News / Africa

Is Mugabe an Entrenched Leader or a Changed Man?

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive for his inauguration as President, in Harare, August 22, 2013.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive for his inauguration as President, in Harare, August 22, 2013.
Anita Powell
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been sworn in after another election that critics and observers say was marred. Mugabe was unapologetic as he took another oath of office despite widespread claims of rigging. 

Robert Mugabe once said he would rule Zimbabwe until he is 100.

On Thursday, as he took his seventh oath of office as Zimbabwe’s leader, that prospect seemed increasingly likely. Mugabe was re-elected July 31 with 61 percent of the vote - in balloting that the opposition and Western powers deemed to be rigged.

The opposition MDC party boycotted the ceremony where Mugabe pledged to serve another five years. That commits him to being in office until the age of 94. He says he will run again after that.

Months before his re-election Mugabe said “my people still need me.”  He is the only post-independence leader Zimbabwe has known.

Analyst Tom Wheeler, a former South African diplomat, says Mugabe showed promise as an emerging leader in the early 1980s, when he rose to power as a freedom fighter who battled to end white rule and achieve independence for Zimbabwe.

But Wheeler says Mugabe’s chief weakness comes straight out of an ancient Greek drama: Pride.

"He seems to have fallen into the trap of a typical African leader of that era who could not foresee the possibility of giving up power. That the idea of free and fair elections, which would lead to his departure from the scene, is just not thinkable and he remains almost one of the last of that particular era of leader… so, in one sense, he’s a clever, well-educated man who did good things for Zimbabwe in the beginning. But there were also some really bad things,” said Wheeler.

Mugabe’s record has indeed been a mottled one.
When the bespectacled, suit-wearing leader travelled to England in 1979 to negotiate the nation’s independence from Britain, former white Zimbabwean leader Ian Smith described Mugabe as “reasonable.”

In his first post-election speech in 1980, he called on Zimbabweans of all sides to forget their racial divides and devote themselves to their shared future. He urged them to “turn our swords into plowshares” and to join hands.
That inclusive Mugabe didn’t last long. In 1982, soldiers under his command killed an estimated 20,000 people in an area that opposed him politically.

At the turn of this century, his government ordered the often-violent seizures of farms that belonged to white farmers. He and his inner circle have been under harsh Western sanctions for more than a decade for allegedly committing human rights abuses.

After winning this last election, he called on his rivals to “go hang.” Then, adding insult to insult, he said, “If they die, even dogs will not sniff at their corpses.”

Faith Zaba has served as political editor and news editor for the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper. Mugabe, she says, is like the sun around which all of Zimbabwe’s political players revolve.

She says that despite the fiery rhetoric, Mugabe has actually softened a bit in his advanced age - and may even be poised to reach out to his rivals in the Movement for Democratic Change.

“In terms of the way he’s approaching things, he’s not as hard-hitting as he was before 2009," said Zaba. "He seems to have become more accommodative. So I think in terms of his approach, I think there’s been some changes. Even the talks now, there’s talks that he’s planning to engage the MDC-T and even Professor Welshman Ncube’s party, so that he accommodates some ministers, people from those parties in his new Cabinet. That’s a different Mugabe that we’re seeing.”

But South Africa-based opposition activist Kumbirai Muchemwa says Mugabe is a fallen hero.

“I think as a person, people used to have great admiration and respect for him. But I think he has disappointed a lot of Zimbabweans in the sense that, you know, he has put politics above the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans. … If he really cared, then he would have put a better plan in front of the Zimbabweans for the management of the economy after this election. If Robert Mugabe really cared about Zimbabweans in general, he wouldn’t insult Zimbabweans at every platform. When you say, ‘people can go and hang,’ I’ve often heard of other presidents at their inauguration or after winning an election, they try and bring people together, not to insult them. So, in my mind, he doesn’t care,” he said.

Muchemwa said he couldn’t bring himself to watch the inauguration. “I didn’t have the heart for it,” he said.
But Mugabe is unlikely to take such words to heart. Earlier this year, Mugabe told a South African filmmaker that he thought South African icon Nelson Mandela - who is almost universally loved for his policy of reconciliation - was “too good, too much of a saint.”

Few people would accuse Mugabe of the same.

  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is inaugurated in Harare, August 22, 2013.
  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe holds the bible during his inauguration in Harare, August 22, 2013.
  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace greet the crowd as they arrive for his inauguration in Harare, August 22, 2013.
  • A supporter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends his inauguration in Harare, August 22, 2013.
  • A supporter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends his inauguration in Harare, August 22, 2013.

You May Like

US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

Governors of several East Coast states close schools, order travel bans, urge people to stay home as snowfall, heavy winds, flooding continue in areas More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle with Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people were displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid