ZIMBABWE – As the inferno closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi prophesied of the doom that awaited North Africa. In his own words, ‘’ Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,’’ he told reporters.
As if this looming curse wasn’t enough, Gaddafi warned, ‘’We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats,’’ the geriatric predicted as if possessed before fighters overran his hometown of Sirte in 2011 only to butcher him in cold blood holed in the town’s drainage system.
What a tragic demise to the illustrious life of the once flamboyant dictator who didn’t disguise his trade mark of invincibility on any available opportunity! In retrospect, hardly five years after his tragic fall, the prophecy can hardly be disputed as the once economic powerhouse of North Africa struggles for survival, with competing militias embroiled in dog eat dog savagery culminating in total collapse of central authority.
Likewise, the euphoric toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq and Somalia came at a price. It is in this context that Zimbabweans are warned to brace themselves for the unknown in the aftermath of a Mugabe demise.
What is clear is that whatever happens to the geriatric now as he approaches the twilight of his reign, seeds of instability have been sown and Zimbabweans will reap the results. Indeed, this isn’t a new phenomenon as the demise of dictators worldwide more often than not triggers turmoil.
In East Africa, the spectacular downfall of Maj. General Mohammed Siad Barre of Somalia in 1991 after dominating the impoverished country’s political stage for more than 2 decades left the country without central authority and the country still bleeds up to now.
In the same way, it was the abrupt fall of Juvenal Habyarimana on the 6th of April 1994 that became a catalyst for the Rwandese Genocide which claimed almost a million lives. As history rarely betrays those who follow it closely, it becomes abundantly clear that in as much as dictators are loathed by their people worldwide, they, like perfume, mask the rot they preside on which stinks.
It therefore implies that Mugabe’s demise will not be an exception as it is most likely to be followed by years of instability. This tragedy is almost inevitable as the foundation on which the country is built is unstable as the incumbent’s preoccupation since 1980 was power accumulation as opposed to the building of viable institutions that advance the interests of the majority.
Indeed, like Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Somalia, Zimbabwe is ripe for chaos in the post-Mugabe era that will dwarf the dictator’s misrule. In fact, signs are all over the wall to back these fears as evidenced by internecine wars that rock the ruling party centred on the succession issue.
The situation is not helped by Mugabe’s selfishness as he clings onto the throne barely by fingernails without any exit strategy in place in the midst of marauding vultures that salivate over the stench of a walking carcass.
Like Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and Siad Barre before him, in spite of old age and frailty, Mugabe is the glue that binds Zanu PF together. With the help of the patronage system, years of grip on power and sheer brute force, he was able to gain unquestionable royalty among subordinates.
It is in this context that many within Zanu PF wish to maintain this status quo by supporting the geriatric to cling onto power for eternity in spite of failing health and old age. Given this delicate scenario, a Mugabe’s abrupt demise either through death or incapacitation whichever comes first will most likely trigger a tsunami of unprecedented magnitude, hence, loud abjections to Emerson Mnangagwa’s perceived right to the throne in the post-Mugabe era.
On this premise, it is apparently clear that Mugabe’s death in the midst of a contested succession battle will throw the country to the dogs as evidenced by fissures emerging in the ruling party. Is it any wonder that Mnangagwa seeks the help of Madzibaba Wimbo to enhance his chances of outwitting opponents in this highly contested dog fight?
In any case, assuming that a Mugabe demise paves way for one of his VPs to take over, who between Mnangagwa and Mphoko will succeed the incumbent as the two appear to be equal in terms of seniority? In fact, the drama is spiced by Mugabe’s reluctance to reign in his increasingly influential wife who appears to eye the throne as well with the backing of the G40 hawks, hence, the slogan, ‘’Munhu wese kuna Amai.’’
