#RobertMugabe As I grow older, one by one all the relics and associations of the past fade away into oblivion . The news of the coup in Zimbabwe is one such event that makes me feel again how the world has changed over the years. Right from the days I started taking interest in politics, current affairs or international events, the name Robert Mugabe was very common . Perhaps even a little more than Nelson Mandela who was still in prison when Mugabe assumed power as the PM of Zimbabwe in 1980. He held on to power for more than 37 years by various means and advocating different political philosophies . At the age of 93 , he is the oldest ruler in this world. His life and times have been well documented and many fictions woven around him. Those who read Wilbur Smith will immediately find the shadow of Mugabe in many of his novels .
Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia and was ruled by the British . It is a landlocked country sharing border with Zambia ( formerly Northern Rhodesia) at the north and majorly on all sides by South Africa. The inhabitants unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and after a protracted struggle for independence , finally got it in 1979. Robert Mugabe was at the forefront of this freedom struggle and he was rightly hailed worldwide for his leadership . He rose from poverty to complete his University education and started as a teacher before taking the plunge in politics .
Being indoctrinated in the Marxist philosophy he was supported by the Soviet Russia ( read KGB) who were trying to build their influence in Africa - Angola, Mozambique , Ghana and many other countries through their proxy, Cuba. The party he headed - ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) received widespread patronage from the Soviet bloc as well as the third world countries all over the world. After independence of his country , Robert Mugabe naturally headed the government and became a well known anti imperialistic figure in the third world countries and Non aligned movement . The Independence of Zimbabwe actually gave impetus to the anti apartheid movement of South Africa and also a foothold for the rebels there to continue their armed struggle .
The glory days of NAM showcased famous personalities from our youth - Indira Gandhi, Fidel Castro , Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, President Tito , President Assad, Hosni Mubarak etc. Robert Mugabe made his place among them . Many , who are particularly sympathetic to US interests would term this as a rogue's gallery but please note that the world was a different place 30-40 years back .
But as it happens everywhere, somewhere along the line Robert Mugabe became too powerful and believed himself to be the supreme . Not everybody can relinquish power like Gandhi or Mandela . Most rulers degenerate into Idi Amin . Mugabe was accorded the status of being the father figure of his country. But his rule of 37 years was a story of incompetence, inefficiency, corruption and ruthless power play. But let us concede one point. In spite of his dictatorial style , Mugabe never gave up on the pretense of democracy. He got himself voted , term after term through massively rigged and manipulated elections .
At the last count, he cant be termed as a fascist. And through out his life he remained an anti imperialist , often at loggerheads with USA and a thorn to their ambitions. Robert Mugabe was a great friend of India and have visited our country often right from his revolutionary days. Last year there was a small controversy about his attending the World Culture Festival organised by Ravi Shankar . He was briefly reported as missing after having left the country to attend the function .
But he was the person responsible for bringing a thriving country like Zimbabwe with potentials in agriculture and mining into penury. Starting as a Marxist ideologue, he morphed into Marxist- Leninist, then socialist and finally pure kleptocrat. With the new world order after the dismantling of USSR and the withering of NAM, he lost his support and bargaining power and gradually lost relevance with age . Lately , he was more known for his remarks against racism and imperialism. His rule became synonymous with the economic doom and jokes about the currency of that country. Last heard I know of a joke doing the rounds which said that 100 trillion Zim Dollar was equivalent to 40 US cents. Don't really know how far it's true.
But in all of this , there is a lesson to be learnt . No ruler lasts for ever and no ruler should be allowed to gather so much power like the dictators we see around us . USA wisely has a constitution which allows only two terms , maximum eight years of power, to an individual. And UK retains the crown as a figurehead to provide a rallying point instead of any individual , however popular he or she may be.
I am neither an expert nor have any qualification to comment on international affairs . But to a layman like me observing the drama unfold as an armchair specialist of stories laced with political intrigue, it appears on the surface that the coup has the blessings of USA who are desperate to gain a foothold in Africa to counter the growing influence of China, who unlike USSR do not export revolution to any country ; only Chinese goods . But what lies beneath can be anybody's guess.
So now, long live the Queen.