One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. George Orwell

Tariro Kapurura | How do dictators survive? How do they mesmerise and manipulate their subjects to the position of becoming cult figures who offer nothing but superficial hope? How are dictators able to command great empires by sheer fear than love?  Is it really better to be feared than loved, as said by Nicolo Machiavelli? Conversely, why are dictators vulnerably controlled and often made to eventually succumb to unimaginable factors of insignificance degree? How, in the end of a well-established historical script and military might, dictators can happen to be outsmarted by non-political thunders of mystery, is a riddle yet to be untangled. In all the above-mentioned scenarios, the Mugabe legacy certainly gives us an academic licence for an educational debate around the model of dictatorship in modern history.

Why? Because it is crucial to agonisingly appreciate how these Pharaotic Kings, have driven forward the search for human understanding and social dynamics in various cultures of the world. In light of the above, we have to appreciate the wisdom from the researchers and political scientists, who have spent invaluable time burning out the candle lights, trying to fix and weave the puzzle of rationale to the existence and stubborn panache of the tyrannical phenomenon.

My interest is however, on the troubled history of Zimbabwe, whose Emperor is Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the mastermind of the ZANU PF trend and the shy son of the Shona people, but raised by his surrogate father, an English Catholic Father called Jerome O’hea. Heidi Holland, in her book Dinner with Mugabe states, “Against the odds, the angry little boy with no friends did become the king of the castle. But Robert’s diligence was also his way of coping with a universe he believed to be against him. Despite periods of contentment, he was to be consumed by distrust for the rest of his life”.

Dr Cicero, a Cambridge Professor, hints that our behaviour is still affected by what went on thousands of years ago. Therefore if anyone thinks that the colonial footsteps of the Zimbabwean history are to be forgotten and swept away, then they ought to painfully realise that the history books of Chimurenga (liberation struggle from British colonialism) will live on. The question is on how politically loud one has to read them and how necessary the history can be applied in the provision of the political therapy for the health of the nation.

The North Korea Kim Jong regime has lasted many years in spite of caving its people to desperate submission, and attributing all the problems to the American empire. In the parallel sense, in Zimbabwe any stand-up movement (whether from a White or Black man) is a symbol of colonial power – enemy of the state who is misinformed and non-sympathiser to the real Zimbabweans. In that parallel sense, the ZANU PF propaganda has re-played the same song of colonialism that still lingers on the shoulders of the history of Zimbabwe and blaming the sanctions and suffering of people on the British Empire.

The fact that anyone could create a flamboyant myth of representing Mbuya Nehanda (a pioneering liberation struggle icon) demonstrates that tyrannical families have a deliberate way of surviving in a religious or cult-based environment, more than sheer cultural normalcy. That in spite of the bodily harm to a young woman, a politician would manipulate an immunity and freedom from a fair trial to amazingly sneak through the justice system net, is almost a novel tale. However, in the tyrannical world, the more anyone tries to convince citizens that they are power-hungry and ruthless, the more they are likely to be taken seriously in their political manoeuvres. And so often, dictators derive political pleasure from enacting dramatic feuds and political clashes, and subsequently acting as if they are the ones who can remedy the situation and offer a real solution.

In a well-reviewed documentary, The Mask of Insanity, Checkley describes the psychopathic person as an “outwardly a perfect mimic of the normally functioning person; able to mask the fundamental lack of internal chaos that results in repeated destructive behaviour”. However, in the end the mask of sanity is intentionally hidden. A normal individual would jump out of their skin when watching a horror film than when engrossed in some serious matters. Conversely psychopaths are not horrified when they see people in chaos, confusion and commotion. It is a fertile ground for them to become more absorbed and eloquent in strategising and executing a shrewd move on the political chess board.

