Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe decided to create what is referred to as a ‘cliffhanger’ moment’ for the elections that are due tomorrow. He did so by holding a press conference on the eve of Zimbabwe’s 2018 ‘harmonised’ election. In the press conference he held, he indicated that he was ousted against his will. The former first lady, Grace Mugabe’s voice could be heard in the background asking him to sit up and confirming his pension amounts (US$467 000). And that he resigned in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe. He also said that we must return to ‘constitutionalism’ while making reference to the liberation struggle.
He also made it clear that he is not going to vote for what he referred to as his ‘tormentors’, an evident reference to those that toppled him from power. His choice appears to be set on any of the other remaining twenty-two candidates. While making reference to the Nelson Chamisa as being ‘on the rise’ and how he wishes him well if he wins.
Mugabe is obviously a bitter man. Bitter against his own former party and his long standing comrades in the liberation struggle who abandoned him. And again emphasizing the liberation dictum that it should be politics directing the gun and not the reverse. With the caveat of bluntly stating that the ‘military intervention’ of November 2017 was a ‘thorough coup-de-tat’.
He then asked whether todays election is about bringing democracy or whether it is about the return of the same rule that the country had experienced since November 2017. And added that he will congratulate whichever party wins the day and that Zimbabweans should accept the electoral verdict especially if voting day brings ‘good news’. Together with Zimbabweans getting their freedom back.
All of the contents of his press conference were meant to be dramatic. In fact they were meant to say vote for anyone else but his successor Emerson Mnangagwa. Especially after he mentioned that he preferred Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor and was going to announce his own resignation at an extraordinary Zanu Pf Congress that had been slated for December 2017.
There are many ways to views this extraordinary political development. Obviously as orchestrated by Mugabe’s wife and henchmen Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao and Saviour Kasukuwere it was intended to be some sort of ‘shock therapy’ politics. Wherein the Zimbabwean populace would forget Mugabe’s undemocratic long rule of 37 years and swing the vote in favour or the opposition. Almost any opposition so long they have their key political asset (Mugabe) to bargain with and regain a proximity to political power.
Those that he would want to fight against (Mnangagwa and co), in power as they are, allowed the press conference because they know Mugabe is unpopular and a public appearance where he condemns their intervention (or his ouster) will add to their political capital on election day.
What is clearer is that Mugabe (and probably his wife) wanted to be a factor in the 2018 election. By way of influencing the ordinary rural voter’s perception and the urban voter’s ambivalence. And also tacitly endorsing MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s candidature (Mugabe is not voting for Mujuru or Khupe and definitely not Mnangagwa as he inferred in his presser).
They may have some impact but I think its too little too late on their part. Even though their knowledge of how Zanu Pf works will work against Mnangagwa’s vote count. And that remnants of their supporters will try and upset the ‘new dispensation’ apple cart.
But it is apparent that Mugabe does not have the country at heart. He is not only bitter but also suffering from political amnesia and trying to do a Pontius Pilate on the country. It has always been about him and him alone. And there’s the rub. His failure as a leader brought him to where he is. That he has problems with his one time right hand man is none of our business. That he collapsed the economy, embraced neo-liberalism and led a government that has been accused of torturing and killing thousands of Zimbabweans for his own political survival is what we remember. So on the basis of democratic value and principle, Mugabe’s opinion is exactly that. Just an opinion. And whoever he publicly backs has the obligation to denounce him. Completely.