Mugabe's U-turn on values

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s role as the founding father of Zimbabwe is as secure as former South Africa president Nelson Mandela’s.

Both made major contributions to their countries’ liberation struggle and for being the first leaders of their respective nations at independence.

Founding fathers are generally credited with establishing nation-States by playing influential roles in laying the foundations of such States.

Mugabe, therefore, belongs to a special class of men and women who participated in the revolutionary war of independence.

Unlike Mandela who turned 95 yesterday, Mugabe has remained a permanent feature of the country’s narrative as the “Father of the Nation”.

Mandela is universally respected yet under his watch the vestiges of apartheid remain intact and entrenched.

He could easily have decided that he was the only one ordained by God to solve all the social and economic challenges of the nation and, therefore, retirement would be tantamount to capitulation.

The constitution of South Africa that he played a leading role in shaping and defining; prescribed what he could and could not do; as president.

He was compelled to uphold, defend, obey and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the new nation and ensuring that the Constitution and all the other laws were faithfully observed.

In addition, Mandela took an oath to promote unity and peace in the nation for the benefit and well-being of all the people of the nation.

He also undertook to ensure the protection of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rule of law as well as respecting the diversity of the people and communities of South Africa.

What is remarkable is that Mandela made whites in South Africa comfortable not because as a person he had forgotten the pain that he and millions of others endured during apartheid but that was what the constitution compelled him to do.

For respecting the constitution, his name will remain great in the minds of even those who despised the ideals and objectives of the revolutionary struggle that he dedicated his life to.

In fact, when he dies, the people who will miss him more may very well be whites under whose watch he was subjected to untold suffering.

Indeed, the true role of the law is to protect the weak and to the extent that Mandela like Mugabe during the first 10 years chose to subordinate personal feelings about the past, the diversity of the nation was not as important as the strength inherent in it.

On the eve of independence, Mugabe spoke for many when he said: “An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or by black against white. Our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us."

“Democracy is never mob-rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules. Our independence must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will."

“It is not the right to negate the freedom of others to think and act, as they desire. I, therefore, wish to appeal to all of you to respect each other and act in promotion of national unity rather than negation of that unity.”

However, in 2013, Mugabe is singing from a different hymn sheet.

Unlike Mandela, he has U-turned on the values that inspired his words on the eve of independence.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe is clear regarding the duties of a President to allow Mugabe, a veteran State actor to be confused about his obligations in relation to citizens of Zimbabwe.

Section 56 of the Constitution dealing with equality and non-discrimination provides that all persons including whites are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

In terms of Section 56(2), every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability, or economic or social status, or whether they were born in or out of wedlock.

The State in terms of Section 56(6) is compelled to take reasonable legislative and other measures to promote the achievement of equality and to protect or advance people or classes who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.

As the only father of Zimbabwe, Mugabe naturally has two faces one as the father of Zanu PF, the political club that he is a leader of; and the other as the father of the Nation.

It is not easy for one to separate the two especially given the history and experiences that he as a person has endured on the road to State House.

Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” was not easy yet he was able to show a face that suggested that he had forgiven his perpetrators and by taking this choice, he became a father even to whites.

Mugabe’s children who turned 33 on April 18, 2013 include whites and blacks yet the message to the white child in terms of the Zanu PF election manifesto is that he or she must lose control of his or her company to a fellow black citizen in the name of indigenisation.

A white Zimbabwean child of Mugabe is entitled to question the constitutionality of the indigenisation law particularly given that no rational argument can be made to suggest that a white child of Mugabe was advantaged by circumstances that occurred prior to his or her birth.

The tale of two children of Mugabe i.e. one white and another black both sharing the same birthday compels us to pause and reflect on the disaster that will visit Zimbabwe if there is no change of leadership.

Mugabe has a duty in terms of the Constitution to ensure that all his children are treated equally before the law including the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

When properly analysed by an independent and impartial judiciary, the Act may very well be unconstitutional.

By refusing to disobey the constitution, Mandela has been misunderstood even by Mugabe who accuses him of being too soft on whites when the constitution demanded him to do otherwise.

The fact that Mugabe is angry about the inhuman treatment that blacks were subjected to during the colonial era is evident in his utterances during the last 33 years notwithstanding the Statesmanship that he displayed during the early years of independence.

Mugabe like Mandela understood that majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if blacks used their majority status to oppress, persecute or harass those who did not look or think like Zanu PF and that includes the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Industry minister Welshman Ncube, Dumiso Dabengwa and others who have been nominated to contest for the office of the President.

Any party that believes in indigenisation as a remedy for the ills that have visited many Zimbabweans does so in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution.

Indeed, Mugabe was correct in observing that democracy is never mob-rule and yet during the last 33 years, mobs have organised themselves under the umbrella of his party to loot and dispossess other citizens in the name of democracy.

Mugabe as the father of the Nation understood in 1980 that democracy should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules yet under his watch the opposite seems to be the order of the day.

Compliance with the law compels Mugabe to desist from making racist statements and campaigning on the record of his competitors.

Zimbabwe’s independence in the words of Mugabe was not supposed to be construed as an instrument vesting hooligans wearing party regalia with the right to harass and intimidate others into voting against their will.

In fact, the fear factor that has characterised recent Zimbabwean elections represents a failure by Mugabe to honour his independence promise.

In fact, Mugabe was correct in observing that independence was not supposed to confer on Zanu PF supporters the right to negate the freedom of others to think or act, as they desired yet anyone who dares to differ with the ideology and worldview of Zanu PF is easily labelled a “traitor, surrogate of imperialism, puppet, counter-revolutionary, and sell-out.”

Mugabe at independence appealed to all citizens to respect each other and act in promotion of national unity rather than negation of that unity and yet he finds himself accused of being the worst culprit of the values that he purportedly supported 33 years ago.

Has Mugabe changed? Indeed, he has and not for the better of the nation.