The Unlimited Grace Of Mugabe

Mugabe disowned by his most trusted

Zimbabwe has been in the limelight for the past decade. President Robert Mugabe stands as one of the rare African leaders to have defied Western pressure and sanctions with the ability to get away with it. However, with the new pressure mounting on Mugabe and following the military takeover of affairs in Zimbabwe, Mugabe has not survived this episode of the story. This time around, the pressure came from within, from a group of people Mugabe had trusted most throughout his 37 year stewardship at the helm of the Southern African country. The military, backed by the War Association in Zimbabwe, asked Mugabe to step down for the first time to allow a new era to dawn in Zimbabwe. Moreover, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU-PF), his own party jointly founded with Joshua Nkomo in 1987, following the merger between ZANU and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union), also challenged Mugabe’s continuous stay at the country’s state house in his capacity as Head of State and on Sunday dismissed him as First Secretary of the party (Party leader) to be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to the Zimbabwe Defense Force (ZDF), they are stepping in as a matter of saving the nation from those they claim have been causing economic and political hardship to the people. Even when the military took over it still argued that Mugabe remained the President of the Republic but affirmed that they would not allow any person other than a war veteran to lead the people. On the part of the War Veterans Association, Mugabe and his wife went too far and they could no longer sit and watch how the wife of the president, Grace, is hijacking the nation with her rhetoric. Other voices have also been heard including the President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who has promised a safe haven for Mugabe in the event that he leaves power. The US Secretary of State has also opined that the people of Zimbabwe must be allowed to choose their leaders.

The difficulties of leaving power

President Mugabe is undoubtedly one of the last African liberation leaders of his generation who is still alive and most importantly still in power. Most of his likes including Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda, Sam Nujoma have either died or left power, but despite his advancement in age (93), Mugabe still enjoyed the luxury of power which became synonymous to his existence on earth since he ascended the throne in 1980. Despite the imposition of uncountable sanctions on Zimbabwe by western governments, Mugabe was still able to comfort himself in the Presidential seat. This was further compounded by the emergence of a new self-imposing politician within the Mugabe cycle, his wife.

With her sudden rise to prominence in recent years, Grace Mugabe certainly became the steam engine empowering Robert to cling to power as she had nursed Presidential ambitions. Despite the pressure from all corners including the ZANU-PF which has passed a vote of no confidence on Grace Mugabe, leader of the Women’s wing of the party, Mugabe still could not backed out as confirmed by his cousin; the couple believed even in their last days that there was more grace to keep them afloat. Other sources argued that Mugabe was still looking for more post-presidential guarantees so that he can have a befitting retirement. However, Mugabe has a huge appetite for power; some observers hold that he was just playing for time in order to employ one of his tactics and sail through again as he has been doing in the past 37 years. Even with pressure from abroad, especially some African leaders like Nigeria’s Buhari and Ivory Coast’s Ouattara, for Mugabe to step down he still maintained his grip on power which was reminiscence of his life as a President where he has bluffed in many instances of foreign meddling in the affairs of his country.

However, being a hero highly hailed for his role in the liberation struggle in the 1970s, Mugabe is seemingly frustrated at the trend of events, owing to the fact that he entered as a hero and is now being chased as a zero. That is why in all its ramifications, he insisted on finishing his mandate which ends next year, so that the stigma of being chased out or leaving unceremoniously like other leaders would not be anywhere around him. This is informed by the fact that, even at 93, Mugabe still believes he has not run short of the grace of leadership which was bestowed on him by the people of Zimbabwe.

Gracing Robert

Even though a controversial figure to the West, Mugabe is highly reverenced in Africa and Zimbabwe for the role he played in liberating the country from white minority rule in 1980. Since then, Mugabe has been in power and Zimbabweans have known only one leader since the independence of the country in 1980. However, his early days were very good with a flourishing economy, education and health sector. But with time, the downward trend set in and opposition started emanating from within, especially with his policy of seizing large parcels of lands owned by white farmers. Despite these criticisms and opposition, Mugabe received more grace to continue on the throne in the mid 1990s.

In 1996, Robert Gabriel got married to his former Secretary after the death of his first wife, Sally Hayfron in 1993. After spending many years in the dark, the new First Lady, Grace Mugabe emerged in the late 2000s to be the real dynamo empowering Robert to cling to power. As her name goes, she brought more grace when Mugabe was feeling weak and the 93-year-old could still retained power even at an era when some long serving African leaders are stepping out of their wills or forced by popular uprisings to relinquished power.

Grace Mugabe soon took the front line in Zimbabwean politics and became the Head of the ZANU-PF’s Women’s Wing. She was seen taking tough stances on political issues touching on the power dynamics in Zimbabwe. Grace challenged most of the President’s close allies which led to the sacking of Former Vice President, Joyce Mujuru in 2014. It was rumoured that Mugabe’s cling to power was a gesture to give Grace more time to prepare to succeed him and she did not fail to express her desire for the top job. Grace specifically pointed this out when Mnangagwa was sacked two weeks ago and it was widely believed that Grace would succeed Mugabe after he steps down. This was where everything got sour as Zimbabweans including the Zimbabwean National War Veterans’ Association and civil society groups argued that Grace Mugabe has gone beyond her limits; she has not limited her grace.

Despite the popular uprising against Mugabe fashioned by the military, many Zimbabweans still wanted him to be treated with respect, which is a reason why it took a negotiated settlement for him to leave. Most blame Grace Mugabe for going beyond her grace while Robert’s case was that he failed to limit the grace of his young buoyant wife. Certainly, with age on his side it was difficult for him to put a limit to the powers of a lady 41 year her junior. At the time of independence in 1980, Grace Ntombizodwa as she was called was just a little 15-year-old girl who never fully understood the story of liberation while Mugabe was already well advanced in age (56), ideas and thoughts and was surrounded by people of his generation. Based on her background she certainly came to state house with a different perception of life and was unable to contain the President’s cohorts who had fought with him during the liberation struggle. In less than no time, Mugabe was parting ways with his old friends in crime including Mnangagwa, his onetime bodyguard and trusted confident—this was the last stroke on the Carmel’s back which cost the President his job. Moreover, with Grace rapidly moving closer to power, it was a bitter pile even people closest to Mugabe could not contain.

Because of this the military, war Veterans, ZANU-PF and Zimbabweans of all works of life, turned against Mugabe and challenged the grace of lifetime presidency in his life by showing him the door. It was one of the biggest oppositions to a seating President in the world, a President who is one of the most educated the world has ever had with more than 8 degrees where people from his own inner circle in crime turned against him. Mugabe came to power when the applause was growing but failed to leave when it was at its peak.