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Late Autumn, Zimbabwe

Sun 15 Jan 2017 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback View at NDHA

Is long-term Zimbabwean tyrant and toxic homophobe Robert Mugabe, 92, about to die? If so, what happens to the country that he has misgoverned for the last thirty years? By all accounts, we may shortly encounter the apotheosis of one of the longest lived homophobes on the African continent. Robert Mugabe (92) is visibly ailing. According to Martin Fletcher in an excellent recent New Statesman (01.01.2017) article, Mugabe falls asleep during meetings, is encountering increased memory failures, stumbles on stairways and delivered the wrong speech to his national assembly recently. He apparently has regular blood transfusions and steroid injections and prostate cancer is rumoured. If this is indeed the case, then Africa's longest surviving despot may not have much longer to misgovern before he either dies in office or becomes too incapacitated to remain in power. Who will succeed him? Will it be his vice-president and strong right arm, Emmerson Mnangagwa (74), known and feared as Mugabe's loyal and lieutenant and regime 'enforcer' of its repressive policies? In Fletcher's piece he denies such ambitions. Or will it be Grace Mugabe, the "First Lady" of Zimbabwean politics, head of the Zimbabwean Women's League, former ZANU-PF guerilla in the days of white supremacist Rhodesia who shot down a helicopter and gave birth without anaesthetic in the bush? She purged other potential revivals from ZANU-PF and has asserted her credentials as a senior member of the regime. It wouldn't be the first time that the role of an unelected lifetime head of state has passed from one member of a governing family to another- witness the relentless grotesquerie that is North Korea and the three generations of the Kim dynasty that have ruled it for the last half century. Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe are reportedly at loggerheads, so what happen after Robert Mugabe's death may be civil war. Mnangagwa has used his own position in Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission (sic) to unseat rivals within ZANU-PF who otherwise might have had the seniority and networks to challenge him after Robert Mugabe's death, however. While neighbouring South Africa managed a peaceful transition from apartheid to multiethnic democracy with a functional legislature and democratic elections, Zimbabwe has been in economic turmoil since Mugabe presided over land seizure and confiscation from remaining Zimbabwean white farmers earlier this century. There is no foreign investment and the country owes international banks almost two billion dollars. Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 after hyperinflation became a nightmare. Bank queues, abandoned business husks, beggars, teenage prostitutes and street vendors throng the streets of Harare, its capital, as well as its other major cities. When there were opposition demonstrations last year, the response was telecommunications industry censorship and repressive government violence. However, the financial crisis has reached the point where the regime is fast becoming unable to pay the instruments of its own state repression and corruption and antagonism is spreading through the police and security forces. Almost two decades ago, Zimbabwe was pilloried by the international community for its continued British colonial era 'antisodomy' legislation, although given developments in Chad, Uganda, Nigeria and Gambia amidst similarly corrupt regimes, its homophobia is no longer the most obvious malady afflicting the country. At 55, life expectancy is amongst the lowest in the world, one-quarter of its fourteen million inhabitants rely on overseas food aid for nutrition, its hospitals cannot afford painkillers, its embassies abroad cannot afford to pay rent or electricity charges in their host countries, it has been forced to sell wildlife and endangered species to China, and according to Transparency International, at 150/168, it is one of the world's most corrupt and unaccountable regimes. Given the quagmire he presides over, the ageing absolute despot is a recluse in his presidential palace, venturing out rarely in heavily armed convoys within armoured vehicles. When Mugabe finally does shuffle off this mortal coil, ZANU-PF will have ninety days to arrange for his state funeral and elect a new leader, at which point Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe will lead their respective contingents into what will probably be a rancorous convention to replace him. Mnangagwa has the support of the head of the military and chiefs of staff, as well as the state media and war veterans, while Grace Mugabe is widely reckoned to rely predominantly on her status as consort to the head of her country's regime. Her overseas shopping trips and business revenue siphoning is legendary, but she may fall from [...] Grace [...] after her elderly husband finally dies. As far as honesty goes, Mnangagwa has been accused of plundering diamonds from the Congo after Zimbabwe's intervention there and probably also presided over the corrupt travesty that was Zimbabwe's 2013 national election. He says he wants to stamp out corruption, encourage foreign investment and the return of alienated Zimbabwean professionals to their homeland. He may need to form a caretaker coalition government to do so. South Africa and China would back such an arrangement and may indeed be encouraging it. No-one's talking about what would happen to LGBT Zimbabweans after Mugabe dies. Apparently, Emmerson Mnangagwa is a staunch fundamentalist Methodist, so it is probable that there will be no reversal of the British colonial era legislation that mandates imprisonment for gay men Recommended: Martin Fletcher: "The Last Days of Robert Mugabe" New Statesman: 01.01.2017: Gay and Lesbian Zimbabwe: Craig Young - 15th January 2017    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 15th January 2017 - 11:59am

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