Has Mugabe lost his marbles?

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HARARE – Given the recent and blistering attack on Lindiwe Zulu by President Robert Mugabe — and at a time Zimbabwe has been desperate for friends, if not made steady progress in its re-engagement efforts — one cannot escape the temptation that: The gods first make “mad” those that they wish to destroy.

Otherwise, how else can one explain this vitriolic and astonishing attack by the Zanu PF leader on President Jacob Zuma — and by extension Sadc — at his party’s election manifesto launch at the Zimbabwe Grounds on Friday.

At the rally, Gushungo not only panned Sadc and threatened to pull Zimbabwe out of the regional body, but also fired a broadside at Msholozi – via one of his most trusted lieutenants and diminutive ambassador Lindiwe Zulu — also appearing to be the de facto lead facilitator in the Zimbabwean political crisis.

To the region and entire country’s utter disbelief — and in a televised horror show by ZBC TV — Mugabe described the unassuming but impressive Zulu as “an ordinary, stupid and idiotic street woman”.

What a strategic blunder and howler for a man, and party which owes its “political power” to South Africa (SA)!

While one would have thought this undiplomatic lingo and forte is a speciality of the likes of serial political flip-floppers in Zanu PF’s ranks, the saddest thing about this senseless and unprovoked attack was that many in the rented crowd chuckled at this sad affair.

In essence, the laughs, clapping and clenched fist air-punching implied the crowd was ecstatic because it was funny and witty, if not clever politicking, yet the whole charade was patently not funny at all.

These fellow citizens were clearly blinded to the ginormous folly of His Mature Excellency’s attack because of their reverence to the dear leader.

This could have also been a result of mere politeness, or fear of Chipangano, and ubiquitous spooks at the venue.

Back to the matter at hand, Zulu’s crime has been her recent rational suggestion that Zimbabwe should have considered postponing its forthcoming elections, as per Sadc’s recommendation given to our leaders in Maputo last month, to pave the way for the implementation of agreed, but outstanding media and security reforms.

This was meant to avoid yet another violent, chaotic and contested election in Zimbabwe, as happened in 2008, when we had to beg Sadc and South Africa (SA) to come and rescue us — from our murderous, raping selves!

So, the crucial question is: Why did Mugabe embarrass himself and this nation so spectacularly and in public like this?

Let us first get the elephant in the room out of the way — Mugabe’s age. Yes, Gushungo is pushing on 90 and will be a staggering 95 by the time he finishes the “new first term” if he wins the presidential race on July 31!

I think that would be an official African record, although I stand to be corrected.

And as they say, nothing is more dishonourable than an old man, heavy with years and the scars of life and high office, who now has no other evidence of his good works or having lived long except his age.

In his excellent feature about the Zimbabwe Grounds rally published in the Daily News on Monday, my young and diligent colleague Xolisani Ncube richly recounted how old, tired and uninspired the Head of State and Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces looked as he entered, walked and addressed the crowd.

To digress a bit, I felt a tad sad reading that brilliant, award-winning feature.

For here was a man who used to be revered almost universally in this beautiful nation, in lieu of his admirable energy and intellect, but who has now been reduced to a pitiable whimper by the powers of mother nature and time.

Surely, his supporters owe this former Zanu PF lion a well-deserved rest?

But make no mistake, there was also method to the madness of Mugabe’s attack on Sadc and Zuma.

This was to pre-empt and put the region, and the wily South African president on the backfoot, just in case things don’t go as planned for him and Zanu PF in the harmonised elections — and in that event, the alleged kleptocracy that has lorded it over us for the past 33 years has to once again resort to its unsavoury ways to stay in power.

Yes, dear reader, only Sadc and Zuma have the care, appetite and wherewithal to intervene in Zimbabwe’s toxic politics.

We are now largely a lost cause to the hated and fatigued Westerners, who wouldn’t lose an hour’s sleep were we all to be abducted suddenly by aliens from Mars!

This is sad but true, despite Mugabe and Zanu PF’s fake obsessions with imagined sanctions, imperialists and extra-continental regime change merchants.

So, Sadc and Zuma have to be put under control now, in this warped strategy. They are seen by hardliners in Zanu PF as having already done too much damage to the party over the past four years, since the street-wise Zuma toppled Mugabe’s poodle, Thabo Mbeki, by agitating for a level political playing field in the country.

And of course, Mugabe and Zanu PF do not care about the consequences of upsetting Zuma and Sadc as long as they remain in power — just as they did not care when they told the West where to get off a decade and-a-half ago.

But this is a terrible miscalculation on the part of our rulers because Sadc and SA cannot be wished away like the British and the Americans, who have very little tangible interest in us and our country. Indeed, we neither have oil, for example, nor are we a bulwark against global terrorism.

On the other hand, Sadc and SA have real vested interests in our affairs. After all, up to three million political and economic refugees are eking a living across the Limpopo, with another estimated 200 000 of our kinsmen taking valuable employment opportunities away from the Batswana over our western border.

And just as apartheid SA brought the Rhodesians to their knees, the South Africans can bring tremendous pressure to bear on Zimbabwe if they choose to.

They have a full menu of sticks and “torture” tools that they can use to cause real havoc in this country if they continue to be pushed to the limits.

This is why SA reacted very angrily and unusually openly to Mugabe’s provocation. They know and understand their power.

One of SA’s miffed officials duly described Mugabe as a “laughing stock and mampara (fool)”, adding pointedly that our president was “effectively biting the hand that feeds him”.

Indeed, just as SA also effectively engineered our government of national unity, and to all practice and sense kept Mugabe in power, they have the muscle similarly to stoke Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s demise.

So, and as a direct result of this poor behaviour and choice of words by Mugabe, relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe are destined to plummet, unless something gives in, in the next few weeks.

This will have a negative impact on everyone, from Mugabe to Zanu PF and the government, as well as ordinary Zimbabweans — given SA’s political and economic standing within the region and the international community.

Has Mugabe lost his marbles to be acting so recklessly?

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