Grace Mugabe Poised for Succession: Zimbabwe’s Poisoned Future

Those in Zimbabwe looking forward to the end of the Mugabe era may yet be disappointed. Whilst Robert Mugabe, 90, can surely only have a few years left on this earth – though it has to be said he has defied all medical expectations in recent years – it is now looking increasingly likely that he will be succeeded by his wife Grace.

Grace Mugabe has quickly positioned herself as a potential successor to her husband
Grace Mugabe has quickly positioned herself as a potential successor to her husband

Grace Mugabe, a sprightly 49, is widely unpopular in Zimbabwe for her frequent shopping trips abroad, the absence of a freedom-fighting background and her seeming disregard for the average citizen. However, nominated to lead the ruling ZANU-PF Women’s League, Grace has started to voice her political ambitions with growing regularity. Her main focus at the moment, it seems, is to discredit current Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, once a Mugabe ally and potential successor, now seemingly out of favour.

Whilst sons still regularly follow their fathers into power, a wife succeeding a husband is rare. Indeed, despite not having even officially announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s prospects are being questioned by some who find the idea of the Clinton’s ruling the White House again to be distasteful; a monopolisation of the political zeitgeist is feared.

Succeeding a spouse to the leadership of a nation can lead to a lack of legitimacy, even when the transfer of power is secured by a popular vote. Argentina has had two such experiments in recent decades. First, Isabel Peron replaced her husband Juan on his death in 1974 and oversaw a disastrous period in Argentine history. The economy foundered, human rights abuses became widespread and the scene was set for a military dictatorship that would destroy the soul of the nation.

Isabel Peron's disastrous reign set the stage for military rule in Argentina
Isabel Peron’s disastrous reign set the stage for military rule in Argentina

In 2007, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was elected president after her husband, Nestor, stepped down. Whilst she has won the popular vote twice, Kirchner’s rule has come under increasing scepticism in recent years. A corrupt political elite, unsubtle press censorship and gross economic mismanagement have undermined Argentina’s future and prevented it moving firmly away from the dark days of dictatorship.

These examples are not to suggest that there could never be a successful transition of power from husband to wife. Yet when a regime which is already politically bankrupt – like Zimbabwe now and, to an extent, Argentina in the cases given – employs the policy of family succession to the leadership of the country, it reinforces that nation’s refusal to evolve.

For Zimbabwe, such a policy could lead to the sort of widespread social unrest that Robert Mugabe has somehow avoided precipitating. His wife, however, with no political experience to speak of, would be heavily reliant on the military to do her bidding. And how long will the military stand in silent support when Zimbabwe fails to develop under its new head of state?

Military influence in Zimbabwean politics would increase if Grace Mugabe succeeded her husband
Military influence in Zimbabwean politics would increase if Grace Mugabe succeeded her husband

Colonial Failure in the New World in the Sixteenth Century: a French and German Comparison

Colonial Failure in the New World in the 16th Century (Download full text)

Abstract

During the first half of the sixteenth century attempts were made by Europeans to colonise Venezuela and Canada, as the rush for land in the New World increased at pace. Yet these colonial attempts have largely been forgotten by history despite the legacies they left both for Europe and the American continent itself. There are two reasons why these ventures have been overlooked. Firstly, they were non-Iberian. Secondly, they both failed. The efforts of the Welser merchant-banking company to colonise Venezuela (1528-1556) and the French Crown to settle Canada (1541-1543) have been subordinated in the historical literature to the successful colonisation carried out by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the New World, which began at the end of the fifteenth century, and led to imperial empires. Indeed, the phenomenon of colonial failure as a whole has remained relatively unpopular amongst academics. Whilst some more “popular” failed colonies have been studied individually, there has been no comparative approach to determine the shared causes for failure amongst a number of unsuccessful enterprises during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This work shall look to produce such a comparative, using the Welser and French colonies as case studies, given their underrepresentation in the literature. It shall use the few available primary sources, as well as foreign-language studies, to give a detailed understanding of the factors that caused the colonies to fail. A lack of preparedness, a lust for riches amongst the colonists, and poor foreign relations shall be identified as the three main causes for failure, each of which could be applied to a greater or lesser extent to other failed colonies. These attempts at colonisation shaped the early settlement patterns in the New World, impacted upon the social and political structures of the native populace and led to considerable alteration of the natural environment. It is important that we increase our understanding of them.

The Price of Justice: Molla execution threatens Bangladesh stability

The decision by the Bangladesh government to uphold and carry out the death sentence handed down to Islamist leader Abdul Quader Molla for crimes committed during the country’s war of independence threatens to revive old wounds and in the process destabilise security on the streets of Dhaka.

Molla's execution may spark unrest
Molla’s execution may spark unrest

Molla was convicted by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) of inciting acts of atrocities during the 1971 independence struggle and was executed this evening. In 1971, East Pakistan defied the Pakistani government and declared independence, sparking the war that would lead to the creation of Bangladesh. Molla was accused of aiding and abetting the forces of the Pakistan government in their attempts to prevent the breakaway of the country’s eastern province.

A senior member of Jamaat-e-Islami, a strict Islamist political group, Molla and his compatriots opposed Bangladeshi independence. On the formation of the Bangladeshi state in 1971, the party was outlawed, only rejoining the political fray in the 1980s.

Pakistani troops, along with Jamaat-e-Islami and various other anti-independence militias, are accused of carrying out a genocide against the Bengali people of East Pakistan. The scale of the atrocities encouraged India to enter the war of independence in opposition to its erstwhile enemy. It took the ruling Awami League until 2009 to establish the Bangladeshi ICT, such was the concern at the potential revelations any high-profile trials might reveal.

Mass graves became a common sight in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971. Up to 3m innocent civilians were killed
Mass graves became a common sight in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971. Up to 3m innocent civilians were killed

However naturally brutal conflict is, the act of executing and raping innocent civilians is criminally unacceptable and someone must pay the price. It would have been easy for the Bangladesh government to allow a further stay of execution for Molla, knowing the reprisals that his Islamist followers are likely to unleash.

Fortunately, the majority of the population are on the side of the government, proven by the candlelit protests in favour of tonight’s execution. Indeed, history must be confronted if a nation in its infancy, which Bangladesh remains, is to create a unified national identity.

Nelson Mandela’s death has brought the theme of reconciliation to the fore in recent days. Such a noble sentiment is explicable in certain cases but it must be married alongside the need for justice.

It is hoped that the supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami recognise the need to punish their wartime leaders. If they can swallow this bitter pill then they will attain greater legitimacy as a political force.

Such an outcome, unfortunately, is not expected. The organisation’s website has already called for mobilisation against the ‘autocratic’ government to oppose the ‘heinous crime’ committed. Battlelines look set to be drawn on the home front once more.

The public executions of Pakistani collaborators after Bangladesh independence has not been forgotten by Jamaat-e-Islami
The public executions of Pakistani collaborators after Bangladesh independence has not been forgotten by Jamaat-e-Islami