Zimbabweans have earnestly looked forward to Robert Mugabe's death, that apparently being the only way to be free of his tyrannical regime.
Alas, the day of death has been long delayed for the despot.
Last week though, with nonagenarian intuitions of mortality, Mugabe fired his vice-president to make way for his wife, some forty years his junior, to succeed him. The military then quickly stepped in to declare an end to an agonizingly prolonged misadventure in corrupt governance. The generals opted to simply confine him, rather than give Mugabe the Marcos treatment (immediate exile) or the full Ceausescu (summary execution). Tears would not have been shed in either case.
What will follow Mugabe remains to be seen. More than a few times Africans have suffered the sun setting upon one dictator only to rise upon another. But let Zimbabweans take a long awaited moment of satisfaction at the passing from the scene of the last of the African "liberation" leaders who was anything but.
In 1980, when Zimbabwe got independence from Britain, the (largely ceremonial) presidency was held by Canaan Banana, with Mugabe serving as prime minister. The joke made the rounds that Zimbabwe was the first nation to be literally a "Banana republic." The totalitarian ethos was present from the beginning, and given that the top banana did not care for the citizenry making fun of him, in due course it was made illegal to make jokes about the presidential surname.
There was little laughter for the suffering people of Zimbabwe. Mugabe tired of pretending that he was not the maximum ruler, and so, in 1987, he peeled off Banana and took over as president himself, where he remained as chief authoritarian until last week. Banana ran into trouble after he left office, when it was revealed that he "helped himself" (as he indelicately put it) sexually to his subordinates. His modus operandi was more Bill Cosby than Bill Clinton, and his taste ran to men rather than women, but unlike the latter, he was actually convicted. He fled to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela persuaded Banana to return home to face his sentence.
The totalitarian ethos was present from the beginning, and given that the top banana did not care for the citizenry making fun of him, in due course it was made illegal to make jokes about the presidential surname.
It remains a black spot on the sainted Mandela's record that he was indulgent of Mugabe's continued misrule in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Perhaps it was deference to Mugabe as belonging to the first generation of African leaders, perhaps it was gratitude that during apartheid various leaders of the African National Congress took refuge across the border in Zimbabwe. For whatever reason, Mandela did not employ his considerable moral authority to bring an end to the impoverishment of Zimbabwe at the hands of a Marxist kleptocrat who, amongst other things, ran a brutally racist regime, encouraging violence against the white minority.
African leaders who voluntarily leave office are a minority. Besides Mandela, that small band includes the late Julius Nyerere, a man of great integrity and Christian socialism, who was Tanzania's first independent president. In 1978, the otherwise pacific Nyerere sent his troops into neighbouring Uganda to depose and exile the psychopath and cannibal Idi Amin, one of the planet's most distasteful leaders. There was no Nyerere to depose Mugabe, and so Zimbabwe "liberation" was delayed nearly four decades and counting.
In 1999, I was in Zimbabwe on a mission trip. One morning, we left Bulawayo for a long drive into the back country. Before we left, we went into a gas station that had a coffee shop with a television showing Mugabe giving a speech. Three or four hours later, at another coffee shop in another gas station, Mugabe was on TV. I asked if it was a news report; no, it was the same speech. It wasn't a surprise that the megalomaniac was given to delivering Castro-length speeches. It was a surprise that his grip on the country was so deadly that even in remote gas stations people felt obliged to keep him on TV, lest informants pass any hint of disloyalty on to the regime's local thugs.
Mugabe addressed the nation again the other day, declining to resign. But this time the people were not inclined to listen. He was removed from office. Finally, Mugabe's long speeches, and even longer regime, require assent no more.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Zimbabweans get long-awaited deliverance from the evil Mugabe." National Post, (Canada) November 21, 2017.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2017 National Post
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