A Delusional Dictatorial Demagogue: The Mugabe (and Mbeki) Rant
"He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy"
- Brian's Mom to the masses in "Monty Python's Life of Brian"
Like all petty dictators and megalomaniacs throughout history, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seems to see himself as the saviour of his country, but, far from being Zimbabwe's Messiah, the man has now clearly become the destroyer of this once proud and prosperous nation. Self-delusion and pompous self-importance simply don't get much better than with this buffoon. But, to be fair, when you've got as much blood on your hands as he does, the idea of stepping down probably feels a bit risky.
Eighty-four years old and in power for 28 straight years now, Mugabe just had himself sworn in as president for a sixth straight term on Sunday, after a farcical, sham election. I mean, the Soviets used to put on a more convincing display of "democracy" than this guy.
Of course, there was never any real possibility of him accepting defeat at the polls. After all, he repeatedly stated that only God could remove him from the presidency and that the opposition would never win power during his lifetime. The fact that he actually lost an election is simply a minor annoyance and something easily blamed on "treasonous, foreign-controlled agents of colonialism". And since, according to Mugabe, anyone supporting the opposition falls under that category it would seem that over half of the people of Zimbabwe are, in fact, enemies of the state.
Things are certainly pretty horrific these days in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has been terrorizing all those who dare oppose him for years now, but after he lost the first round of the election on March 29th he took his campaign of violence and intimidation to a whole new level, as his thugs and security forces used any and all means necessary to help him "win" the second round.
He eventually ended up standing unopposed after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was left with no other option but to withdraw from the race after an unrelenting campaign of violence against his supporters.
The majority of people in Zimbabwe may indeed want Tsvangirai as their president and Mugabe gone, but, hey, why let the will of the people spoil a perfectly good Lifetime Presidency, right?
When all this is considered, it really isn't too surprising to see Mugabe still clinging to power, even after having lost every last little bit of legitimacy.
The real surprise, however, remains the silence of South African President Thabo Mbeki and, to a lesser extent, Nelson Mandela. After all their nation went through under apartheid, the hypocrisy involved here is absolutely astonishing!
Only South Africa, the region's superpower, could force Mugabe to give up power and accept the will of the people, but Mbeki's so-called "quiet diplomacy" has produced absolutely nothing and it can only be assumed that he's completely content with the present situation.
Not everyone is simply content to sit back and watch the suffering and oppression, however. Former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, himself a hero of the fight against apartheid, has called for an intervention by international forces in Zimbabwe, by force if necessary. Sickened by what he's been witnessing next door, he's spoken out loudly and passionately, as you'd expect any person concerned with justice to do.
Which brings us back to that deafening silence. Seriously, where are the voices of Mandela and Mbeki? Yes, this past week Mandela finally did come out with a few brief words about "a failure of leadership" in the Kingdom of Mugabe, but that's it, nothing more. Years into the slow destruction of a whole country and the untold suffering of an entire nation, the greatest moral authority on the planet finally speaks up... with a few brief words.
Much worse is the absolute and ear-shattering silence of Mbeki. In quietly supporting his old friend Mugabe the man has simply lost every last bit of his moral authority.
After all, what Mugabe has been doing to the supporters of the opposition in Zimbabwe - the kidnappings, the beatings, the torture and the executions - is just as bad, if not worse, than anything done under apartheid in South Africa. Yet Mbeki doesn't seem to mind one bit. It would seem that torturing, repressing and tormenting the majority of the people of South Africa was never the real problem under apartheid, it was just the fact that it was whites doing it to blacks. Surely what Mbeki is saying, by saying nothing at all, is that undemocratic tyrannical regimes that savagely oppress the people are fine and dandy, as long as the savage oppression is not being committed by whites.
I should mention, however, that there is one thing that makes Mugabe stand out from all the other petty dick-tators and tyrants of recent history, something that also helps explain why Mbeki and Mandela have remained so loyal to him all these years. And, no, I'm not talking about his claim to rule by Devine Right. Sadly, that's actually quite a common claim by tyrants. No, what makes Mugabe unique is that he at one time truly seemed to be a great man; a liberation figure who inspired freedom fighters around the globe as they battled against their own colonial and tyrannical regimes.
Unbelievable as it may seem today, after having watched him destroy his country over the past decade and take it from the bread basket of Africa to the basket case of the world (lowest life expectancy in the world - just 36 years; highest inflation - nine million percent; 75% unemployment; etc.), this man was actually once a hero to so many, much like Mandela.
But, sadly, both men's greatness is now diminished, Mugabe's completely and Mandela's at least somewhat. I mean, to see Mandela sit back and watch the horror in neighboring Zimbabwe without saying more than a few words is truly heartbreaking. The whole world rallied behind him and his people as they suffered under apartheid, but as the world rallies around the ideas of democracy and justice in Zimbabwe, he and Mbeki seem to care little about those suffering under the violent and oppressive hand of their once-great buddy.
What a sad, sad spectacle.
And you know what makes all this even more depressing? What's happened in Zimbabwe is exactly what the white racists predicted would happen when white rule ended and Rhodesia was reborn as Zimbabwe back in 1979-80. It just took Mugabe a couple of decades to prove them right.
The real question now is just how long can Mbeki and Mandela, like Margaret Thatcher before them, when she resisted all action in the fight against apartheid back in the '80s, how long can they continue to show such incredible indifference to the suffering of an entire nation? How long can a sense of loyalty to an old friend trump doing what's right? How long can they tolerate this insane injustice right next door? How long? How long?!
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
For more on Mandela (and Mugabe) read Touching The Untouchables #8: Mandela
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