The turning tide in Zimbabwe has highlighted the despotic intransigency of President Robert Mugabe and how it should be handled.
Zimbabwe is important in the African scheme of things because – unlike countries such as Israel or the UK – it is in Africa and stands as a living example of many problems affecting other countries: democracy (US), land rights (South Africa) and transfer of presidential power (South Africa).
On Thursday Mugabe’s biggest support group, the War Veterans, repudiated him in clear terms. What started as a national protest led by Pastor Evan Mawarire has now turned to one of the most embarrassing exits from power since the late Mobutu Sese Seko, former military dictator of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, was chauffeured to the airport. Mugabe faces the same fate, albeit with a more literate population. Will they allow Mugabe to relinquish power and remain unaccountable?
The War Veterans’ letter, which describes him as “egomaniacal, manipulative and dictatorial”, says that Mugabe is the mastermind behind the current downward spiral of Zimbabwe. It is bold, factual and reads like the charge sheet for some international prosecutor in the near future. The war crimes attributed to Mugabe include many instances of state-sanctioned murder, kidnap and “disappearances”.
Then there is the issue of Mugabe’s wealth, which, according to Forbes Magazine, stands at $3 billion (R43 billion).
The “new” Zimbabwe needs its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission to dissect the accusations and charges against Mugabe before democracy can be seriously considered.
The letter by the War Veterans was long overdue. Finally, a group with serious power in Zimbabwe realised what everyone has been saying for the past 20 years. It is now up to other parties to play their role to set into precedent some institutional structures for democratisation in volatile countries like Zimbabwe.
For one, the African Union must denounce Mugabe. Secondly, the UN must set up a commission to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity by Mugabe. Lastly, South Africa must facilitate the safe return of Zimbabweans from South Africa for an election in the near future.
A new dawn has risen in Zimbabwe, and I am happy for every Zimbabwean. It is time this beautiful country gets the loving leadership it deserves. And it is also time that Africa, and South Africa in particular, stop ignoring the white elephant in the room. Mugabe’s “sovereign state” defence cannot be used to suppress popular dissent – that is a poor choice of words for a learned man.
Curiously, you cannot find a single person who supported apartheid in South Africa today. Will it be a similar case when the repressive regime of Mugabe is discussed?
Perhaps, owing to xenophobia, Zimbabweans are expected to accept a lesser form of democracy.
Sibanda is a US constitutional attorney and the author of International Law: Peace Accords