HARARE – Those few Zimbabweans lucky enough to afford satellite dishes and pay television subscriptions will on Sunday evening watch the first part of President Robert Mugabe’s interview on SABC with Dali Tambo, the happy-go-lucky son of the late revered leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Tambo.
The interview, clearly designed to try and redeem Mugabe’s battered international image — was deliberately given ahead of Zimbabwe’s make-or-break national polls sometime this year.
Understandably, therefore, the acquiescent Dali never managed to ask Mugabe one difficult question about the many grave socio-economic and political challenges that have bedevilled our country since he came to power at independence in 1980.
Indeed, nothing on Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina or the murders, rapes, pillage and anarchy of 2008 when Mugabe was trounced by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in that year’s presidential ballot.
Nary a word on when an 89-year-old might deem it ripe to go on pension, in a country where the retirement age is 65!
The only thing of interest to Zimbabweans that came out of the interview was possibly Mugabe’s stunning admission of his adultery with Grace, now the First Lady, as his late wife Sally lay on her death bed.
This coming from a man who has gained fame, or is it now notoriety, for publicly admonishing other men with wandering eyes.
So, will this SABC interview manage to redeem Mugabe’s international standing and legacy?
As for its likely regional and international effect, this will largely depend on how the harmonised elections will be run and managed, as well as the climate leading to and after these crucial polls.
In that light, if the polls are peaceful, free and fair — and he accepts defeat if that is the outcome of the ballot — there is a possibility that history may judge him less harshly than at the present moment.
If the opposite happens, then all this investment in time and effort in public relations work will be a waste of time.
The following famous quote by one Bertrand Russell (Freedom, Harcourt Brace, 1940), best sums up Mugabe’s problems: “The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity.
The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other”.
Indeed, too large a constituency both on the domestic front and on the international stage have for too long viewed our beleaguered president in a very negative light — and therefore it is not going to be easy to undo this dire perception.
It is that bad Mr President, notwithstanding Dali Tambo’s spirited attempt at sprucing up your image. – Staff Writer