Because it is Monday and you need a break from Kenyan politics:
Robert Mugabe might have pulled off the biggest prank of all time. When he came to power in Zim in 1980 (up until things started falling apart in the southern African country in the mid 90s) many saw him as a responsible gradualist reformer. Then he changed, perhaps back to his real nature. Here is a quote from Newsweek in a March 20th 1978 publication that depicts uncle Bob as we know him today. He may have given up on Marxism but ZANU-PF rules Zim:
Robert Mugabe told Newsweek’s Raymond Carroll and Lynn James he would fight on to make Rhodesia a Marxist “one-party state.”
As this piece in the Economist reports, Zimbabwe is slowly emerging from the hole that Mugabe and his men run it into. The pragmatic Tsvangirai and his MDC supporters appear to have decided that confronting the old man on every issue is a losing war and opted to placate him in the short run for long term gains. Importantly, Tsvangirai has strove to earn the confidence of Jacob Zuma, the South African president who is the de facto regional leader.
That Robert Mugabe is in the twilight of his despotic career is a given. What Tsvangirai and his men (and women, TIA) should be worried about is his cabal of leeches supporters who have continued to milk the country dry even as thousands of their fellow citizens died under crashing poverty and government brutality. These are the people in the way of Zim’s future.
Charles Onyango-Obbo, in Africa Review, has a piece documenting the cases of infidelity in Southern Africa involving the wives of heads of state. From Swaziland to South Africa to Zambia heads of state have had to manage spouses with “restless skirts.” Mr. Onyango-Obbo argues that part of the reason is that “Southern Africa as a region tends to have a more liberal take on sexual matters” adding that
“It is a mining region, and for over two generations men have left their families behind to go and work in the mines in a neighbouring. Some never returned, others did infrequently – often with second wives they had married. Just like lonely miners sought out newscompanionships in the new areas they worked and lived in, the wives they left at home eventually also filled the void left by their long-absent husbands.”
Although I don’t quite agree with Onyango-Obbo’s assertion that Southern Africans are more liberal when it comes to sexual matters, I do think that labor migration necessitated by the mining sector in the sub-region has had a profound impact not only on the institution of marriage but also on health outcomes. As a result the sub-region has the highest HIV infection rates in the world. I must also add that governments in the region have realized this and are trying to deal with the problem. Botswana, for instance, has an elaborate and fairly well run programme of providing HIV positive individuals with ARVs. South Africa, emerging from years of denial under Mbeki, is also trying to catch up.
If you thought the election of Libya’s life President, Muamar Gaddafi, as president of the African Union was a joke wait till you hear who was elected chairman of COMESA, a regional trading block that comprises most of the nations on the east coast of Africa. Yes, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s strongman who ran his country’s economy aground has been elected chairman of COMESA! And as expected, this has generated some protest in the African blogosphere.
How do these guys pull off such stunts with a straight face?
You would imagine that with a president like one Robert Mugabe the Zimabwean opposition would do anything in their capacity to have him out of power. But you would be wrong. This power hungry lot (yes, this is what I think of them) has refused to come up with a coalition against Mugabe. Their leaders, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, have confirmed that talks between their rival MDC factions have “broken down irretrievably” – according to the BBC.
A divided MDC almost certainly guarantees the aging Mugabe a win in the March polls. Meanwhile, ordinary Zimbabweans continue to live their lives under the yoke of the wayward economic practices that the world has come to know the Mugabe administration for. Mugabe’s bad economics has also been served with a touch of human rights abuses and lack of respect for the rule of law. It is really shocking to imagine how he manages to get re-elected.
Tsvangirai and Mutambara owe it to their countrymen and women to form a united front if they really want to unseat Mugabe. They have no business running separate campaigns in March because this will guarantee the presidency to Mugabe. Knowing African leaders (yes, I think after all that has happened on the continent from Senegal to Somalia and Chad to South Africa I can make this generalization, but I digress) I don’t think these two power hungry men will let their egos and quest for personal aggrandizement take the back seat and let the plight of their countrymen and women take the front seat.
Sadly, this is yet another case of African leaders lacking true leadership. It also paints a bad picture of both Tsvangirai and Mutambara and makes one doubt whether these two really want to end the bad governance that we’ve come to associate with Bob or whether they just want to perpetuate the same old practices of rent-seeking, cronyism and over-the-roof inflations rates – but may be with less human rights abuses and the jailing of opposition supporters. Even this is questionable, after seeing what Kenya has turned into following the “bad” years of Moi rule. African leaders just have a way of making you look back and shock yourself by wishing you had the likes of Moi in power.
If Tsvangirai and Mutambara care about their international reputation thy ought to unite. Otherwise many reasonable people will question their vision for Zimbabwe and indeed their commitment to ousting Mugabe and bettering the lives of millions of hungry, sick and illiterate Zimbabweans.