A year ago, Mugabe attended the funeral of Fidel Castro, his comrade in authoritarianism, perhaps like one who participates in his own funeral.
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 16 November 2017 – No one who has been in power for four decades is innocent and Robert Mugabe will not be the exception. This week the 93-year-old African caudillo is being called to account for his outrages as the longest serving dictator in the world. The man who has held Zimbabwe in his fist since 1980, when he became head of the government, has been confined to his home by the army and his departure from his post as head of state, which he has occupied since 1987, seems imminent.
Sick, weakened and having become a nuisance even to his own party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Mugabe has been at the head of the country for 37 years and his record of human rights violations is as extensive as his days spent sitting in the presidential chair.
Like most revolutionaries who come to power, Mugabe was responsible for destroying his own prestige. The first president of Zimbabwe, after the country shook off the colonial yoke, has, by his actions, negated that aura of freedom and emancipation that once clung to him.
Like a horse alone on the race track, he won one after another presidential elections, elections that he orchestrated to validate himself before international public opinion and that he won by using fraud and repression against dissent. He insisted he be venerated as a God and recently announced his obstinate candidacy for the 2018 elections.
In recent years, Mugabe has led the country into one of the greatest economic crises in its history, with an increasingly severe shortage of food, skyrocketing inflation and 80% unemployment, some of which he attributed to an international conspiracy, as is common practice in these kinds of regimes.
Mugabe has controlled every detail of the life of a nation, a nation that was once known as “Africa’s granary” for its fertile lands and high agricultural production, now burdened by plunder and the social abyss. Where each citizen resides, what they eat, who they meet with, their sexual orientation, are not options to choose from in the Zimbabwe of the old patriarch.
His regime fits the word “totalitarianism” with the exactitude of a dictionary. A political system that he tried to cloak in the garb of social justice and opportunities for all, but that in practice only provided opportunities to the circle closest to the president, to his ideological allies.
His policy of privileging locals by offering them the action of foreign companies, did not result in a better life for the common man but ended up fattening the pockets of his fellow politicians, family members and loyal officials. The Mugabe clan put down deep and devastating roots in the national economy, just like colonialism once did.
An outstanding disciple of the school of dictators, as a ruler he has also been vengeful and intolerant of discordant voices. The political leader, born in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, initially presented himself as a “savior” of peoples but became a source of hatred and polarization for the society he promised to represent.
Last year the thousands of people who protested peacefully for human rights violations and the deterioration of the economic situation faced his repression and were met with blows, arrests and threats. The one-time revolutionary covered his ears at the complaints of international organizations, after all Zimbabwe was his kingdom.
However, from that moment his days were numbered though he did not yet know it, or chose the arrogance of not wanting to see it. The straw that broke the camel’s back was last week’s dismissal of his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the evidence – ever stronger – that the satrap was planning to transfer power to his wife, Grace Mugabe, age 53.
As the president’s health has plummeted, power struggles have broken out and each party, those who support Grace and those who bet on Mnangagwa, seek only an end: to take control of Zimbabwe, an appetizing piece of the African cake.
Fear of the other makes these caudillos take refuge in their nuclear families, placing their confidence in their narrowest circle to pass the baton. Successors that guarantee continuity, protection and impunity forever.
Like the end of all authoritarian regimes, Mugabe’s is full of contradictions. While some media reports that the president was preparing his resignation and negotiating the departure of his wife, others say that the situation is controlled in order to save national sovereignty and the nation itself.
“We want to make it very clear that this is not a military takeover of the government, what Zimbabwe’s defense forces are doing is intended to pacify a degenerative political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed could result in a violent conflict,” said a statement from the military.
A document made public this Thursday and signed by 115 civil society organizations in Zimbabwe asks Mugabe to resign and the military to restore the constitutional order to finally achieve the long-awaited democratic transition. It is part of the desperate cry of a nation exhausted by the excessive prominence of one man.
A year ago, Mugabe attended the funeral of Fidel Castro, his comrade in authoritarianism, perhaps like one who participates in his own funeral. A dinosaur saying goodbye to another fossil of the twentieth century.
Every time Mugabe was condemned by international organizations for tainting elections and eliminating critical voices, Havana was always on his side. For decades, the African satrap has maintained an exchange of favors with the Island that now begins to falter.
The Plaza of the Revolution is cautious today in statements about what is happening in Zimbabwe. The island’s news programs have not yet condemned the perpetrators of Robert Mugabe’s house arrest. They are on the lookout for a new caudillo to emerge, someone to whom they can extend a willing and complicit hand.
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