No respect for the dead
March 26, 2011
For Zimbabweans immersed in their own problems, it is sometimes difficult to stand back and take a broader view of the world. Recent events should remind us that Zimbabwe’s problems are perhaps not as unique as we sometimes think they are.
There has been much discussion in the UK media about whether Colonel Gadaffi qualifies to be described as ‘mad. It’s hard not to come to that conclusion when you watch him on television ranting and shaking his fist at the world. But, as one commentator pointed out this week, it is possible to be ‘mad’ and at the same time a pretty shrewd operator politically. The problem with describing dictators as ‘mad’ is that it implies they don’t know what they’re doing, that they are not in control of their actions.
The question to ask here is: by whose standards are we judging them? Madness, by definition, implies behaviour which does not conform to generally accepted norms and standards but the ‘mad’ dictator is acting perfectly logically according to his own standards of behaviour. In their own minds, Gadaffi and Robert Mugabe are both able to defend their actions in attacking their opponents by whatever means since the opposition represents a threat to the leader’s God-given right to rule.
There is one aspect that all these ‘mad’ dictators have in common; initially at any rate, they inspire huge public support. Hitler and Mussolini, for example, addressed massive crowds of adoring supporters. Move the clock
forward sixty years and we see the same level of adulation for all the other ‘mad’ dictators. It is that very hero-worship which feeds their colossal egos and the longer it lasts the more inflated the ego becomes; the madness
intensifies with every year that passes. In Gadaffi’s case there have been forty two of them; for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, whose name did not go unmentioned in the discussions about ‘mad dictators’, he has had thirty one years of public adulation and latterly of blanket media coverage to portray him as the one man who liberated Zimbabwe from the evils of colonial rule and upon whom Zimbabwe’s very survival depends. Like his friend Gadaffi, he
also rants and shakes his fist and appears to inspire the same belief in his godlike status among his followers who, as this week showed are prepared to go to any lengths to ensure Mugabe wins another election.
The truth is that Mugabe’s sanity or otherwise is no longer the issue. If he is indeed mad then his followers have become as mad as he is in their desire to keep him in power and themselves on the Zanu PF gravy train. War veterans digging up thirty-year old graves in Mount Darwin is their latest ploy to prove – what? There are no forensics, no d.n.a. analysis, no valid identification of bones or body parts and, most shockingly an absolute disrespect for the dead. If the intention of this appalling sacrilege is to show how barbaric the Rhodesians were in the Liberation War, one wonders what political point it serves now other than to prolong the past glories of the Chimurenga story.
Mugabe’s description of the west as “Bloody vampires” for mounting the No Fly zone in Libya to stop Gadaffi killing his own people seems an apt description of what Mugabe’s followers are now doing in Zimbabwe.
It was the British Foreign Minister, William Hague this week who commented on the possible effect of the Middle East uprisings on other dictatorships. He mentioned Mugabe by name and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire who has refused to stand down despite losing an election. Mugabe will, no doubt, dismiss Hague’s comments as nothing more than western colonialism but the mere fact that his Cabinet met for a whole morning on Thursday to “defuse the tensions” in the GNU is a clear acknowledgement that all is not well.
Parliament is suspended indefinitely and war veterans besiege the Treasury on the grounds that they liberated the country and are therefore entitled to a greater share of the country’s wealth than anyone else. Obviously, Mugabe of the same mind; there are reports that the Treasury has paid out some $12 million for his regular trips to Singapore and the so-called ‘cataract check-ups’. Mad or not, Robert Mugabe is certainly a shrewd political
operator as the MDC is learning to its cost.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.