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Mugabe's many faces

by Blessing Miles Tendi

Guardian Africa Network-Welshman Ncube, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Commerce and Industry and leader of one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), lost his grandfather in the 1980s Gukurahundi. The Gukurahundi was a violent campaign in which thousands of opposition Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (Zapu) party supporters were killed and beaten by a brigade owing allegiance to President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Professor Welshman NcubeNcube shares his experience working with Mugabe in a unity government since 2009: “Ninety percent of the time, I cannot recognise the Mugabe I sit with in cabinet with the Mugabe who has ruled this country through violence. He shows real concern for his country and people, like a father. And he can master detail over a wide range of government matters. If I had only this experience with Mugabe in government and had not lived through the Gukurahundi and seen him denouncing Zapu with anger and belief on television, and you told me he carried out the Gukurahundi, I would say ‘no, not this man, he is not capable of it’. But I saw him.”

Another MDC minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, also struggles to reconcile the man she thought Mugabe was, before entering government, with the one she knows today. “I did not think Mugabe believed in things. Now I know that Mugabe actually believes in things, ideologically, like that the British are after regime change in Zimbabwe. When he believes in something he will genuinely defend it. If he believes in an action, no matter how wrong it is, he will not apologise. That is one hallmark of Mugabe. He is loyal to his beliefs.”

On Mugabe’s personality, Misihairabwi-Mushonga says that she had not known that he was “a serious charmer around women. A very, very, very good charmer… He also has an exceptional sense of humour. You literally are in stitches throughout cabinet. But he also has an intellectual arrogance. If you do not strike him as someone intelligent he has no time for you. There are certain people who, when they speak in cabinet, he sits up and listens, and others who, when they speak, he pretends to be asleep.”

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Minister of Information and Communication Technology, once thought Mugabe was “unbalanced”, but adds: “sitting in cabinet with him, I admire his intellect. He has dexterity of encyclopaedic proportions. He is bad leader but a gifted politician. Why do I say he is a gifted politician? He has the ability to manage political emotions and intentions. But leadership is a different thing. The best form of leadership is to create other leaders who can come reproduce your vision after you. Mugabe has not done that.”

Simba Makoni is a former member of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the government. He left to form a new opposition party called Mavambo Kusile Dawn in 2008. Makoni says of Mugabe: “There is a part of him which is outwardly nationalistic and radical but there is also an inner part of him which is questioning and doubtful, because deep down he admires things British. He is conservative.”

So who is the real Robert Mugabe? He is probably a cocktail of all these things, in addition to being a disciple of the Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli’s book The Prince. Machiavelli believed that in order for a politician to keep power longest, they must have many sides and know the art of when and how to show the appropriate side. Mugabe has mastered this art. Last month, he showed his conciliatory side by agreeing a new constitution, paving the way for a referendum and elections this year. It was reported this week that the treasury is cash strapped, parking speculation that elections may not go ahead. However, the treasury has been without adequate funds for most of the last 10 years and elections have always gone ahead when due. Mugabe has vowed to show another of his sides in the forthcoming election, which is his ability to “fight like a wounded animal”, in order to win. But if he loses, it is unclear which side he will show this time. Will he concede and walk away? Or will an even more wounded animal come out fighting?

Source: Guardian Africa Network

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