HARARE – Given his advanced age, extensive corruption by successive Zanu PF governments, poor economic stewardship, sorry state of other essential services and general despondency within the country, do Zimbabweans have any reason to retain President Robert Mugabe in power?
These are some of the multi-million-dollar questions that the citizens of this country will be asking themselves as they troop to vote on July 31 next week and analysts rightly agree: the ex-Rhodesian nation, if not bastion, has a choice between hope and a catastrophic future.
And as the 89-year-old leader seeks to extend his 33-year hold on power — to a point when he will be 95 — analysts say any mandate for the former liberation movement would be tantamount to “sentencing or sending the country to the gallows”.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) director, said Mugabe had overstayed his welcome and should be removed from office — through the ballot — on Wednesday.
“Zimbabwe is not a monarchy State. With his past failures as president of the country, he must just be voted out of office. We are in this situation because of Mugabe’s poor governance,” he told The Weekend Post this week.
“Without looking much into his past, what can 13 million people expect from a near-nonagenarian? He has outlived his sale-by-date time and it will be honourable for him to go and so that he can rest at his rural home,” the ZDI founder said.
“At 90, no man can discharge his duties well and to the best of his knowledge. His memory is tiring and we cannot risk having such a man as president. We cannot privatise 13 million Zimbabweans to a 90-year-old man, as we must look forward to our children,” Ruhanya added.
Under his governance, the democracy activist said, “we have witnessed the collapse of the economy and people became ‘wild animals’ due to Mugabe’s policies”, while hospitals and schools were turned into “death traps, and kraals”.
However, Mugabe and his cronies’ children enjoyed top-notch school, and medical facilities in faraway lands, he noted.
“They (Zanu PF) subjected this country to torture and mass killings (one way or the other), and all because of this bad governance. Therefore, why should we vote for him into office for another five years?,” Ruhanya said.
From the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes to the much-discredited money-printing antics, which further accelerated Zimbabwe’s economic decline, the media doctorate scholar said that was proof enough that the former guerrilla leader had failed and “must be voted out of power”.
Another democracy and human rights activist Okay Machisa said Mugabe, and Zanu PF must not be entrusted with the duty of leading this country for essentially perpetuating human rights abuses or violations since 1980.
“Zimbabweans have suffered enough. Look at the violence, which rocked the country in 2008 and it is Mugabe’s fault. But he has the audacity to say ‘there was no violence’ (and really) he has no people at heart,” he said.
“Let us look at Gukurahundi, operation Murambatsvina, all this points to failed governance by Mugabe and Zanu PF. His failed economic policies and inability to deal with corruption within his government should compel Zimbabweans to vote him out on July 31,” the Zimbabwe Human Rights chairperson added.
On the other hand, only those with close links to Zanu PF have been able to make it or survive, while the generality of the populace continues to suffer in abject poverty under his rule.
“If you look at the indigenisation programme, a few of Zanu PF chefs are the beneficiaries of the exercise while unemployment remains high. With all these resources in the country, it is folly for this government to fail to remunerate even civil servants and this has everything to do with failure for accountability,” Machisa said.
“If you look at the country’s history, Zanu PF was a pro-poor party in 1980, but it has abandoned, relegated its grassroots and concentrated on amusing a few individuals. Mugabe has presided over the total collapse of the economy and the death of our industries,” he said, yet Zimbabwe “has the potential to grow and take-care of its people”.
The human rights campaigner — who was recently arrested on spurious voter registration charges — also said it was shameful that the country was even “importing staple grains and food from Zambia”.
“Has he attracted investment (from all over the world), which has translated into real jobs and income to improve the welfare or wellbeing of people of this country, and the citizens would tell you no,” Machisa said.
Takunda Mugaga, a Harare-based economist, said although Mugabe has done relatively well to empower his supporters through Savior Kasukuwere’s indigenisation crusades his failure to deal with corruption and unemployment made him a failed leader.
“He has managed to empower and challenge the white establishment in the economy, but this has been done for political gains and not economic transformation,” he said.
“He has failed to deal with corruption dating back to 1990. We talk of Willowgate, the multiple farm ownership saga and amassing of ill-gotten wealth by those in power. All of Mugabe’s economic policies are made for political purposes and to earn him survival at the expense of real economic development,” Mugaga said.
The land reform programme, for instance, was a noble project, but done at the height of political opposition, which threatened his continued rule. And therefore, the manner in which it was done was for political expediency to the extent that very few, if not none, outside his political circle benefited.”
Charity Manyeruke, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, however said the Zanu PF leader had “done a lot to warrant another chance and term from the people”.
“He is a seasoned, tried and tested leader. He has championed the people’s cause, especially the youth who can now afford to own companies under the indigenisation programme,” she said.
“Under president Mugabe’s leadership, communities have been empowered through the share ownership schemes. He has represented the interests of general Zimbabweans without fail at any platform be it locally and internationally,” Manyeruke said.
Singling out the indigenisation and pre-200 educational programmes — and vaunted literacy rates as well as social developments in the country — the feisty commentator said these were among Mugabe’s key achievements in his 33-year uninterrupted rule.