Some of us said we were not going to speculate or predict on the unfolding events in Zimbabwe. An African saying goes that you cannot tell the length of a cobra from its head when the rest of its body is still in the hole. I have been struck though by comments about the flamboyant and forceful First Lady, Grace Mugabe. I don’t like her. I heard how she recently physically assaulted a young model in S. Africa, and that among other small things, prejudiced me. She has certainly been a player in the succession game, which has now been lost. But it would be wrong to heap all blame for Mugabe’s troubles on Grace.
The main architect of the troubles is Robert Gabriel Mugabe himself. First, his retirement is long overdue. He should have gone ten or at least five years ago. There are those who argued that because he was so popular and had done so much for his country, he should be allowed to die in power or he could only leave if he was defeated in an election, became incapacitated or decided to leave of his own accord. Omusajja atandise n’okusirittuka n’agwa nga atambula, kyokka nga mmwe mugamba nti agira afuga! Yiii, ba Gundi!
Then at that last rally when Grace Mugabe called the VP, Emmerson Mnangagwa “a snake that must be hit on the head”, I may remind you that those were the actual words that Robert Mugabe used of former ZAPU leader, Joshua Nkomo in 1982 except that he did not say “snake”, but rather “cobra”. At that very rally, Mugabe also denigrated Mnangagwa and called him a traitor.
Not that I think that Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s saviour. His history of crushing the opposition using Zimbabwe equivalent of “kifeesi” is known. I have seen pictures of the victims, some of them women, in hospitals in Zimbabwe with very ugly scars.
Actually many (perhaps) most Zimbabweans want Mugabe out of power now and sooner than later. They are tired. They want change. The economy has crushed. In the past they have been subjected to the TINA formula. TINA = There Is No Alternative which is the default template of many an African regime.
Only the most naive or the most sycophantic will deny that Africa faces the challenge of managing political transitions in a manner as peaceful as possible. The dynastic model has been tried, but that only perpetuates the patronage policy which in the long run is not good for the country. And the transition needs to be managed when there is still time and before the leaders run out of options.