Next president ought to be...

HARARE - It’s not that I am particularly against the 91-year-old Robert Mugabe as the leader of this country. It’s just that we ought to adjust our minds to a younger, 21st Century leader, if we are to “march with the times”.

Most people of my age — I’ll be 78 in May — always found Mugabe out of step with the population.

His attitude seemed to be that the population was much too young to understand what he was about — and vice-versa.

I wonder if there are many who remember his public declaration that “I’m a Marxist-Leninist”. By that time, the doctrine forged by the German Karl Marx and the Russian Vladimir Lenin, had lost most of its shine.

For most of the people of the newly-independent Republic of Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s declaration was amazing. Why did he believe that, by that time in Africa, the most fashionable and progressive political ideology was Marxism-Leninism?

His recent mishap set me thinking again about that period of our independence. I had visited the Soviet Union in 1973, as a member of the Afro-Asian Writers Union. Leonid Brezhnev was in charge of that vast country then.

I was visiting it from Zambia, which had gained independence from Britain in 1964. I had arrived there to work as a journalist in 1963 — as had many other compatriots.

Throughout his reign, I never for a moment believed that Mugabe would embrace the major tenets of democracy, as they were understood but all other conventional democrats in the world.

I always suspected that, for Mugabe, democracy had to contain a pinch — large or medium — of Marxism-Leninism.

For me, there was not a moment during his rule that we could all have celebrated the presence of true democracy in our country.

As a journalist, I had a front-page seat of how democracy in Zimbabwe would be practised, as it was understood by our president. As far as I was concerned, Mugabe’s concept of democracy did not jell with mine.

I spent 10 years at Zimpapers, the state-owned media conglomerate, where the editors wrote of democracy as it was understood by Mugabe and Zanu PF. Others, including myself, eventually left to seek other pastures, which included The Daily News.

By the time Mugabe’s government banned the latter in 2003, its daily circulation had risen to

120 000, compared to The Herald’s 40 000.

The rest of the story traces the political transformation of the country from a one-party system of politics to the true democracy that Mugabe himself had never truly embraced.

To tabulate how the economy of the country fared under Mugabe’s rule would take long. Suffice it to say that there were many “ups” and “downs”. The economy never really achieved its potential.

In agriculture, for which the country had earned itself the title of “breadbasket” of southern Africa”, Mugabe’s government launched a land reform programme whose effect did not, as predicted, boost the economy, but reduced yields.

The economic statistics on Zimbabwe are largely negative. The number of unemployed people is at record levels and the number of people suffering from serious diseases very high. The medical services available are no match for the health budget.

But it is the recent political crisis which has plunged the country into a sort of political ravine from which it will take years to pull out.

Mugabe’s recent bout of serious illness seems to herald an era of possible change. The man cannot pretend any more that he can continue to run the country at 91 years of age.

He just has to give up now and let someone else take over.

    Comments (1)

    Mugabe's actions shows he is not in control of this country anymore, he hasn't been for a while - He just won't admit it because i think he decided - rather die in office or be shot rather than step down and face prosecution. It might sound inappropriate but i strongly suspect Mugabe has a mental illness of some sort. He won't let go, because he doesn't know how.

    taps - 17 February 2015

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