Zimbabwe Cabinet Frozen

"And who are you again?" Mugabe puts government in suspended animation every time he is away. This started before the Inclusive government and to Mugabe, nothing has changed. Morgan Tsvangirai has only made matters worse by telling an interviewer that Mugabe is "irreplaceable and indispensable." The dictators head can only grow bigger.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 January 2010

Morgan Tsvangirai should not take it personally, I suppose. Mugabe will not let him chair Cabinet, despite the Prime Minister's persistent requests. He has even made it an "outstanding issue." Tsvangirai is, after all, Deputy Chair of Cabinet, according to the Global Political Disagreement.

It turns out, however, that Mugabe has always run government like personal property. His property. Even before the MDCs joined him at the national feeding trough, he would not let anyone else chair cabinet meetings in his absence. Dr Nkomo knew better than to make an issue of this. As did Simon Muzenda. Both were vice-Presidents to Mugabe and acted as President in his absence.

With Mugabe currently on leave, cabinet is basically not meeting and ministers are essentially also on leave. It is like Ancient Rome, isn't it, where, in the case of the Emperor, wherever he pitched his tent was Rome. He was Government, as Mugabe is government.

This should tell us very clearly that there is no chance whatosever that Morgan Tsvangirai will one day be allowed to chair cabinet by Mugabe. The President will either postpone the meetings or hold them before he leaves for foreign travel.

It is quite clear, then, that those who blame Mugabe for the demise of Zimbabwe are right on the money. We assume that the reason he insists on chairing cabinet is so that he can keep a tight handle on things. Which means he failed completely to avert the chaos that engulfed Zimbabwe's economy in the last decade. Although he was in the saddle and holding the reigns, he appears to have fallen asleep on the job.

But, of course, we all know that Mugabe's insistence on excluding all others from chairing cabinet is part of his grand strategy to stay in power. The presidential seat, he has previously said, is sacred (he said this at Heroes Acre). It must be viewed with awe.

More, there should never be a person who can be looked at by other ministers and be imagined as president. If anyone was to sit in that chair and preside over matters of state in the Cabinet Boardroom, Mugabe believes that this would be the start of the waning of his power.

It is a game being played at a psychological level. Not only does this shroud the presidency in mystery and awe, but it also ensures that there is nobody else who can ever be realistically seen by others as capable of actually being president.

If Mugabe could do with members of his own party, with deputies he professed to love and adore (Nkomo and Muzenda), what chance is there that he would actually allow Tsvangirai, whom he still refers to as an enemy, to chair that cabinet?

It will never happen.

At least we now know that Mugabe's nature is authoritarian to the very core. It is in his nature to be so.

As Morgan Tsvangirai said last year, "Sometimes when we disagree, I find myself asking whether I am dealing with political differences or generational differences."

It is no defense, of course, for tyranny can never be mitigated.

But it explains a lot. While Mugabe and Tsvangirai's generation should be thanked for bringing Zimbabwe out of colonialism and helping put the new nation on its feet, they can not disappear from the stage soon enough. Their value system and outlook in life was shaped by the very colonialists that they despise.

It is now a brave new world, and much as it may pain them, time has moved on from the 1960s and 1970s. The new world order requires a new way of thinking which these gentlemen appear incapable of comprehending.

So, for now, we limp along knowing that the Zimbabwe cabinet is state of suspended animation until Mugabe returns from leave in February. Only then will government be seen to be pretending to work again, as they always do.



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