Home Africa Heart of Darkness: How Robert Mugabe Ruined Zimbabwe

Heart of Darkness: How Robert Mugabe Ruined Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe
Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe's economy took a nosedive and the country is reeling under spiraling of prices and high inflation.
Robert Mugabe
Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s economy took a nosedive and the country is reeling under spiraling of prices and high inflation.

New Delhi: Zimbabwe’s military leaders seized control of the southern African nation, placing long-time dictator Robert Mugabe under house arrest and deploying armored vehicles in the streets of the capital, Harare yesterday.

In a televised statement early Wednesday, an army spokesman denied a military takeover was underway. Currently, the military is in control of state TV in Harare and a significant army presence has been seen at the city’s international airport.

Addressing the nation on ZBCTv early yesterday morning, ZDF spokesperson, Major General Sibusiso Busi Moyo, who was flanked by Air Vice Marshall Jacob Nzvede said, “The action taken by the Zimbabwean Defence Forces yesterday does not represent a military takeover of the Government but is meant to address the political, social and economic situation that could have ended in violent conflict. We urge people to go about their normal business, but limit unnecessary movement.”

Later, an early morning tweet by the government today declared that Robert Mugabe will resign from the office and Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as the new President tomorrow.

Robert Mugabe

Mugabe: Marxist Guerrilla turned dictator 

Mugabe, 93, the world’s oldest living tyrant, has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1987.

Mugabe, a Marxist guerrilla-turned-politician, who came to power in 1980 after the country won its independence from Britain, is a highly controversial figure and has been widely criticized for ruining the economy of Zimbabwe. After establishing his control over the state apparatus, he ordered a violent crackdown on the political opposition that led to a string of massacres in opposition strongholds. The country’s Fifth Brigade is believed to have killed up to 20,000 people, mostly supporters of Mugabe’s main political rival.

During his tenure, he took many decisions that choked the economic progress of the country. In the 1990s, food production declined as a result of his decision to strip white farmers of their land and hand them to members of the black population who, in many cases, had no farming experience.

In the coming years, Zimbabwe’s economy steadily deteriorated. By 2000, living standards had declined from 1980; life expectancy reduced, average wages lowered, and unemployment trebled. By 1998, unemployment was almost at 50 per cent. By 2009, three to four million Zimbabweans—the greater part of the nation’s skilled workforce—had left the country.

The country’s involvement in a war in the Congo piled up debts while high-interest rates strangled economic growth.

His policies received flak from the West followed by criticism in his own country. To tackle this, Mugabe started blaming the country’s economic problems on Western countries and the white Zimbabwean minority, who still controlled most of its commercial agriculture, mines, and manufacturing industry. He called on supporters “to strike fear into the hearts of the white man, our real enemy.”

Corruption and Gucci Grace

Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s economy took a nosedive and the country is reeling under high inflation.

Like many countries in Africa, Zimbabwe relies on exports of resources, with tobacco, gold, and platinum being the main export earners.

Once known as ‘the bread-basket of Africa’ for its wheat and maize exports, the economy crippled following the farm seizures and a lack of cash.

Agriculture remains the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy and apart from that it also has other resources like vast reserves of coal, diamond, and platinum. It should be noted that Zimbabwe’s diamond reserves are the world’s second-largest, after Russia, and it also holds Africa’s second largest reserves of platinum.

According to Anti-corruption analysts, corruption is rampant in Zimbabwe because of a culture of impunity among government leaders towards the plague, which has milked the country of billions of dollars.

At the center of this organized loot is Mugabe’s family, especially his second wife Grace Mugabe who is known for deft political maneuvering, a volcanic temper and a reputation for corruption.

Grace began an affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior while working as a typist in the state house. Mugabe was still married to his first wife, Sally, who was terminally ill at the time but the affair continued. The couple got married in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony after Sally Mugabe died.

Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” for her lavish lifestyle the First Lady was slowly unveiled as a potential successor to her husband in 2014.  She became head of the ruling party’s women’s league, a position that ensured her a seat on the party’s all-powerful decision-making body, the politburo. However, she remained deeply unpopular with the wider population.

Robert Mugabe had fired his powerful vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa this month, clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him as leader of Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa was tipped as Mugabe’s successor because of his support within the country’s powerful security establishment and among veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s guerrilla war.

Mnangagwa has finally managed to secure his Presidency with the blessing of the military. General Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is an ally of Mnangagwa. People like Gen Chiwenga, who fought in the Rhodesian Bush War have exercised excessive control over the state. Mnangagwa directed the 1970s fight for independence and draws his power from the military so it was natural for them to intervene after he was sacked by Mugabe early this month.

On 13 November 2017, Chiwenga had released a press statement following the dismissal of Vice President Mnangagwa, chastising those who were responsible for the dismissals of government officials in the ruling ZANU-PF party. He warned that the armed forces would be forced to intervene should the “purging” not stop. Losing power to Grace Mugabe was out of the question for this group and this was the main reason behind the military intervention.

Mugabe once infamously claimed that “only God” could remove him from office but now his fate has finally been sealed by the military.