As we know that the leader of Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe is now 87 years old, in the past few weeks he was creating his own piece of history to become Africa’s second oldest presidential candidate whilst the number one position goes to the late Malawi’s former President Kamuzu Hastings Banda at the moment.
BY RAINAH CHAMUNORWA – Political Correspondent and Human Rights Activist
Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was the leader of Malawi and its predecessor state, Nyasaland, from 1961 to 1994. After receiving much of his education overseas just like Mugabe, Banda returned to his home country to speak against colonialism and advocated for independence. In 1963, he was formally appointed as Nyasaland’s Prime Minister and led the country to independence as Malawi a year later. Two years later, he declared Malawi a republic with himself as president. He consolidated power and later declared Malawi a one party state under the Malawi Congress Party, the same way Mugabe did in the early 80’s and in 1970, the Malawi Congress Party declared him the party’s President for Life. In 1971, he became President for Life of Malawi itself. He was 98 years old by the time he left the public office.
By 1993, facing international pressure and widespread protest, a referendum ended his one party state, and a special assembly stripped him of his title. Banda ran for president in the democratic elections which followed but was defeated. He stepped down thereafter and he died in South Africa in 1997. he was well over 90 years when he died but no-one knows exactly when he was born, some say he was born in 1896 and others say he was born in 1906. On the other hand, if Mugabe wins next year’s elections or probably this year, he will be 92 years old (if God permits) by the by the time his term runs out (after 5 years in office) and what a shame to the Zimbabwean people to have the same dictator for more 35 years in power.
In Egypt, we have Hosni Mubarak who was born on the 4th of May 1928, he assumed office in 1981 for 31 years until mass protests against him and his regime erupted in Cairo and other Egyptian cities on 25 January 2011. Mubarak announced he would not contest the presidential election due in September and he also promised constitutional reform but this did not satisfy the majority of protesters as they expected Mubarak to depart immediately, he was 83 years old at the time.
In Gabon, we have Omar Bongo Ondimba who was born on the 30th of December 1935 who led the Gabonese for 42 years from 1967 until his death in office in 2009, he left behind 30 children he fathered with different women. Omar Bongo was promoted to key positions as a young official under Gabon’s first President Leon M’ba in the 1960s before being elevated to Vice-President from 1966 to 1967 eventually succeeding M’ba to become Gabon’s second President upon the latter’s death in 1967.
Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when he was forced to introduce multi-party politics in Gabon in the face of great public pressure. He then survived intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s succeeding in consolidating power again mainly by bringing most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s over to his side. He was re-elected in extremely controversial 1993 presidential election and again in the subsequent elections of 1998 and 2005 with his respective majorities increasing and the opposition becoming more subdued on each election. He was 74 years old by the time he died.
All these octogenarian leaders have some common denominator when it comes to their style of leading the country, they always want to die in power. This is costing the Movement For Democratic Change their chance of taking the centre stage in the political arena because Mugabe and Zanu Pf will never allow anyone to rule the country. Zanu-Pf claims that they are protecting the “sovereignty ” of their country, the same rhetorics we have heard since 1980. The MDC has always been winning the elections but there has been the same fate of vote-rigging by Mugabe and his master of vote rigging Tobaiwa Mudede (aka, the vote rigging machine). They deserve some honorary degree for this to be honest.
Morgan Tsvangirai said that Zimbabwean elections cannot be held before we have a new referendum and he added by urging the AU to certify that the environment is conducive for everybody during and after the elections so that there will be prevention of a recurrence of horrific violence and intimidation that we have witnessed in all the previous elections. The necessary institutional and legislative reforms should take place to allow for an election that meets regional and international standards on the conduct of democratic elections. The last time we conducted our general elections in Zimbabwe was in 2008 and this resulted in the formation of the transitional power sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
What we need now in Africa is a breed of young and vibrant leaders that can lead us to the promised land just like what Moses’ son did in the bible. Moses rescued everyone from the ruthless dictator (Pharaoh), of-course he saw the promised land but he was not the one to be lead his people to that land, his son did. Some things are better left to the younger generation to accomplish.
*Rainah Chamunorwa is a member of (ROHR) Restoration Of Human Rights (Zimbabwe.) She is passionate about people being treated fairly in Zimbabwe regardless of race, creed or political views.
The staying power of sub-Saharan strongmen