Robert Mugabe has secured a ‘huge majority’ by rigging Zimbabwe’s 2013 presidential election. His main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, has decried the election as fraudulent, merely voicing what all international observers already know.
The result, whilst inevitable, is a huge disappointment for a country whose people have been denied progress by the megalomaniacal rule of Mugabe. Some in Zimbabwe may still be fooled by his promises of land redistribution and wealth creation yet he can point to few, if any, real ‘achievements’.
Greater patience is often shown to ‘liberation leaders’, people deemed to have freed their country from the imperial yoke. A key figure in the Rhodesian Bush Wars against the white-minority government that preceded the Zimbabwean state, Mugabe is still revered by many Africans. As with many other ‘liberation leaders’, however, he has failed to live up to expectations.
It is interesting to note the observations of two Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) investigators who visited detained leaders of the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU) in 1972. This was part of the Pearce Commission, which had been established to listen to public opinion regarding proposed settlement plans for Rhodesia, whose leader Ian Smith had unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965.
Under the terms of the settlement, increased aid and support for black Rhodesians was to be provided by Britain and plans were to be laid out for the future transfer of rule to the black majority. Such a future seemed too distant for many of the blacks, who largely opposed the settlement.
This was certainly what the two FCO monitors discovered on their Zimbabwean tour. They were presented with eloquent handwritten letters of obstinacy by many ZANU campaigners who were detained in prison. Several pointed to the gross inequalities between white and black citizens. For instance, in 1970 there were 5.2 million black Africans in Rhodesia, compared to 249,000 whites yet there were only 2,545 black school leavers with four years secondary experience in comparison to nearly 5,000 whites.
Additionally, European land in Rhodesia amounted to 44,948,300 acres (168 acres per capita) compared to 44,949,100 acres for blacks (only 9 acres per capita). Such disparities would not disappear under the proposed settlement, the ZANU campaigners argued.
One detainee railed against the agreement between the British government and the ‘illegal regime in Rhodesia’, claiming it had ‘shocked the African people of this country’. ‘The entire investigation was carried out without the participation of the African people’, the man argued.
Such anger was reflected in other testimonies yet, despite being mentioned on the detainee list, Robert Mugabe provided no such incendiary material and did not even speak to the monitors.
Like so many other dictators, Mugabe appears to be driven far more by the lust for power than by any political or social philosophy. His whole rule has been geared towards a retention of the power granted to him by a grateful populace who saw in him a liberation leader prepared to listen to the common man.
His disgraceful, selfish rule – enabled by his ability to repress the population with physical and emotional intimidation – has ruined Zimbabwe which, like so many African countries, has the natural resources and manpower to become prosperous.
Rather than addressing the issues put before the Pearce Commission in 1972, he has enriched a select few cronies (especially those in the army) whilst the majority of the population has been forced to suffer in silence.
Now, they must tolerate another five years of his rule. It can only be hoped that, at 89, Mugabe’s time for tyranny is running out.