having a properly organised and directed opposition. Such a thing in Zimbabwe would have ousted Mugabe many years ago. Good oppositions will quickly rid citizens of bad governments. But, unfortunately, bad oppositions have the opposite effect. They allow bad governments to stay in power a lot longer than they should have done, and this is what your opposition has done.

In other words, the important part of any nation’s political framework is not so much having good governments, it is having good oppositions. And that you have never had since Independence.

In fairness, that does not prove that Zimbabweans have some inherent fault, because EVERY African nation has had exactly the same problem since the end of colonialism. So this is an African problem, not a Zimbabwean one.

Let’s face the truth: all African citizens – not just Zimbabweans – should have been taken out of oppression and poverty years ago, and by now be enjoying living standards every bit as good as Westerners do – or if not that, fast approaching it. There is absolutely no intrinsic reason why they should not be.

But if that is true, what has gone wrong?

The reason – the ONLY reason – why the majority of Africans are not now enjoying Western-quality lifestyles is because African oppositions have so far not managed to work together on either a national or pan-African stage to carry out the effective, concerted action needed to improve the standards of living of ‘the common people’. I will try to show you why.

Most Africans see Westerners as always having lived in wealth. That is not so. At the start of colonialism, Western peasant farmers and farm workers lived no better than typical African villagers did. The only noticeable difference was that the Western poor wore more clothing. But that was only because it was much colder in Europe, and even then their clothes were often rags. Industrial workers often lived in slums as bad as any in Africa today, with hunger and disease rife, and famine common. That lasted for the Western working class until relatively recent times.

Nor were Western workers at the start of their social revolution any better educated than African workers at the end of colonialism. In fact, a smaller percentage of the population had been to school, and a much higher percentage were unable to read or write.

Nor were Western governments any less repressive than African ones today, often using force to put down attempts by the working class to demand better living conditions.

So the West then was as Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa is now – a small and very wealthy elite of governments and businesspeople living in often obscene opulence surrounded by extreme poverty and (in town) slums, and effectively keeping the vast majority of the population in extreme poverty and repression.

So what changed? How did Western citizens who were worse educated, and as poor and badly oppressed as Africans are today manage to escape from extreme poverty into the affluence they now have?

They realised they could not win by force of arms (although there were some exceptions like France) because the ruling elite had an army and they did not. Nor could they win in parliament because only better-off citizens had the vote, whereas none of the working class (and no women from any class) were allowed to vote.

But one thing they did have was an overwhelming mass of people, if only they could be mobilised, just as in Africa today.

The leaders of the Western social revolution also had an understanding of what a “citizen power” movement must have if it was to succeed. That is what is lacking not just in Zimbabwe, but throughout Africa today. The essential elements of this were:

  1. This was not a political movement. It was a fight against oppression and extreme poverty, and that is a very different thing.

In contrast, African opposition leaders tend to see the battle as a political one, but this has two serious downsides if one wants to defeat oppression and poverty. First, it means most Africans leave it to the opposition political parties to conduct the fight, not understanding that they, too, must put their full support behind tye movement irrespective of party allegiance. Second, it means they allow political differences or differences in tactics to split the opposition.

  1. Westerners realised that a “mass movement” meant a movement of everybody, not just opposition political parties. So it included all activists of whatever persuasion, the Christian Churches, the trade unions, all campaign and special interest groups (such as women’s groups), and the media (then only newspapers) all combining under one united banner.

In the case of African nations such as Zimbabwe, we must add to this list all the foreign and domestic NGOs working in the country, and the whole business community which will benefit more than anyone else from the success of the movement. So the potential opposition in Africa now is very much bigger than it was in the West. Unfortunately, so far the liberation efforts of the Christian Churches, the NGOs and the business community have been, frankly, pathetic, as are those of members of the media who “chicken out”.

In contrast to the West, African opposition political parties have not appreciated how vital it is to get all these disparate groups engaged. This should be the most important part of their job of opposition, but they don’t see it that way. This is an added and very important reason why it must be seen as purely non-partisan movement against oppression and poverty, because then none of the non-political opposition groups will have any qualms about joining.

