19, November 2017
For the past few days, Zimbabwe has been in the spotlight for the wrong reason. The country’s former president, Robert Mugabe, who thought he would die in power, is now caught in tough negotiations just to spare himself the humiliation that has been the fate of many dethroned dictators on the continent. The negotiations are going on behind the scenes to persuade Mr. Mugabe to kiss Zimbabwe goodbye so as to avert a situation wherein he would be reduced to a villain. From every indication, the man who transformed Zimbabwe from a “bread basket” into a basket case is insisting that he would not exit honourably as that will legitimise the coup. The military has, however, been saying that its action is not a coup as it is seeking constitutional means to put an end to Mr. Mugabe’s dictatorial rule that has thrust the country into a tough political crisis.
After having served the country for thirty-seven years, the liberation struggle hero felt he could spin any and everybody around his little finger. He has always thought that he would die in power and nobody born of a woman could change that. Under his wife’s influence, the man who had transformed Zimbabweans into “poor millionaires” as the country’s currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, took a nosedive and lost its entire value, had even started purging ZANU-PF, his political party, of the very people who had brought him into the presidency. He simply failed to understand that only a fool challenges his god after having eaten to his fill. He had successfully fired many of his fellow comrades from the party, but the dismissal of his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to make way for his wife, Grace Mugabe alias Gucci Grace, to succeed him as the country’s next president was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Mr. Mugabe had clearly crossed the red line and the military had to stop him before he could implement his ill-advised plot.
Grace Mugabe who had thought she would be the next president of Zimbabwe has seen her dream shatter into pieces. She has been hiding ever since the military stepped in to put an end to her husband’s comedy that has cost the country its economy and image. Her arrogant public pronouncements had angered the military and made her feel that she was untouchable. But this could not continue indefinitely. When nature wants to destroy you, it gives you madness. Grace Mugabe had tasted power and it had gotten to her head. She could no longer control herself. She failed to understand that management and governance are not sexually transmissible. Being upgraded from a typist to a first lady did not imply she had all what was necessary for her to run a country like Zimbabwe. If she had any doubt about how difficult it was for her to rule the country, she has now figured out that she will never be a president in Zimbabwe and not even in her native South Africa.
While Mr. Mugabe is still dragging his feet, the military is working hard to make sure he stays in the past where he clearly belongs. Mr. Mugabe must understand that time is not on his side and when a monkey has to die; all trees will be very slippery. His gimmicks will surely come to nothing as even the youth wing of his party is gradually gravitating towards the military. The pouring of thousands of Zimbabwean onto the streets of the country’s capital on Saturday to demonstrate the people’s support to the military looked like a well-choreographed exercise designed to lend legitimacy to the political transition that is being discussed by the military and politicians. The size of the crowd was a clear demonstration that Mr. Mugabe’s support base hadcollapsed and his chances of returning to power were indeed very slim. His fellow independence war veterans, who have always stood by him for thirty-seven years, are also walking away from Mr. Mugabe who has become more and more isolated.
But the most devastating blow to Mr. Mugabe and his ego will surely come on Sunday, November 19, 2017, when the central committee of his ruling Zanu-PFparty meets to recommend his dismissal as their party chairman. Though Mr. Mugabe looked unfazed on Friday during a graduation event he presided over, it was clear that the 93-year-old had lost his arrogance and tough language during the event. He spent a good part of his time at the event sleeping and reflecting on the unfortunate fate that has become his. He has been demystified and his arrogant wife has been cut down to normal human proportions. Mr. Mugabe has seen the writing on the wall, but the fighter and trickster still believes that he can still pull a fast one. He fails to understand that times have changed and that the attractive aura he had about him when he came to power in 1980 has worn out and nothing will be good enough to restore that aura to its pristine state.
While the Mugabe saga is bringing smiles to many Zimbabwean faces, the drama playing out in this beautiful country seems to be robbing many people in Cameroon of their sleep, especially the country’s president who has been in power for thirty-five years. The country’s authorities have been displaying an air of indifference to what is happening to Mr. Mugabe. For more than three days now, the country’s national TV channel, CRTV, has not discussed the Zimbabwean situation and no pictures of the incident have been shown on the channel. According to a source at the country’s presidency, the network director, Charles Ndongo, has been given firm instructions to ensure that nothing relating to Zimbabwe is shown on the network. The source added that Cameroon’s leader, Paul Biya, on Friday, November 17, 2017, had a secret meeting with the country’s top military brass at the presidency where he thanked the generals for their support during the numerous crises that have brought the country and its economy to their knees.
