New dawn? No, just the continuation of a long, dark night
When Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, built himself a massive palace in his rural village in Nkandla, many of our fellow Africans knew what was going on. They had seen this before. They had seen Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire do it. They had seen Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe do it. They knew that this was the first sign of abuse of power. They said nothing.
So I will not apologise for saying clearly and loudly and repeatedly that Zimbabweans have been hoodwinked. They have been lied to. They have been sold a bum steer. They have been bamboozled with words. And they have swallowed the lie that a new dawn has come. It makes me want to weep, watching so many being fooled by so few.
The Zimbabwe state broadcaster greeted new President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s reign with the words: “This is a new dawn, a new era.”
Two days after South Africa was downgraded by one key ratings agency and given a stern warning by another, I would have loved to have devoted this column to analysing the unfolding disaster of ANC misrule here at home and the party’s corruption-riddled election race. Yet what is happening in Zimbabwe is so crucial to our future here that I have to return to it again this week just to make sure we are taking in its lessons.
First, I want to fly to Harare, grab every Zimbabwean I meet by the shoulders and shake them very hard. The past two weeks’ events are a sham and you can see it from Mnangagwa’s first speech and actions.
Mnangagwa should have apologised for the killing of 20,000 of his countrymen during the horrific Gukurahundi operation of the 1980s.
Mnangagwa led that operation. He said nothing.
Worse, though, Mnangagwa said nothing about Itai Dzamara and other activists who have been abducted, tortured and “disappeared” in Zimbabwe.
Every word that came out of Mnangagwa’s mouth means nothing until the press is free to report on the deaths of ordinary people at the former finance minister’s house two weeks ago, for example. There is now a campaign of violence, retribution and murder going on in Zimbabwe. No one, primarily Mnangagwa, says a word.
You may know that while Mnangagwa was being sworn in, the Zimbabwe High Court issued a judgment saying that the military takeover of Mugabe’s government was constitutional. That is a direct contradiction of the Zimbabwe constitution (which prohibits military action against a civilian government) and the judges know it. My point is that Mnangagwa has given us no inkling that the judiciary will now become an independent institution. As it was captured under Mugabe, so will the judiciary continues to be captured under Mnangagwa.
My good friend Mcebisi Ndletyana, one of the finest political analysts in South Africa, says the putsch of Mugabe is “an opportunity”. He is right. But it is an opportunity that only real democrats can exploit.
In Zimbabwe in the past two weeks, that opportunity has been wasted. Mnangagwa has instead stolen the words of democracy and worn them. His actions, though, are not those of a democrat. The Crocodile lives. Southern Africa must learn from this ongoing tragedy. The people have been lied to. It must never happen here.