WHATEVER one’s political proclivities, there can be no denying that deposed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been ubiquitous in both the southern Africa region in particular and the African continent in general.
In his early years, Mr Mugabe was renowned as a principled anti-colonialism stalwart and an eloquent spokesperson for the ideals of colonialism. It cannot be denied that his government made a lot of strides in terms of establishing a formidable educational system in Zimbabwe which is the envy of many across the continent.
Mr Mugabe’s government also championed the distribution of land from the white settler class to the landless blacks. His government played a significant role in fostering peace and stability in the southern African region and beyond with its interventions in the civil wars in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo – although he was accused of looting the mineral-rich country.
To make a long story short, there are many things to admire about Mr Mugabe’s legacy. Even his most avowed critics will likely concede this point. That is why there is a dichotomy in the way Mr Mugabe is perceived around the world. His most ardent supporters look at his countless initiatives to promote African unity and solidarity. They also look at his indefatigable fight for the marginalised peoples of the world at international fora such as the United Nations.
However, his supporters tend to overlook the dark side of his 37-year stranglehold on power. They ignore the atrocities that he committed in the quest to be president for life.
His stock in trade was manipulation and charm. When it suited him, Mr Mugabe would say the gun supersedes the vote or vice versa depending on the context.
He was prepared to bankrupt a nation just to remain in power. The circumstances surrounding the end of his reign are far from ideal. Even though the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are claiming that it is not a coup, it does not require a rocket scientist to see their actions for what they are. As they say, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
But it should serve as a learning point for politicians in particular and regional institutions in general. Developing a sense of entitlement to power is the beginning of the road to perdition. Mr Mugabe represents an archaic model of leadership that should no longer be tolerated again.
A sense of servant leadership is what the electorate now expects coupled with service delivery and accountability.
Hopefully, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will learn from this debacle to enforce the ideals it purports to espouse. It was as clear as day that Mr Mugabe’s remaining at the helm of Zimbabwe had become untenable. Unfortunately, the quiet diplomacy approach first employed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki held sway.
Only Botswana President Ian Khama openly criticised Mr Mugabe for his human rights violations and other misdemeanours. That is why we cannot agree more with Thaba-Bosiu Principal Chief, Theko Khoabane, who says the new constitution should impose a two-term limit on the premiership to promote democracy and prevent a Mugabe situation in which one leader remains in power for almost four decades.
Chief Theko said it was important for Lesotho to enact laws that would preserve democracy for future generations and ensure the country does not go the Zimbabwean route of instability caused by having long-serving leaders.
It is indeed the end of an error we dare not emulate. Hopefully, Zimbabwe will be able to pick up the pieces and move on towards stability and development.