He urged them to continue supporting the government, adding that it was only by working together that the country would be able to roll back Boko Haram and Anglophone secessionists who have robbed him of a good night’s sleep and ruined his health. The octogenarian, according to our source, was visibly disturbed, as he is conscious of the fact that he is as popularly unpopular in Cameroon like Mugabe was in Zimbabwe. Mr. Biya is scared that history might repeat itself on the continent, but this time, not in Zimbabwe, but in Cameroon where his thirty-five years of mismanagement and corruption have angered many and sent millions into voluntary exile.
It should be recalled that like Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Biya came to power on a wave of popularity, with many Cameroonians holding that he was the right man to transform their country into an El-dorado by virtue of his education and experience, but after thirty-five years, Mr. Biya has been a disappointment to many. Unemployment is unbearably high and many university graduates have been reduced to beggars. Many of these graduates are still living with their poor parents who have spent their fortunes just to give their children the education that can help them become financially independent. Besides, being unemployed, it is increasingly hard for these students, especially those from poor backgrounds and whose parents are not in the ruling party, to have access to some of the higher institutions of learning, popularly known in French as “GrandesEcoles”. Many Cameroonians hold that in order to gain admission into the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM), the school that trains magistrates and administrators in Cameroon, candidates are expected to unofficially pay about USD 10,000; an amount that is well beyond the reach of many Cameroonians.
Also, after thirty-five years, the country’s economy is on life support. High taxes are crippling many businesses and corrupt tax and customs officials have transformed the country’s treasury into their ATM where they can withdraw money whenever they want. Mr. Biya and his ministers have been cited in many cases of corruption. It should be pointed out that many of his former ministers are currently in jail, including a former prime minister, two former secretaries-general at the presidency and thousands of middle level collaborators.
Regarding infrastructure, Cameroon is completely bereft of modern infrastructure. The country’s roads have become death traps, killing more people than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. In 2017 alone, the country’s roads have already killed more than 20,000 people and the government is doing little or nothing to improve upon things.
Besides the country’s roads, its hospitals have been reduced to consultation clinics where many Cameroonians are sent to an early grave. Medical doctors and nurses have entered into an unholy alliance where they are ripping the sick just to make themselves rich. It is normal for patients to be turned away by nurses and doctors if they do not have money to pay for any services, regardless of their health situation. A few years back, a lady had to operate upon her pregnant sister to get out the fetus when officials of a prestigious government hospital in Douala, Laquintini, refused to attend to the lady who was in travail. The negligence of these officials resulted in the death of the lady and her fetus; a situation that shocked the entire country, but strangely, no one was held accountable and no heads rolled.
While Cameroonians have been losing their lives due to poor healthcare, the president has made it a duty to head to Switzerland for treatment even when he has malaria. Recently, he spent almost thirty days in Geneva with a staff of about 50 persons where he had been admitted for a failing heart and a devastating prostate cancer. After such a long period abroad, the country had to disburse some USD 2 million to pay for Mr. Biya’s health and hotel bills, while the common man has continued to die of curable and preventable diseases due to lack of resources.
From every indication, all the ingredients that have resulted in Mr. Mugabe’s ouster are also in place in Cameroon. Personality cult, corruption, embezzlement, mismanagement and authoritarian rule are blighting the lives of Cameroonians just like they did to Zimbabweans during Mr. Mugabe’s time. This has caused many Cameroonians to start asking if Cameroon will be the next. Mr. Biya has been in power for thirty-five years and he holds that he has been ordained by God to lord it over his people. The same flawed thinking Mr. Mugabe had. Mr. Biya’s wife, Chantal Biya, who is noted for her flaming red hair, is also noted for her love for shopping. A crime Mrs. Mugabe was charged with by the people and something that earned her the title “Gucci Grace”.
If Mr. Biya has to spare himself the embarrassment that has come Mr. Mugabe’s way, he has to start thinking of handing over. Cameroonians are sick and tired of the corruption and mismanagement he has imported into the country. He might be thinking that he has the support of the military, but he must also know that palace coups are always staged by people you trust. After thirty-five years in power, Mr. Biya should be bidding goodbye to his people. He has to stop listening to the bunch of criminals around him. They are there to serve their interest and will never tell him the truth. There is some time for him to see the writing on the wall. It is time for him to leave when the ovation is still loud. Cameroonians are really looking forward to the day he will leave or the day the Lord will recall him. He has inflicted a lot of pain on his people. He must not wait for popular anger to spill onto the streets of Yaounde for him to know how popularly unpopular he is. Zimbabwe is a good lesson for him and his party members. However, will they take time to learn the lesson?
A Cameroon Concord News Group Production