The paradox of Mugabe – Mnangagwa transition

The paradox of Mugabe - Mnangagwa transition
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (R) shares a joke with former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa during Mugabe's birthday celebrations at Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo, February 27, 2016. Courtesy Photo/REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo.

Desperate times indeed call for desperate measures. With the confusion in Harare continuing to unfold, Zimbabweans have been caught between a rock and a hard place.

Having had to put up with Robert Mugabe’s 37 years of authoritarian rule, there was a sigh of relief last week when the army ‘seemed’ to take over in what has been widely termed as a peaceful ‘bloodless coup.’

Just like the situation in Uganda and many other African states especially those that have had to deal with long serving leaders, there has not been any grooming in place. Power has been concerted in one man’s hands for 37 years in Zimbabwe as it has been in Uganda for 31 years.

These long serving autocrats over focus on the grip of power and forget mentoring any good, fresh blood leaders who might succeed them when time to exit especially under such circumstances comes.

This has been the cry for many Ugandans to President Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to mentor a leader who would succeed the old man. All these cries have fallen on deaf ears and Zimbabwe’s ruling party The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) provides us with a perfect example.

Time comes when all disgruntled Africans want to see change and they care less on who is coming in, provided it’s the price they should pay to see a new face of leadership. This is really sad given that in most cases we end up with worse.

In Zimbabwe, it’s shocking how masses have taken to streets, cheering Former Vice President Emerson Mnangangwa’s name as their desired new head of state. This is basically because he is the closest person to the Presidency after Mugabe, and the Zimbabweans believe he is the only one capable of shaking Mugabe to loosen the grip!

Mr. Mnangagwa has been known as the ‘Crocodile’ (Ngwena), and this is so owing to his ruthlessness that he employed to terrorize the country in 2008 after the first round of presidential elections in which Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai.

Getting rid of Mugabe and ushering in Mnangagwa is just as good as leaping from a red hot frying pan, only to land in blazing flames. He has been Mugabe’s iron hand since 1980 and has had numerous public political scandals since 2004 when he openly fought for the vice presidency.

His power struggles with the already ousted First Lady Grace Mugabe have also not been a secret. This is a person who even, more than Mugabe, the Commander in Chief is believed to have close ties with the army. No wonder, thanks to General Constantino Chiwenga, things are falling into place for the Crocodile.

The fear should then be, how ruthless will the crocodile be, backed by the presidency and the army, this could be the end of opposition, tolerance and at worst sanity in Zimbabwe.

If it all goes as planned, there is surely no way the 75 year old is going to just relinquish power after enjoying the seat for just months since elections are due in 2018.

At 93 years of age, Mugabe doesn’t have any malice left in him. He has done it all and if a world needs a selfless leader, that should be a man like him. He is not ambitious anymore, the grip is to protect himself and his family from persecution of  the things he did while still a crocodile himself. So bringing in a crocodile now would mean a leader who is going to rewrite all Mugabe’s atrocities or even worse.

The same happened in Uganda in 1971 when Ugandans for lack of a better alternative, welcomed Idi Amin with open hands but little did they know, the crocodile had just emanated and it was later realised that Milton Obote had been somewhat human compared to his right hand man.

If the Mugabe – Mnangagwa transition goes on as planned, Zimbabweans are headed for the same and before they know it, they could have a Mugabe II — that is if time allows!

By Aggrey Myondwa Kikobera, a Communications Assistant of the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS)