We were taken into a world of portraits of the head of state displayed in the foyers and offices of every public and private institution – whereupon, in normal democracies, the country’s flag is the preferred symbol of patriotism and national identity.
Streets and several infrastructure were named after the sitting president – something weird and virtually unheard of amongst free nations of the world, as this is a preserve for honoring departed heroes – and, party regalia dominated by the huge mug of their leader (as opposed to the logo or other symbols).
For those who grew up under such a crooked and warped personality cult environment – and, possibly never having experienced any other life outside the borders of Zimbabwe – they may not have noticed anything amiss with such a scenario, which should be regarded with disdain, as thoroughly disgraceful and despicable.
Look at South Africa, and no one will ever come across a single street named after President Cyril Ramaphosa, or go to the US, there is nothing called ‘Joe Biden Building’ (unless if it is personal property, as ‘Trump Towers’), and neither will a visit to France bring up an ‘Emmanuel Macron International Airport’.
Neither will anyone see huge portraits of Boris Johnson, or Justin Trudeau, or Olaf Scholz, or Sergio Mattarella, bearing down the peoples of the UK, Canada, Germany, or Italy, respectively.
Let us remember that, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport was christened as such, well before the brutal tyrant was toppled from power by his own military – thereafter, replaced, allegedly unconstitutionally, by his long-time protege Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, in November 2017 (illegal regime change, perhaps!).
Traditionally, the free world over, the naming of streets, infrastructure and monuments is to honour fallen heroes and heroines – in reverence of their gallant and phenomenal contribution to the country, usually posthumously.
No normal sitting leader would ever demand to be recognized and honoured by the nation, and impose himself – since, those who remain behind, after his death, should be allowed to be the judges of his suitability.
In fact, some would be interested to note that – out of the 46 individuals who have been US president, only 15 have monuments named after them.
What is quite disturbing, though, is the apparent frightening acceleration and heightening of this cult politics, after the advent of the Mnangagwa regime.
Not only did he rename a street in the city of Kwekwe after himself, which had previously been named after his former mentor (talk about kicking a man when he is down, and rubbing it in his face) – on top of several others across the country – but, had taken this personality cultism to a whole new level.
It appears as if every passing day, the nation is introduced to one shadowy and dubious organization or another, formed for ED (Mnangagwa’s initials) – albeit, under the disguise and pretext of ‘Economic Development ‘.
Personally, I have lost count of all these groupings – such as, ‘Young Women for ED’ (ummm!), ‘Men BelievED’, ‘Councillors for ED’, and now ‘Teachers for ED’!
For a political party that parades, packages and prides itself as more patriotic than any other Zimbabwean – should we not be witnessing a plethora of groups named after the country, instead?
Why not, ‘Young Women for Zimbabwe’, or ‘Teachers for Zimbabwe’, or even ‘Councillor for Redcliff’ – portraying a broader national focus, than merely serving the interests of an individual?
Understandably, the worrying trend may be broken down to sheer power hunger, and even the apparent power struggles within ZANU PF – supposedly between Mnangagwa and his vice, Constantino Chiwenga, who, as then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), led the military coup d’etat against Mugabe – and, the former is established parallel structures to buttress his personal support base.
Although, that may be true – I usually want to dig deeper into issues, and understand the ‘why’ of things.
Indeed, as individuals we do certain things, and make particular decisions – but, there are always much deeper reasons as to the real motivation.
For instance, what is pushing Mnangagwa into these overdrive measures to secure his position?
Why does he feel so threatened, either by the possibility of Chiwenga challenging his presidency, or even the opposition, led by the CCC’s Nelson Chamisa – with the 2023 presidential elections fast approaching?
Deep down, is he feeling insecure and inadequate as a leader?
Does he believe he has dismally failed as a president, and cannot possibly attract enough support to retain his position – in the face of Chiwenga or Chamisa.
Is he overcompensating for these inadequacies, by means of creating shady groups, intended to exaggerate his true support base?
Does the thought of losing power unsettle him, and give him sleepless nights?
Let us be clear – someone who is confident in his abilities, his performance, his public support and his potential in winning elections – has absolutely no reason to feel threatened, neither does he have to resort to underhand means, such as creating parallel structures, premised on a personality cult, within the country and party, neither will there be a need for using intimidating, violence, or capturing of state institutions to disadvantage opponents.
A confident competitor craves and thrives on fair and free contestation – so as to prove that he is truly the best, and does not rely on unfairly handicapping his rivals.
What we are currently witnessing in Zimbabwe is troubling, and does not augur well for the country’s national development.
In fact, the divisions being created by the setting up of these personality cults, threatens the very core of our nation unity.
Zimbabweans desperately need to focus on serving the country – and definitely not a particular individual.
Our goals and interests as Zimbabwe are defined by the collective nation, as opposed to the dreams and ambitions of one person.
No truly patriotic Zimbabwean should be putting first the interests of only one Zimbabwean – but, working together for the broader national agenda.
The last thing Zimbabwe needs right now is a leader who sows seeds of division and disunity.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]