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Time running out for dictators
*Tanonoka Joseph Whande
October 15, 2004

http://www.theindependent.co.zw/news/2004/October/Friday15/800.html

IN a majority of African countries, the transition from one president to another is always violent and quarrelsome and, in most cases, unconstitutional. So it was in Malawi.

The transition from Kamuzu Banda to Bakili Muluzi was acrimonious. Years later, Malawians woke up one day to find that a man who had been fired by the trade bloc Comesa for incompetence and abuse of funds was now their president.

As usual, there was acrimony as Malawians charged that it wasn't them who had elected Bingu wa Mutarika. Muluzi, who was accused of handpicking Mutarika and of manipulating the elections, said the plebiscite was free and fair.

Oblivious to these accusations and as expected, President Robert Mugabe flew to Malawi for the inauguration.

Mutarika's arrival on the African political landscape was a godsend for Mugabe, who is now isolated and terribly starved of friends. Mutarika owns immovable property in Zimbabwe.

The fact that his farm was not invaded or forcibly acquired is an indication that Mutarika will not be available to assist the masses of Zimbabwe.

What is it about Africa, with all its vastness and large human population, that prevents it from producing thousands of caring democratic leaders? As of today, Africa does not have a single leader worth emulating.

For a brief moment Africans hoped that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade would establish a new path for other African leaders to follow but his pro-people thrust fizzled out.

Last week, one of these dictators came to town, maybe in sympathy with one of their own.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni came to Zimbabwe to support our government and president over issues we Zimbabweans are fighting to get rectified by our government and president. Zimbabweans are clamouring for Mugabe to loosen up, to be real and practise democracy but Museveni arrived to encourage Mugabe to stand firm against his own people.

Why do foreigners always come here to cheer at things we are jeering at? Why do they always come here to encourage what we are discouraging?

But Museveni, like so many African leaders, is using Mugabe. Like many diplomats at the United Nations and at Southern African Development Community conferences, Museveni knows that Mugabe thrives on a weekly diet of rhetoric and worthless applause.

But am I to believe that Mugabe reads anything into the polite but

meaningless applause he gets? Has he not noticed that all those African leaders who are quoted as supporting him do so only verbally?

Of all the support declared by the likes of South Africa's Thabo Mbeki,

Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, the Congo's Joseph Kabila, Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano or even Sam Nujoma of Namibia, how many of these have adopted "Zimbabwe's successful land reform programme"? Haven't they, in fact, welcomed the displaced white farmers leaving the indigenous black new farmers in Zimbabwe to make a laughing stock of the much-pouted programme? Can self-delusion really reach such depths?

And in typical autocratic style, reminiscent of Mugabe's "I won't go" chorus, the seasoned Ugandan dictator whimpered: "Regime change can't be for black Africa. It cannot happen here."

Why can't it happen here, Yoweri? Do you own Uganda or Africa? The mentality and destructive desire for permanence in presidential office is what has stagnated and stalled Africa's efforts to compete meaningfully with the rest of the world.

Is Africa ever going to rid itself of dictators? This irresponsible, selfish, egoistical and degenerative psyche has caused beautiful Africa untold suffering. It is even manifested in young African autocrats like Museveni who shamelessly say that regime change can't be for Africa.

But regime change means what it says: changing a useless government and replacing it with a better one. Regime change has nothing to do with violence, tribalism or vengeance. It comes as a prerequisite after failures, abuse of power and incompetence.

That Zanu PF has been a disaster is without question. A regime change is a positive thing if effected by the people. On that we need no foreigners to lecture us. We live in the belly of the beast and it is us who fidget uncomfortably every time the beast burps.

But for Mugabe and his blind loyalists to imply that working for a change of government is treasonous is ridiculous. They might as well arrest the entire population.

What Mugabe refuses to acknowledge is that Museveni came to Zimbabwe to do some shopping not to praise destructive policies of an isolated regime that abuses and rains cruelty on its own citizens.

Mugabe submerges himself in unproductive rhetoric while other leaders tear

pieces out of our nation. Zimbabwe used to produce export quality professionals to serve it.

But today, where are our doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers and pharmacists?

Well, if Africa wants to prosper and care for its citizens, then it better rid itself of these pests. Democracy and good governance are mandatory. Dictators no longer have a place in modern society. Dictators from far afield should not promote their nations by destroying the will and politics of a fellow African country.

Mugabe fancies himself a survivor of sorts but he is failing to survive on rhetoric alone. Neither can Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe needs to be served but first it must be saved. Both Mugabe and the Zimbabwean people must take immediate action towards this.

*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Zvishavane-based writer.

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