The taming of Robert Mugabe [Article]

Robert Mugabe

I’m never sick. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But I really am never sick with pains and aches I know nothing about. My two popular ailments are familiar — I have the light-induced migraines and sciatica that kicks in when I climb too many stairs. And yes, there is the issue of the titanium in my knee.

But I did fall sick. And as I lay home sniffling and shivering with cold and my body racking with cough, I knew if the illness didn’t kill me, boredom would. And just as I was giving up, a real live soap opera leapt up before me. What am I hearing? Zimbabwe? Army? Robert and Grace under house arrest? I crawled out of bed and made myself a pot of hot water. This was going to be interesting.

I wondered what the army was up to with that innocuous statement from the general. The following day, I wondered no more. The army took over the media house and made an announcement. Then we heard Robert and Grace Mugabe were under house arrest. Really! What was happening?

The drama continued. Grace had fled the country. Nope, she was around. The army was camped in Mugabe’s residence. Oh, now the good people of Zimbabwe want to hold a rally? The army says “no problem,” and reassured us all that an announcement was forthcoming. Oh boy, I needed popcorn!

I waited with the Zimbabweans and the rest of Africa all night Saturday. I finally turned in when my chills set in. Another cup of lemon tea and I climbed into bed with dreams of a Mugabe-free Zimbabwe and woke up the next morning to the non-resignation. What??? I needed more popcorn as I prepared to snuggle up on my couch and listen in on all the analyses from the news stations. I mean, what happened?

It’s the beginning of the week and I finally feel better, so off to the office I went. And throughout my busy few days, not a single thought about Zimbabwe. But as Tuesday ended, my thoughts wandered and I began reflecting on the events that had unfolded. Getting home, I listened to Mugabe’s address to the nation several times and many thoughts filled my mind.

Before this “drama” started, many suggested that due to Robert Mugabe’s age, his wife Grace was running state affairs. Others suggested she was manipulating him to her advantage. During his address to the nation, the Mugabe I saw left one thing crystal clear: no one manipulates Robert Mugabe. He spoke with the clarity of someone very much in control. So he sleeps at official meetings? I’d be tired too, having been on earth for 93 years, still working as hard as I did in my younger days, with no end in sight.

And I know I won’t be popular for saying this but Africa has come too far not to use constitutionally mandated processes for solving issues. On Tuesday, my thoughts on the matter were clear: Robert Mugabe should step down when he must — through his resignation, or through approved removal proceedings. In the case of Zimbabwe, the two immediate options were: impeachment, and/or the ratification of his removal during the Zanu-PF congress in December. While the saga continued, I was proud to see Zimbabwe pursing these legal options. I am also very proud of the way the army handled the situation. They intervened, made their point, and withdrew, leaving the next steps in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe.

By Tuesday evening, Mugabe chose to resign.

Today, there clearly is no sign of my illness. It’s gone, just like the old Africa, where brute force was our modus operandi. Today, I feel well, I am better, and I am stronger. And the due process followed in Zimbabwe should make us feel better about the stronger Africa that is emerging from this process. Okay, I am being a tad melodramatic here, but you get my point.

A new Africa is finally rising, where democracy deepens with every challenge. Ghana led the way with the landmark 2012 presidential election petition. Today, Zimbabwe has led the way by using dialogue to iron out differences between a Commander in Chief and the military. They have led the way in an army intervention without any bloodshed. No matter what we hoped the outcome would be, we must acknowledge that this is the turning point for a new, matured Africa of which we can all be proud. An Africa that dialogues, believes in the Constitution, trusts the due process, uses the system and the legal process to effect change. Today, Zimbabwe and Africa won.

Part of Mugabe’s weekend address to the nation echoed this New Africa: “…if there is any one observation we have made and drawn from events of the last week,” he read steadily, “it is the unshakable pedestal upon which rests our state of peace and law and order.” This peace, he intimated, was drawn from “our well-cherished constitutional order.”

African countries now have a “well-cherished constitutional order” upon which we all should rely to resolve issues. That should be the unshakable pedestal upon which peace in our beloved Africa rests. The barrel of the gun should be a thing of the past.

I like Shakespeare titles. So yes, the Taming of Robert Mugabe is a pun on the Taming of the Shrew. But really, in this drama, irrespective of the long-term outcome, only one Shakespeare title will be appropriate:

All’s well that ends well.

But then again, this is the beginning of a New Africa.

By Dr. G. Koryoe Anim-Wright, President of the African University College of Communications