  1. Westerners understood that presenting a totally unified front that spoke with one voice was the only way they would win. This meant that everyone had to subjugate their egos, their personal ambitions and their agendas to the Greater Good. So they saw every split in the opposition as playing into the hands of the ruling elite.

African opposition leaders do not understand this. Ego, the cult of the individual and personal ambition have dominated and undermined every African opposition, not just Zimbabwe’s. This is what I meant earlier when I said they behave like children fighting over sweets, instead of responsible adults who realise that their job is to work for the Greater Good.

In other words, the great majority of Africans are still in poverty, when they should have escaped it years ago, because their opposition leaders have habitually sacrificed the well-being of all African citizens on the altar of their own personal egos and ambitions.

This puts a huge question mark over the recent actions of Nkosana Moyo in entering the presidential battle so late in the day and refusing to join the coalition. Moyo had better make sure he is right and win the election because, if he doesn’t, he will be directly responsible for Mugabe or ZANU-PF remaining in office, and for consigning every Zimbabwean to yet more years of oppression and poverty. He bears a heavy responsibility for his decision.

His argument that the coalition will fail because it is trying to “mix oil and water” is pathetic. Probably every successful opposition in history has managed to mix oil and water very successfully, so is he saying that Zimbabweans are not mature and adult enough to do that?

  1. The leaders of Western social revolutions realised that their success depended on their ability to persuade as many citizens as possible that, if they wanted to escape poverty, they, too, had a personal responsibility to support the movement as much as they could, and get all their family and friends to do the same.

There was no middle ground, and anyone not siding with the movement would be seen as by default helping the ruling elite to stay in power. Sitting on the fence was not an option, just as a footballer who sits down cross-legged on the pitch is actually helping the other team to win.

In contrast, African opposition leaders rarely spend time on teaching all citizens that they, too, must join in the fight if they want to be free of oppression and poverty.

Remember, too, that this job of educating the public was much harder when Western citizens gained their freedom, because the opposition leaders did not have the benefit of social media, radio, TV or even telephones to help them. There were newspapers, but these were rarely read by the working class. So the leaders and their supporters had no choice but to get out and meet the public, spreading the message by word of mouth.

  1. Westerners had a definite plan for what would happen after the ruling elite was defeated. This was one of the most critical requirements of all for a successful revolution because it laid out exactly how citizens would be taken from poverty to affluence, and it is why they now have such good lifestyles.

Beyond empty platitudes and meaningless promises, no African opposition has had this plan, and nor does the Zimbabwean opposition have one now. This is why, almost without exception, getting rid of one corrupt, repressive government has merely meant replacing it with another corrupt, repressive government. Sometimes, the new government was even worse than the old. Zimbabwe is a good example of this.

And that is another reason why Africans are still in poverty when they should have been taken out of it years ago. Now, for the first time, governments do have a plan available to them for how to take their citizens from poverty to wealth as quickly as possible. The plan is the AU’s Agenda 2063 with its accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023.

All African governments, including Zimbabwe’s, have already signed up to Agenda 2063. However, not one of them is implementing it. Not surprising when one of its intentions is to put power firmly into the hands of African citizens, and that is the last thing any African government wants, especially Mugabe’s!

For this reason, the AU has made it abundantly clear that, unless African citizens themselves insist on all politicians and political parties making Agenda 2063 part of their manifestos, it will fail, leaving them open to yet another corrupt, repressive government.

So, for the first time, Zimbabweans have it within your own power to break the constant pan-African cycle of one repressive government succeeding another, simply by insisting that, whichever political party takes power, Agenda 2063 will be the basis of their manifesto.

If you don’t do that, the chances are you will stay much as you are now: repressed and in poverty, although not as badly so as under Mugabe. The choice now lies in your hands as Zimbabwean citizens. How much do you really want to escape oppression and poverty? Enough to insist that the new government adopts Agenda 2063 as the basis for their manifesto? Or not? The choice is yours.

Post published in: Featured
  1. Patrick Guramatunhu
  2. David Barber

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