Robert Mugabe: The Proverbial Drunken Uncle

At every African funeral, family fissures are brought to the forefront by an uncle. Family members with an axe to grind provide copious amounts of alcohol to that loud uncle who is then tasked with the duty of raising unsavory issues. In his drunken stupor, the uncle harangues in-laws, interjects, jeers and often makes salacious revelations—usually regarding the deceased’s debts or extra-marital affairs. Once the funeral is over, the uncle sobers up and invokes plausible deniability by conveniently blaming sorghum beer for his diatribe.

Robert Mugabe missed another golden opportunity—after his decade long of self- imposed CNN embargo—to show the world that he is not a delusional schizophrenic despot. Mugabe used the CNN platform instead as a pulpit for hate speech. The truth behind his land grab is now common knowledge. Admonishing Zimbabwean whites, maligning the opposition, blaming the West for Zimbabwe’s ills, and incessantly cursing imaginary imperialists is outmoded rhetoric.

The USA, EU, UK, Australia, Canada and indeed any nation has the sovereign right to deny entry, trade or association with any individual or nation which these governments deem threatening to world peace and regional tranquility.

There exist no economic sanctions against the Republic of Zimbabwe by any member of the United Nations. The onus is on Mugabe to prove to the world which economic sanctions he refers to. Which UN resolution or an act of Congress or Parliament, from which country, imposed economic sanctions on the people and Republic of Zimbabwe?

The International Monetary Fund has released US$409 million dollar to the Ministry of Finance, President Barack Obama of the U.S. announced a U.S. $73 million aid package when Tsvangirai visited the White House, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany offered €20 million euros (US$28 million).

Prime Minister Brown followed this up by announcing an increase in British aid to £60 million ($100 million), five million pounds ($8 million) of which is new money for food security and educational supplies and textbooks. Australia announced this month that it would also contribute an extra A$8 million (R51m) in aid to Zimbabwe to fund emergency food supplies, agriculture projects and help reinvigorate education.

In August the World Global Fund donated US$37 million to fight HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, Botswana gave US$ 70 million and South Africa released 300 million rand (US$31 million or €23 million) for agricultural aid to Zimbabwe.

Yet at the same time Mugabe’s ministers and his inner circle are driving around in German built luxury cars, chatting on 3G smart phones—what sanctions?

Mugabe accused Britain and the United States of seeking to oust him by imposing economic sanctions; the effects of which he said were worsened by years of drought. “The sanctions are unjustified, illegal … they are meant for regime change, they are meant to address that illegal principle.”

Mugabe uses the same sovereign right to admonish persons with whom he has political disagreements or opposes ZANU (PF) policies. Specification of entrepreneurs and business owners is now the weapon of choice for misappropriating private property.

Mugabe unilaterally pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth, saying, “Zimbabwe quits and quits will be,” likening the Commonwealth to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Only last week Mugabe offended the entire SADC legal fraternity by withdrawing a High Court judge, Justice Antonia Guvava, whom it had seconded to the legal regional authority in 2005. Through his equally noxious Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, he described the SADC Tribunal as “just like someone sitting under a tree” and purporting to be “dispensing justice”.

The Tribunal is being punished and maligned by ZANU (PF) for its legal ruling which would have compelled Mugabe to account for the multiple farms he and his light-fingered cronies have amassed under the guise of righting a colonial wrong.

Why are travel restrictions, asset freezes and personal sanctions imposed on Robert Mugabe and his associates in the first place? All Mugabe has to do is to revert to the rule of law, and his wife Grace will be shopping at Harrods for Christmas.

Robert Mugabe needs to urgently refrain from redundant vitriolic hate speech, which does nothing to close the Grand Canyon of differences that exist between his failed authoritarian decree and democracy. The time for hate speech belongs to the archives of cold war geopolitics and stale colonial history. Zimbabwe needs all the help it can get to extricate herself from the dire economic quagmire which Mugabe has created through hatred and archaic policies

Chikomo, shata divi asi rimwe rutivi rutambire pwere – a small hill must be difficult to climb on one side, but the other side must be a playground for children - even the most evil man must possess redeeming features – Shona proverb.

The drought cannot be blamed for the failure of Zimbabwe’s food production, drought is a permanent feature in Southern Africa’s rain pentads and should be planned for in the government’s forecasts. Zimbabwe has experienced four major droughts (in 1982–1984, 1986–1987, 1991–1992, 1994–1995 and 2002-2003). During some of these drought years, Zimbabwe produced its highest yield of tobacco, flowers and other non food crops for export, which offset the importation of food. The government’s Grain Marketing Board (GMB) even managed to export grain during two drought years.

Zimbabwe’s population has risen from just over 7 million at Independence in 1980 to more than 13 million in 2009, yet overall cereal and grain production has declined.

The rain patterns of Southern Africa are influenced by the same weather system – the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone – ITCZ. Why then are all our neighbouring countries expecting bumper grain harvests and Zimbabwe, in the middle, blames successive droughts?

Zimbabwe needs a leader who wages war against poverty and corruption, a leader who believes in the rule of law, and a leader willing to sacrifice all to attain sustainable prosperity for his countrymen. Instead we have been given a leader who is the “drunken uncle,” showing up at important events to humiliate other family members and bring shame on the family name.

Phil Matibe –

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