THE toppling from power of the late former President Robert Mugabe by the army in November 2017 had signaled hope for many Zimbabweans, who saw his departure as an opportunity for a rebirth of a nation and a new politics after years of one-man rule characterized by an egoistic and opulent lifestyle and use of brute force to silence opponents.
Though I did not agree on the manner in which Mugabe was removed ‑ a military coup ‑ I was one of those millions of Zimbabweans who breathed fresh air seeing the tyrant’s back.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years with an iron fist. His personality cult had become bigger than the country itself and he called the shots. It was his way or no one else’s and during his reign, he nurtured a system ‑ Mugabeism ‑ a culture which has continued to haunt Zimbabweans even in his death.
However, since his departure, the remnants of his rule ‑ character ‑ seems to have morphed into his former personal assistant and successor, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.
During his first days in office, Mnangagwa promised and assured Zimbabweans and the world at large that Zimbabwe was on the course of a new path, a new dispensation, a Second Republic.
In earnest, all that has proved otherwise. In fact, the old has remained, nothing has changed and Mnangagwa has proved to be a clone of his former boss. One would be left wondering if Mugabe is gone for real because, in Mnangagwa, Mugabe seems to have resurrected and his “spirit” is now tormenting us.
In this short piece, I will attempt to highlight some of the traits/actions that Mnangagwa has carried over from Mugabe, proving that he is not his own man but rather, he has copied everything from Mugabe.
As had become the norm, Mugabe took the opportunity to go for a leave every year around December and in early January. Mugabe would normally take his family to the Far East on taxpayers’ money.
He cared less about the dire economic situation in the country’, whose impact could be felt, especially around the festive season and in January.
We had become accustomed to that and this was also an opportunity for Mugabe to go for his medical check-ups during this time and every year, the news would pilfer that he had died.
Like the current leadership, he despised local health facilities, opting for treatment abroad, where they are better facilities, with his administration had seen the dearth of local ones.
While at it, it is not common in other countries for presidents to go on leave for that long, worse in Zimbabwe’s case, a country facing a host of problems.
On this one, Mnangagwa has refused to let this habit go. In typical fashion, he has inherited it and has officially gone on leave, which runs until the end of January.
The difference between the two though is that Mnangagwa is in the country, not by choice though, but because he dreads being toppled through a coup should he leave the country, as some quarters have alleged.
Shockingly, Mnangagwa can afford to go on leave while the country is burning and a time Zimbabwe needs leadership to deal with the socio-economic and political crises.
However, the 77-year-old ruler seems not to care. He has a careless tongue that recklessly unleashes tasteless jokes about the hardships people are encountering every day, a clear reminder that the people of Zimbabwe are on their own.
Mugabe was very fond of gatherings and took every opportunity to make sure that there was a rally, and would use such platforms to dress down opponents and at times pronounce government policy direction.
Even with the slightest of developments locally and internationally, his party was quick to organize rallies ‑ welcome back rallies at the airport, thank you rallies, interface rallies, you name it and all these became synonymous during Mugabe’s last days.
Unashamedly, a congratulatory rally was organized at the airport upon his return after he had assumed the rotational chairperson of the African Union.
Mnangagwa has unashamedly continued in the same path: thank you rallies to celebrate his 2018 electoral victory were held in some provinces.
On September 25, he organized what was dubbed the anti-sanctions rally, which was a call to the United States and the West to remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
And unlike Mugabe who had the numbers, Mnangagwa has found the ball tough in this game. Unlucky for him, he does not have the appeal and has no people. Maybe it’s his boring and choking tonation and intonation when addressing crowds which repels people.
Another interesting observation is his earlier stance on the sanctions issue a month after assuming office. A year later, Mnangagwa had resorted to Mugabe’s anti-sanctions narrative. So many of similarities with Mugabe.
Human rights abuses
Mnangagwa’s short years in power have seen the worst in as far as police brutality, and human rights abuses are concerned. Mugabe’s 37-year rule was characterized by such: opposition supporters and any form of dissent were crushed using brute force and excesses by the security forces.
For Mugabe, it was rule-by-fear. Mnangagwa has been moving at a much faster rate than his predecessor. The unleashing of soldiers to quell post-election protests in August 2018 and anti-fuel price hike protests in January 2019 is testimony to how Mnangagwa has used Mugabe’s handbook very well. Many would remember Mugabe’s boasting of violence and declarations that his party was above everything, Mnangagwa has continued with that trajectory: “We are the army, we are the air force, we are the police….. we determine who can do mining, we determine who can build a road. No other party can do so.” While it can be argued that Mnangagwa has been a replica of Mugabe, there is no doubt that Mnangagwa has definitely surpassed Mugabe in many aspects, said Innocent Gonese, the chief whip of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Innocent Gonese, opines: ‘I know that Robert Mugabe was no good, ‘he was cruel and heartless and in spite of his array of degrees his appreciation of the laws of economics was zilch. I never thought that we could get someone worse than him.’
Suffice to say, as if it’s a ritual, Mnangagwa has continued with regular trips to his farm/rural home almost every Sunday, just as Mugabe did. The opulent lifestyle has continued as evidenced by the hiring of private planes for international trips, bloated delegations and, above all, politics of patronage which has seen Mnangagwa’s making key appointments of people from his Karanga tribe. Mugabe’s key appointments were dominated by his Zezuru kinsmen.
The patronage culture has escalated the levels of bootlicking President, something which characterized Mugabe’s reign. The more you praise the President, the more you get rewarded handsomely. From “vaMugabe muoffice” to “ED 2023, the more things change, the more they remain the same, nothing seems to change, we remain in a circle.