The mighty do fall after all

HARARE - It is hard to believe that Robert Mugabe has disappeared from the Zimbabwean political landscape which he dominated for the past 37 years, marking the end of one of the longest political careers the world over.

The excitement that gripped Harare, with car hooters booming on the streets and crowds ululating and cheering, was something out of this world.

Who would have thought that Robert Mugabe would be where he is today. Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known since independence, has ruled the southern African nation with an iron fist for close to 40 years now.

But perhaps people would want to know what finally led to this catastrophic fall for a man who virtually owned Zimbabwe for close to four decades.

The very first port of call is none other than the confines of his own bedroom.

His wife Grace — a woman many felt lacked the decorum consistent with a first lady — had such an abrasive character that she rubbed almost everyone the wrong way, save for her acolytes in the vanquished Generation 40 (G40) faction of Zanu PF.

Her rants at political rallies were at the least surprising but betrayed her intentions.

I feel happy for Joice Mujuru, George Charamba, Ray Kaukonde, Auxillia Mnangagwa — individuals who tasted her acerbic tongue — for Grace has met her match.

The party had become her personal property. She could shout at anyone, anytime without reflecting on the possible consequences because she thought she had arrived.

Interestingly, Zanu PF had backed Mugabe through the series of crises that have resulted from his ruinous populist policies, re-electing him at every turn.

Events suddenly turned against him last week following “Operation Restore Legacy” — an intervention by the military.

Mugabe had just been endorsed by all the 10 Zanu PF provinces as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 general elections in which he was expected to stand against a coalition of opposition parties that were hoping to use their collective force to boot out the 93-year-old.

The same crowds that had cheered Mugabe and his wife on during the presidential youth interface rallies around the country, were the same which were baying for his blood at the weekend, passing votes of no confidence on the man whose candidature they had endorsed barely a month earlier.

In a way, there is something that Mugabe must have done terribly wrongly before he met his waterloo. The axing of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa from both party and government two weeks ago must have been an ill-advised move.

But for Grace, Mnangagwa had to go so that she would go up without encountering any hurdles. And she got the support she wanted from Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao, Walter Mzembi, Mandi Chimene among others who have now fled the jubilant crowds back home.

Given Grace’s clear presidential ambitions, Mnangagwa was fired the very day he was appointed to replace Mujuru in December 2014. For many, Mnangagwa would go the same way as Mujuru except that “the Crocodile” would not take it lying down.

As promised in a statement soon after his sacking, Mnangagwa was to hand Mugabe one of his biggest and perhaps most important political lessons, albeit very late for the nonagenarian leader. You do not ride roughshod on those whose shoulders you stood on your way up the ladder; they will simply remove the pivot you were leaning on.

Mnangagwa and his allies must have seen it coming and had invested heavily in preparing their response to such an eventuality.

Crucially, Mugabe lost control and trust of the army, an institution that had propped him up at some of the most trying times in his political career.

For instance, when Mugabe lost to the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai in March 2008, it was the armed forces who ensured Mugabe got an opportunity of the presidential run-off of June 27 of that year. Tsvangirai withdrew from that run-off, citing the murder of over 200 of his supporters resulting in Mugabe running the race on his own.

Noone trusted Mugabe anymore, including his own lieutenants in the party and government because he had betrayed them through his actions. By choosing to go with the demands of his wife and the G40 cabal, Mugabe was ostracising himself from the people whose endorsement he has enjoyed over the years.

Anything is possible in politics but surely this may not be the case when your pillars of strength are removed.

Eventually, Mugabe lost the armed forces, he lost the party and crucially, he also lost the people.

His resignation — when it finally came on Tuesday — was the culmination of an eventful political career, which was eclipsed by his wife’s ambition .

Comments (3)

The factor that made him realise that he should resign gracefully is when only 4 of his Cabinet ministers ignored his summons to Tuesday morning meeting.

Bwedebwese - 23 November 2017

The factor that made him realise that he should resign gracefully is when only 4 of his Cabinet ministers ignored his summons to Tuesday morning meeting.

Bwedebwese - 23 November 2017

A small point of correction. Hired & bused crowds (mostly from rural areas) used to cheer RGM & Grace in their hey days. The crowd that celebrated last Saturday were voluntary, mostly urban folks from all walks of life.

Sagitarr - 24 November 2017

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