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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2064

Robert Mugabe: falling for Grace that led to falling from grace

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London...

Judging by what is happening in Harare, Zimbabwe, not only has Grace Mugabe, the wife of embattled, soon-to-be-ex President Mugabe, done her bit to make mockery of the maxim, especially in the last few years, but also elevated herself to the top rank on the national loathing index – without so much effort.

While Mr Mugabe is struggling to find solace, having been sandwiched between a rock and a hard place, perhaps in the hope of leaving some sort of legacy behind, Mrs Mugabe is nowhere to be seen in the country, which in turn led to the speculation of her departure to an unknown destination.

Grace Mugabe, the one-time typist at the State House, according to media reports, had started an affair with Mr Mugabe, who was 41 years her senior, in the early 90’s, when the wife of the latter was terminally ill.

After becoming Mr Mugabe’s second wife in 1996, Grace Mugabe had been using the presidential influence to enrich herself and three children in the hope of becoming undisputed heiress to the Mugabe Empire, until her master plan spectacularly backfired this week, when the army decided to intervene.

The extravagant life styles of Mrs Mugabe and her children have angered millions of Zimbabweans, who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. The First Family misjudged the mood of the nation, while assuming that people would overlook the outrageous excesses of the family as Mr Mugabe still commanded respect.

In a recent rally, Mrs Mugabe said that even Mr Mugabe’s corpse was a vote winner.

Not only was it a miscalculation on an epic scale due to misinformation, but also an unfounded myth, amplified by misplaced sentiments. People simply had enough.

It is clear that Mr Mugabe has been suffering from the same condition that had affected many of his contemporaries, who used to rule with an iron fist – self-delusion. Powerful dictators, ranging from Sadaam Hussein to Col Gadaffi, thought they were in power for ever as if authorized by a divine decree.

“Behind every successful man, there is a woman.” Phew!

They have one thing in common: they all thought the respective countries that they governed would not make any progress without them. So, clinging on to power by hook or crook was at the heart of political game.

Their end, however, came without a bell – at a completely unexpected time. The fate of Mr Mugabe is no different.
At 93, Mr Mugabe showed no sign of slowing down either, thinking holding office is for life, while nurturing dynastic dreams.

When the army put him under house arrest, the influential war veterans, who fought for the independence struggle, turned against him: they want him to step down and then quit politics; the evaporation of support from this particular group that Mr Mugabe always used to pin his hopes on, is the last straw.

Although, the Army respected Mr Mugabe throughout his ordeal, still referring to him as ‘His Excellency the President’ things could change dramatically – and fast – if Mugabe tries to clings on to his famous personal trait – stubbornness.

Hundreds of men and women, who are on the march against Mr Mugabe, are from his own ZANU-PF party, who want him to quit quickly; as the economic situation has worsened in the face of Western sanctions, Zimbabweans are fearful about going back to dark days of hyperinflation, a few years back.

Neither the fiery speeches nor the over-used fist-clenching gestures are going to excite the battered Zimbabweans any more, despite them being his trademark features to be adored by the people for almost four decades. Not anymore.

Mr Mugabe misjudged the mood of the men and women of the party when he clandestinely tried to elevate Mrs Mugabe to the post of president at the expense of war veterans who fought for independence with him.

His failure to judge the loathing of his wife by rank and file cost him the presidency – and may be his family too.

As the veteran nonagenarian is desperately looking for his political bearings to stay relevant, he doesn’t seem to be having many friends at political level, both at home and abroad. Even those who voiced concern are not the men in Mandela calibre, when it comes to integrity and sacrifices made in line with their political ideals.

For instance, Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, said he was concerned about the situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Having spoken to Mr Mugabe by telephone, Mr Zuma said that ‘President Mugabe is confined, but fine,’
The fact of the matter is that President Zuma’s political career is not certain either, he is under spotlight too, in the middle of a major investigation involving his family members.

President Mugabe and the leaders in his calibre in the developing world often use the freedom from the colonial powers as the single most achievement in the history of the respective nation to stir up superficial patriotism or play the race card in order to stay in power as long as they could – perhaps until death.

The ugly nature of excesses committed by family members, henchmen and top bureaucrats shows the so-called freedom does include freedom to loot the nations, freedom to abuse power and freedom to blame everything on the former colonial powers, when things get tough and out of hand while playing the conspiracy card.

During the past decade, Mr Mugabe has been doing exactly the same, while his people going through enormous suffering as a whole. Mrs Mugabe, meanwhile, has been doing what every spoilt spouse of leader of Mr Mugabe’s calibre doing to cover the tracks of misdeeds – doing charity work with a compassionate heart!

Unfortunately, Karma has caught up with both of them – and the extended family. It’s a lesson for any leader who abuses the combination of democracy and patriotism to rule eternally without giving anything in return for the masses - with the delusional assumption that the individual in question has no substitute.

- Asian Tribune -

Robert Mugabe: falling for Grace that led to falling from grace
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