It must have been one of the highlights of Mugabe’s life to have held audience, no matter how brief, with the reigning Pope Francis, who is considered one of the most influential living people in the world.
For Mugabe, this trip must have been something of a pilgrimage. He has been to The Vatican before, but now more than at any other time in his reign he needs some kind of divine inspiration. Whether he got this from Pope Francis will be apparent in the next few weeks.
The country he rules is grinding to a halt; it has been for the better part of his reign. The economy is comatose and urgently requires an injection of new ideas and new money, both of which Mugabe doesn’t have. Considering his advanced age and how he has staunchly resisted leadership renewal in his party and in government, the country will continue to suffer the dearth of new thinking.
This week Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was desperate in describing how the country’s pariah status has meant international lenders have shunned Zimbabwe because they don’t trust it. The country has defaulted on the payment of its debts and funders don’t wish to continue pouring money down the drain.
Many economists point to the economy continuing on a downward spiral; it is already deflationary, a situation which they say can be difficult to reverse because the country has no influence on money supply, which has resulted in a debilitating liquidity crunch. Perhaps if it could print its own money, the country could trough out of the doldrums, but a lot of complex problems would accompany that.
But the reformation taking place in the Catholic Church must have inspired Mugabe to introspect. Why are most world institutions, including the most conservative of them all, the Catholic Church, undergoing transformation? And, why has transformation not been an issue to Mugabe?
The irony of this must have been stuck when Mugabe and his entourage failed to land their plane at Harare International Airport. It is difficult to convince anyone that the failure of the plane to land was purely due to fog.
This little incident must surely be a metaphor for Mugabe’s failure to see what everyone else is seeing. Conspiracy theories will surely arise including one that insinuates the country has no radar to control the movement of planes.
Mugabe wishes to be “canonised” as Zimbabwe and Africa’s greatest statesman. But that can only happen if in the remaining time he radically changes tack. Pope Francis has changed the fortunes of the Catholic Church in a short year.
Mugabe too can rapidly change the fortunes of this country if he allows himself to see the light.