This latest development throws into disarray the Mnangagwa faction’s grand plan in the succession matrix, thus, raising the possibility of a direct confrontation among cadres as evidenced by the latest case involving Justice Wadyajena suing Philip Chiyangwa over a leaked tape shot in Chimanimani allegedly attacking the former for being gay. All these battles being fought in the media and courts will eventually spill in the streets with untold consequences for the country.
Given the complexity of the succession matrix, how is it likely to be resolved and with what consequences for the country at large? It has to be acknowledged that as Mugabe increasingly loses his grip on power through old age and frailty, with the succession issue unresolved, the likelihood of one faction to strike on the geriatric with the backing of the military is high. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that the military itself is divided, with members backing different factions.
On the other hand, Dr Amai’s faction may capitalise on their closeness to the president to outwit opponents, hence, the possibility of another congress in the near future to elevate Grace to the throne before Mugabe’s demise to seal the fate of her opponents. In this context, it implies that either Mnangagwa has to be purged in the same way Joice Mujuru met her fate or lose an election in a stage managed election during congress against Dr Amai, thus, throwing not only Zanu PF but the country as a whole into turmoil.
It would be foolish to assume that Ngwena (Mnangagwa) would exit the political arena peacefully, hence, setting the stage for a direct confrontation with the G40 hawks behind Dr Amai. Grace’s vulnerability isn’t a secret to anyone more so in Mugabe’s absence, hence, the need to anoint her sooner rather than later in the geriatric’s presence.
Christopher Mutsvangwa appears to be the only one with balls as he raises the alarm alleging that members of the G40 are abusing Grace, the implication being that Dr Amai lacks the capacity to reason and behave as an adult, hence, her vulnerability to abuse by handlers. All these manoeuvres set the stage for a violent confrontation that can destabilise the country.
On the other hand, assuming that Grace is catapulted to the throne, her downfall is almost inevitable in Mugabe’s absence, for, not only does she lacks the mental acumen but her following is overestimated. In fact, she unlike her husband lacks a track record not only within the party but the country as a whole.
It would be foolish on Dr Amai’s part to be misled into believing that the crowds that turn up at her rallies are genuine supporters, for, many do so as a survival strategy in the midst of adversity. Isn’t it on record that a failure to turn up at Amai’s rallies is construed as a snub to the First Family which has obvious consequences?
In as much as Zimbabweans are known to be docile, a Grace presidency will definitely be challenged in the streets, hence, the chaos that may paralyse the country in the post-Mugabe era. In this confusion, it will not be surprising to witness the intervention of the military under the pretext of the need to restore order, hence, a coup being executed in almost a similar fashion as Abdel Fatah Al Sisi’s in Egypt.
Is it any wonder why many in the military, Drs Constantine Chiwenga and Augustine Chihuri included, have gone to great lengths to further their education? It has to be realised that many of these securocrats plan for the post- Mugabe era and it would be foolish for Zimbabweans to believe that in Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, they have witnessed the last coup on the continent.
Given the turmoil that follow the demise of dictators, many are misled into believing that geriatrics such as Gaddafi, Mubarak, Siad Barre and Mugabe are fountains of peace and stability. In fact, the opposite is true ,for, these individuals failed dismally to nurture democratic institutions that withstood the test of time in their absence.
Rather, their preoccupation was power accumulation at the expense of institution building that benefited the majority. Indeed, Libya is in turmoil today not because of Gaddafi’s absence, but, because the dictator made no effort to nurture democratic institutions that would prevail in his absence. Rather, the geriatric stifled democracy, hence, the chaos being witnessed now as Libyans have to start from scratch to build these institutions.
In the same way, if ever there is chaos in the post- Mugabe era, it has to be traced back to the dictator who ensured that things would end up badly the very day he left office, for, the incumbent made no effort to prepare the country for democracy as his major priority was to accumulate power at all cost.
In a contest in which prophets give hope where there is none such as the existence of huge reserves of oil buried underneath the ground, it would be naïve if not irresponsible for writers not to sound the alarm warning of pending danger as the country heads into the unknown.