Comrade Robert Mugabe is now the former president of Zimbabwe. And his departure was met with wild jubilations.
What was surprising was the manner in which he “resigned.” You see, in the management of state affairs, there are certain things no one expects the military to do.
No military has in the past staged coups by first calling a press conference to announce its actions. Doing so would be suicidal. But, that is what happened in Zimbabwe.
Surrounded by other generals, the head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, called a press conference to warn that unless purges in the ruling ZANU-PF party stopped, the military would intervene and fix the situation.
Astonishingly, the general was allowed — even after his treasonous words — to go back home, rest and return in the wee hours of the morning to snatch power from his boss in what was tactfully termed as removing the “criminals” surrounding the president.
The military was quick to emphasise in a televised address that Mugabe was still the president and their commander-in-chief. However, the man Mugabe dismissed two weeks earlier, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwe, was announced the new president.
It’s mind-boggling. But as Rwandans would say, that’s Zimbabwean Ubudasa (uniqueness).
We have to give it up to the Zimbabwean military. The “coup” was bloodless and they managed to convince both ZANU-PF and parliament to legalise their actions.
We must now ask what Mugabe’s forced resignation tells us about Africa’s struggles and its governance.
This question is important because, despite Mugabe’s many failings, he is a hero of the liberation struggle and the fight against colonialism.
Yet, despite his contributions and the great expectations at Independence in 1980, the only substantive achievement Mugabe leaves behind after 37 years at the helm is the flag of independence, but not its fruits.
For while popular and successful in his early years, as many African leaders tend to be, in his later years he ruled by defiance as the economy tanked.
But of course, while defiance arouses emotions, it doesn’t develop an economy or bring sustainable stability.
Clearly, the greatest lesson Mugabe leaves us is that every cause and struggle has its own heroes.
For while Mugabe was undoubtedly good at defiance; including rhetorically dismissing imperialists, these aren’t the qualities needed to bring sustainable democracy nor end underdevelopment.
That tells us that for Zimbabwe to attain sustainable democracy and development, it will need new heroes.
The second lesson is that it is possible to fight one form of tyranny only to install another. Yes, Mugabe fought colonialists and dethroned white colonial rule.
But he replaced it with an entitled ZANU-PF whose legitimacy resides in fighting for independence and not putting in place a democratic dispensation where ONLY the will of the people truly reigns.
In part, this is also the tragedy of some African countries that have experienced cycles of “liberations” with each group of “liberators” only helping to remove one form of tyranny only to install another.
Mugabe’s rule and downfall illustrate an ailment associated with “liberation movements” and the entitlement that often ruins progress. Even the struggle to remove him was stamped by a sense of entitlement.
His “liberation struggle” comrades were saying he played an important part in the past and therefore must be replaced with another “liberation” comrade.
Despite our claim to love the rule of law and constitutionalism, at heart, we do not because even with ZANU-PF and government officials saying theirs was a rule of law, when the military intervened (which is illegal), everyone asked Mugabe to go.
We thus learn where real power lies in most African countries — with the military. Once a leader falls out of favour with the military it is game over.
In the end, while the role of the military is traditionally perceived to be one of keeping external enemies out, clearly, Zimbabwe teaches us that the enemy lies within and the solution is military intervention.
Until the military returns to the barracks, we can’t talk of sustainable democracy. This is not to disprove its deed against Mugabe; but, stating a fact.
Christopher Kayumba, PhD. Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, UR; Lead consultant, MGC Consult International Ltd. E-mail: [email protected]; twitter account: @Ckayumba Website:www.mgcconsult.com