Since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained independence, Zimbabweans have been under the reign of President Robert Mugabe, who is currently the longest-serving head of state in Africa. Despite his advancing age, 93-year-old Mugabe continues to hold on to power with a promise to transform the country’s misfortunes.
But many Zimbabweans have had enough of Mugabe and want him to retire. Led by Pastor Evan Mawarire, the leader of This Flag Movement, a section of Zimbabweans has been holding demonstrations in different parts of the country to call for Mugabe’s retirement.
Unfortunately, the veteran president has dismissed them as puppets of the West and vowed to crash them. In fact, he has already been given the go-ahead by his party ZANU-PF to run for another term in 2018.
But even as Zimbabweans look forward to a post-Mugabe era, they have to grapple with the possibility of their First Lady Grace Mugabe being appointed as the new vice-president following the unceremonious firing of the now exiled former VP Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.
Shortly after Mnangagwa left office, rumors emerged of Mugabe’s plans to name his wife as the new vice-president. This was followed by a flood of endorsements by members of the ruling party ZANU-PF and processions in honor of the First Lady. But some Zimbabweans are opposed to the idea of giving her such a powerful position, saying Zimbabwe is not a dynasty.
But even with the ongoing public outcry against her proposed appointment, Grace seems eager to occupy the new position. Speaking at a rally last week, Mrs. Mugabe said she will be helping her husband to move the country’s economy forward.
Although the law doesn’t prevent Grace from serving as a vice-president, her appointment is likely to set a bad precedent in a country that is struggling to keep its economy afloat. At the moment, Zimbabwe is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP of less than $14 billion.
Most sectors of economy, including industries and financial institutions, have collapsed due to a prolonged cash shortage that has forced the government to replace local currencies with bond notes. And although Mugabe is to blame for the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe, his wife also bears a huge chunk of that responsibility as she has been actively involved in the day-to-day running of government.
In fact, the Zimbabwean opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has often described Grace Mugabe as the “queen of corruption”. They accuse her of prowling state coffers to maintain her family’s lavish lifestyle. Less than a month ago, Grace reportedly bought a brand new Rolls Royce almost similar to the one her son had imported a few weeks earlier.
Before that, Mrs. Mugabe was involved in a controversial court case in which she was accusing a Lebanese diamond dealer of swindling her of $1.4m in a bungled diamond ring transaction. Additionally, the First Family has allegedly been spending an annual budget of $6 million on holidays in Dubai, where they are said to own a lavish 10-bedroom apartment, costing $42,000 in rentals every year.
This blatant plundering of public resources is happening at a time when Zimbabwean civil servants are going for months without pay due to lack of funds. To make matters worse, the current rate of unemployment in the South African country stands at 90 percent.
All these problems point to failed leadership and the only way the country can begin to solve them is to use a totally different approach. Such an overhaul will also mean a fresh start for millions of Zimbabweans who haven’t experienced power transition for close to 40 years.
Unfortunately, this change won’t come with Grace Mugabe, who is now poised to take over the mantle of leadership when her husband finally exits. That’s why Zimbabweans, both in government and the opposition, should reject the plans by Mugabe to make Grace the new vice-president.
Experts have interpreted these developments as part of a wider plan by the elderly president to impose his wife on Zimbabweans. Like other Africans, Zimbabweans must be given an opportunity to determine their future.