THE PUNCH Perspective; Our Weekly Editorial

Monday, 9th September 2019

Robert Mugabe, lessons for all leaders

IN the early hours of Friday, news about the death of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, one politician who occupied African and to some extent European and American political space for close to half a century.

Mugabe, like most African Presidents, started on a good trajectory after helping his country attain independence from Britain. There was growth in the economy, agriculture and industries were booming and Zimbabweans got highly educated. We can recall when Zambia’s economy was shaky under the one party rule of UNIP and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia used to rely on Zimbabwe or Zim Zim as it would be called, for most essentials of high quality from margarine to soap.

Ways down the lane, Zimbabwe is crawling and economy mainly damaged by Mugabe’s egocentrism as he got rich at personal level, enjoyed luxury with his innercircle while the rest of the citizens were wallowing in abject poverty. Yes, we are alive of the African tradition of not speaking ill about a dead person. Our message is not to old Bob, who cannot read what we have but it is for the living leaders, of course taking a leaf from Mugabe’s disastrous ending.

Some people may argue that Zimbabwe’s ailing economy is due to sanctions from the west and that even his fall from grace is west by origin. Whichever side of the coin, Mugabe became stubborn and did not want to leave the stage while the audience was clapping. It is like he was running a relay, just all because he was a good runner, refused to pass the button onto another runner but sooner than later, he started running short of energy but whenever the supporters and his fellow runners asked for the button he crashed them, insisting the button and the race was his! Surely you don’t expect such a team and athlete to win.

One lesson to be learnt from the Mugabe legacy is that while leadership is exercised by the leaders, real power is held by the masses. Some leaders, after begging for power become arrogant and stupid tyrants with little care or attention to the people who voted them into office. They first want to loot the country of all the little resources, and thereafter become demigods who spill over to the artificially hungry citizenry.

Leaders must be sensitive to the wishes of their people and nations. They must display a service of excellence and certainly that virtue calls for honesty and integrity, it calls for real statesmanship. African leaders must know that they are not running chiefdoms but democracies which demand that the rule of law is upheld.

We saw all the bad elements of an African leader in Mugabe, starting from resistance to leave office to crashing of political opponents, and this kind of behaviour has been there in many other African heads of states and of course to a lesser extent, outside Africa. If Africa, with all its vast resources is to develop, leaders must stop dipping their dirty and sticky fingers into the national purse. Of what purpose is it to steal billions of dollars, stuck them up abroad and the countries keeping them build quality hospitals where these same leaders rush to whenever some part itches and fork out plenty bucks and even die from there? Is it not strange that most African leaders die outside their countries and continent?

As we mourn old Mugabe, may we channel our efforts to once again remind the other leaders that are living, of their vital responsibility to their nations. Farewell Bob Mugabe, you ran your race and now rest in peace.

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