During the 19th Century, the German education system was the envy of the world. There was an advancement of the scientific and research education and training. This was the time of the Karl Benz and Rudolph Diesel- the automobile giant inventors. Why the highly educated Germans, during this golden time, embraced Adolph Hitler is a historical enigma. But Hitler was a master at stoking fear through the nationalism outlet and he opened the door to the fascinated audience that sat and watched his political performances. So often, erratic and volatile circumstances (social, political and economic) create theatrical show times for tyrants to drum up their publicity performances. Furthermore, when people become frustrated, angry and desperate they will give themselves up to the illogical popular segments of society, and mostly, to the dictators who can be seen as super-heroes to the external forces. Nevertheless, at the epitome of his superlative power no one could imagine that Hitler would cowardly shoot himself and his wife poisoning herself to death and their bodies set on fire.

Dictators often make beautiful lies and often controversial dialogues to eventually become winners through manipulation of being scrutinised and victimised by the external subjects. Mugabe has claimed that Zimbabwe is second to South Africa in regard to Africa economic advancement, and very recently saying that Mandela’s efforts did deal with apartheid but did not achieve the unanimous liberation to regain the land for the majority of Black people in South Africa. That a dictator, accurately and surgically identifies, not only the contents of their verbal arsenal, but the timing of expression, is often an undermined magic stick in unsettling the political waters for the dictators’ rewards.  That Mugabe would label Mr Trump as the golden Goliath at the 2017 UN conference, serves to make a political blueprint to a side-splitting stance of developing an unnecessary viral discussion and have the media light turn away from the real biting issues at home.

One of Hitler’ s greatest weapons, despite his dogs, among other things, was his mouth in offering wild optimism of nationalism and simultaneous anti-semitism in the same way as the ZANU PF party has won the Zimbabwean loyalty by appealing to the embattled mindsets of many people including the freedom fighters. Hitler rode on fake news against the Jews and promising to re-establish the sovereignty of the German empire greatness.  What is frightening in this analogue to Zimbabwe is the enduring troubling truth that ZANU PF leaders are still obsessed with patching up the ZANU brand and not the Zimbabwean national unity. They are still talking about the dark forces of imperialism and failing to provide the message of hope and optimism, even if times are hard, even if there is no hope, even if there is no other word to say, even if they have to sing “We shall overcome” songs.  

The ZANU brand has so much been CocaCola-ed and ostentatiously merged to the nationalism of Zimbabwe that any opponent to the brand does not deserve to be a true political customer or at minimum degree, is not a true son of the soil. The party has become a symbolic cult of loyalists and to cautious extent, self-minded nationalists. No wonder Mugabe has been wrapped up in the ZANU slogans phenomena of nationalism to even raise his shaking noble fist and wearing the ZANU logoed clothing saying “Pasi Ne ZANU”. The trouble with a single dominant party is the deepened and biased segregation that appears to be justified to those suffering from the pain of lacking freedom and witnessing injustice. To live together as one and even though with different opinions, to accept that there is a common seed in us to be Zimbabweans one motherland, to accept that anyone’s problem could be anyone’s resolve. I guess you are saying “not in this world”. But you must never forget that justice is what love looks like in public, as Dr Cornel West sums it up. As much as the western politics could be way different, Dr Martin Luther King Jr never confined himself to being solely the leader of black America- He advocated for the Biblical justice of living together and to fight the war of love above anything.

There are two tragedies in Mugabe’s reign that are still searching for explanations, if not answers. The Gukurahundi event where more than 20000 Ndebele civilians were ruthlessly killed by the Fifth brigade tainted the Mugabe legacy and to a great extent, the unity of Zimbabwean people. In the early 2000s the war veterans who had become frustrated at not being honourably compensated by the government, demanded that they got reimbursements in compensation or they were going to demand the land from the minority White farmers. To avoid a fall of political grace and embarrassing conclusion, Mugabe chose the land distribution highway.

The justifiable pride of owning our own land was however mixed with insidious and acrimonious events that opened a fresh and unnecessary wound in the heart of Zimbabwean politics. The ZANU PF elites took the lion’s share and the most productive parts of the land in the name of land justice, and compensation failures. Not undermining that in the late 1990s, the British government played a role in declining to honour the 1979 Lancaster House deal of guaranteed compensation for Britain’s settler farmers in Zimbabwe. The above-mentioned fallout established a formula to the development of a country that was going to become one of the most troubled countries on the universe. Above all, Mugabe was handed the king`s head on the platter to launch his pretext right to fight against those he distrusted, and chase away any spirit of economic strength and revitalisation in Zimbabwe and be the real leopard that hunts in darkness.

