Wednesday, September 17, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
September 15, 2008

It was as shocking as it was true. Mugabe’s live broadcast speech on BBC achieved one objective. It gave him a perfect platform to blast his American and British foes. With confidence, he stated that those nations had no role to play in Zimbabwe. Another thing, it gave him an opportunity to mend his relations with the rest of Africa, more so with fellow SADC members such as Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania that earlier on had condemned his conduct after the March 2008 elections.

Under the circumstances, Robert Mugabe did a fantastic job of reclaiming his place among the Zimbabwean people. He talked with confidence and authority of an experienced African leader. He measured his statements carefully, never reading from any script. He made sure he took proper advantage of being the last speaker; and being that, he had the last word.

In ensuring he drowned everything else said before him by his new partners, he focused on thanking the African brothers who stood by Zimbabwe during his struggle for Independence. He had kind words for Frontline States such as Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia that sacrificed everything during Zimbabwe’s independence struggle. He recognized the presidents of Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, King Muswati of Swatziland and the President of DRC.

His cunning speech showered praise on Thabo Mbeki of South Africa; a man that at one time was doubted for being up to the task for the Zimbabwean crisis. To Mugabe’s delight, the Zimbabwean crisis was solved purely by Africans and not foreign Western powers as he had wanted it to be.

His speech largely ignored the current Zimbabwean political and economic crisis. More evidently he seemed to have largely ignored his new partners in the government; derisively referring to them as his two MDC partners. And he never lost an opportunity to remind them that his experience in running the government would come in handy for them.

Earlier on, he had dwelt so much on his running battles with the British and the Americans to the extent that Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Thabo Mbeki could be seen fidgeting on their seats; not to mention the discomfort that was written all over Tzvangirai’s face!

Now that Robert Mugabe has signed a deal to share power with his opposition colleagues, one wonders how much power he will really give away, considering that the opposition partners have finally recognized him as the head of state and head of the cabinet. One wonders how much respect Robert Mugabe will give to his partners and even the leeway to run their dockets.

Compared to the Kenyan situation, ours was more dramatic and violent. First, Kibaki had ruled for only five years with a lot of turmoil in between. He had really not settled in power; unlike Mugabe who begins to share power after 28 years of uninterrupted absolute authority. The other thing is that in Kenya, it was the opposition mass movement that forced the international community to intervene. In Zimbabwe, opposition followers together with their leaders were on the run.
They were under siege. The international community stepped in to salvage a battered population that was largely helpless.

When Raila Odinga agreed to negotiate with Mwai Kibaki, he did it from a position of strength. The international community had recognized that without him in government, there would be no peace in Kenya because the elections had clearly been stolen and ordinary Kenyans were in no mood for a compromise. This was not the case with Morgan Tzvangirai and his other MDC partner. Chances of Mugabe doing a Nkomo on them are very high. He can bring them into his government then neutralize their power bases from within.

One way in which Mugabe may deal with them is at the stage of forming a coalition cabinet. He may choose to sponsor rebellions among party leaders. If he opts for that strategy, Morgan Tzvangirai’s base will be neutralized in less than two years. It will really be up to the new partners to stand up to Uncle Bob and demand what is truly theirs according to the spirit of the accord.

More importantly, let us hope that like the Kenyan accord, this will be a stop gap measure to allow the Zimbabwean nation to heal, find its bearing and build democratic institutions that will safeguard it from future dictatorships such as the one they have suffered in the last ten years. More importantly, this is the kind of democracy that the whole of Africa must abhor and discourage. Dictators cannot be allowed to share power after stealing elections!