ZANU-PF does not sound like the name of a political party. No, instead ZANU-PF sounds like the name of a machine gun, some lethal semi-automatic you’d find lying next to an AK-47, or next to an RPG-7. And that appeal in itself is one reason why ZANU-PF is popular in Zimbabwe, because unlike what some international media houses would like people living outside Zimbabwe to believe, ZANU-PF continues to be hugely popular within Zimbabwe.
Luckily I have friends in Zimbabwe, who inform me of the going-ons on the ground. Through them, I’m able to know some of the things BBC, or CNN or SKY or any of the large media houses are not keen to publish, I’m able to separate fact from fiction. I’m also able to know the extent to which the atrocities and corruption attributed to ZANU-PF are true, which many are.
In the past I have been asked to write an article on Zimbabwe, but I’ve not had time or resources to do so. Thus, I’ve left that job to others who are better resourced to illuminate readers of this blog over what really happened in Zimbabwe. However, what I could say is that as Mugabe has now hit 90, ZANU-PF must start to seriously think about life after Mugabe (if they haven’t already).
And this is not an attack on Mugabe or ZANU-PF. Instead, Zimbabwe is a country of 13 million people, so surely Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans on an equal basis (and not just ZANU-PF supporters or Robert Mugabe). This means that it’s a fallacy to assume that there is nobody better placed to rule Zimbabwe, than Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has achieved a lot of commendable things in his lifetime (and yes there’s a lot of bad things people have accused him of – just as others accused Thatcher, Churchill of even Dubya of some terrible things). But there are other capable people who count Zimbabwe as their homeland, others who could successfully (not without faults) rule Zimbabwe. That’s a fact.
I’d say this again, any day: Mugabe must now take measures to pass the presidency over to someone else, or to a group of people – say in the same manner as China is run. Especially with the state of his health, which under any lens is not perfect. Africa cannot develop when we continue to have old and stubborn leaders who do not want to step down. That’s another fact.
Planned transition is important not only to maintain the progress Zimbabwe has made in recent years (despite the sanctions) but also to ensure that young Zimbabweans – who are up to date and better informed with global going-ons than their elder folk – are not deprived of the opportunity of participating in the affairs of their own country.
I’ll say this also. Land reform (Peaceful land reform – not violent clashes in which people lost their lives) was necessary for better income distribution across Zimbabwe. You can’t have economic development or get rid of poverty if huge swathes of land are held in the possession of a minority, while the landless and indigenous majority struggle to get by and are victims of poverty. That picture, be it in Zimbabwe, South Africa, or indeed anywhere else will never be right, no matter how well it is glossed over or self-righteously justified.
Anyhow, while most Africans have some admiration for the man Mugabe, if young people are not allowed to participate in politics in Zimbabwe, it will be doubly difficult for Zimbabwe, and Africa in general to ‘catch up’ with the international community’ and Zimbabwe may end up as one of those countries which once the ‘strongman’ had died, found itself gripped in the midst of a chaotic revolution, as different factions wrestled for power. Which would weaken Zimbabwe’s economy even further.
Mugabe would be wise to map a power sharing deal with the opposition now, while he is still alive, and while he can supervise it, to see what works and what doesn’t work. This would be better than to selfishly leave it up to chance, for whoever comes after him to sort out whatever mess should ensue once he is no longer in charge. Or no longer around.