That Grace Mugabe is now the ZANU PF anchor and holding the keys to the presidential potential and extending the Mugabe legacy, should not be a surprise to the realisation that tyrants never invent their own opportunities. That she should pose and stage a leadership campaign, along the super old school war heroes likes of Mnangagwa and Mutsvanga and freely telling them to “stop it!” is proof that the soft and yet comical repression of people (especially those on the pinnacle of power) can work the wonder of controlling those in extended parameters of reach. In hindsight of this anyone could argue that maintenance of power is less an issue of harassing and show-casing victims and threats but manipulating every possible line of thought or advantage within the political horizon. No wonder the latest tirades of Grace Mugabe publicly heckling well-regarded men seem a far cry to the derailed dignity of the Zimbabwean politics, never mind the overflowing culture of honour often identified among the African people on the land of Afri!

Compare this to Amai Sally Hayfron Mugabe who in 1978 became the Deputy Secretary for the Women’s league eventually becoming the Secretary General of the ZANU PF women League in 1989. There was no history of any drama in the Zimbabwe politics of women in those 11 years of Sally Mugabe`s reign, never mind the volatile atmosphere brewing on after the guns had been put on the ground. Her supreme dignity and humility earned her the sacred accolade of being photographed on the postage stamps in Zimbabwe in 2002 in memory of her selfless contribution to Zimbabwe.  So much that her absence is now being felt and often referred with an ecclesiastic and noble aristocracy of being the mother of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Perhaps the old and essential mantra known to be holding the political muscles of dictatorship revolves around the military command. In making suppressive economic plans, for example, equipping the military and police, the government and its subjects have to provide some form of aid, swerving off any efforts to stimulate the economy intended to sustain the majority. Policemen hence get involved in resolving pinpointed matters that aligns with the government demands, instead of justice for the majority regardless of political identity or economic status.

Cuba is a country that has heckled the US political apparatus for years, yet remaining withstanding and resilient to any antagonistic external elements, under the Kingship of the Castros. Cuba boasts common nationalism and a wealth of indigenous business promotion. However, in Cuba, no street, statue or building bears the name of Castro. In relation to Fidel Castro, he made Cuba his living. This Egalitarian loved Cuba. As the revolutionary figurehead of Cuba, he never compromised the strength of his people and the socialist state of Cuba (a term coined by the imperialistic Capitalist world) is now earning the respect from other nations for not just standing up to imperialist countries, but becoming self-reliant and indigenous-centred. Castro despised any system in which one group of people lives much better than another. That is not to say Cuba did not have its own dark page of history. However hostile the western media can be and justified on Cuba, the Fidelism doctrine ignited the Cuban nation into becoming a vibrant economic, political and social powerhouse that has concurrently been a deception and inspiration to the world.

As Mugabe prepares to revitalise or cautiously saying, surrender his battered legacy, he is at the crossroads of deciding who the cap fits to let them wear it. His mistress has politically dressed up to take to the pantomimic political stage. It is truly an intriguing time that we now face in the Zimbabwe political arena especially in this world where a cough and a burp are shared on social media. The Mugabe legacy is likely to be remembered on the ground of the endurance and determination of power clinging and the oral feuds with the colonial masters than any dynamics around nurturing of the liberation baby. That the key to the Mugabe show will be held by a witty princess, is a remarkable attribution to the assertion that any tyrannical rule can lifelessly fall in the merciful basket of unlikely beholders. As the camera lenses will soon be wiped and the writers’ pencils sharpened, the Mugabe dynasty will remain an unfathomable showpiece and will undoubtedly initiate the more dark chapters in the art of the history of Zimbabwe to come.

Tariro Kapurura