Are Robert Mugabe’s days numbered? Can he possible engineer a “dignified” exit from his role of Africa’s most decorated dictator?
The news reports this week suggest that Mugabe may finally be history. He has lost control of the Parliament, and he can’t possible win a presidential run-off against a single candidate. So say journalists and observers near the scene. I am far away, in California, a new term at Stanford starting and Zimbabwe seemingly far away. Yet Zimbabwe is one of those places where distance makes the heart grow fonder — and the mind clearer.
Once Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe was the first of the “apartheid” post-colonial states to give way to a black-run government. Mugabe did well for a time as Zimbabwe’s economic steward. That is easy to forget. Since 2000, he’s been unhinged, bent on wrecking the economy by driving out both energetic white farmers and talented black professionals, merchants and even laborers. State-failure does not begin to describe Zimbabwe’s condition. Indeed, Mugabe’s ability to hold together a state that offers nothing to his people represents a new disease model in the pathologies of African governance. Even today, opponents of Mugabe act as if they can inherit a functioning state apparatus that will bounce back like a dry plant that gets proper watering.
The world will see what Zimbabwe has left after the ravages of Mugabe; the big question is how soon will the old man go? The sudden optimism regarding an imminent departure may prove misplaced. Mugabe’s henchmen may see a presidential run-off as easier to rig and another electoral campaign may serve, in their twisted minds, merely to flush more Mugabe opponents into the open.
Keep shedding tears for Zimbabweans. Their cheers and joy cannot yet be heard.