Robert Mugabe 'a man of many faces'

2013-02-05 15:08
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (File, AP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (File, AP)

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Cape Town – Zimbabwean ministers in the country's unity government have shared their experiences working with President Robert Mugabe since 2009. As most of them revealed, the veteran politician has many faces, according to a Guardian report.

The Minister of Commerce and Industry and leader of one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change Welshman Ncube said despite having worked with Mugabe since 2009, he still didn't know who Mugabe was exactly.

"Ninety percent of the time, I cannot recognise the Mugabe I sit with in cabinet with the Mugabe who has ruled this country through violence. He shows real concern for his country and people, like a father. And he can master detail over a wide range of government matters.

If I had only this experience with Mugabe in government and had not lived through the Gukurahundi and seen him denouncing Zapu with anger and belief on television, and you told me he carried out the Gukurahundi, I would say 'no, not this man, he is not capable of it'. But I saw him."

Ncube lost his grandfather in the 1980s Gukurahundi, a violent campaign in which thousands of opposition Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (Zapu) party supporters were killed and beaten by a brigade owing allegiance to Mugabe's government.

Another MDC minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said she struggled to reconcile the man she thought Mugabe was, before entering government, with the one she knows today.

"I did not think Mugabe believed in things. Now I know that Mugabe actually believes in things, ideologically, like that the British are after regime change in Zimbabwe. When he believes in something he will genuinely defend it. If he believes in an action, no matter how wrong it is, he will not apologise. That is one hallmark of Mugabe. He is loyal to his beliefs."

On Mugabe's personality, Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she had not known that he was "a serious charmer around women. A very, very, very good charmer... He also has an exceptional sense of humour".

Bad leader but gifted politician

"You literally are in stitches throughout cabinet. But he also has an intellectual arrogance. If you do not strike him as someone intelligent he has no time for you. There are certain people who, when they speak in cabinet, he sits up and listens, and others who, when they speak, he pretends to be asleep."

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Minister of Information and Communication Technology, once thought Mugabe was "unbalanced", but adds: "sitting in cabinet with him, I admire his intellect. He has dexterity of encyclopaedic proportions. He is bad leader but a gifted politician. Why do I say he is a gifted politician? He has the ability to manage political emotions and intentions. But leadership is a different thing. The best form of leadership is to create other leaders who can come reproduce your vision after you. Mugabe has not done that."

Simba Makoni, a former member of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and his government said Mugabe was a conservative who also he admired Britain.

"There is a part of him which is outwardly nationalistic and radical but there is also an inner part of him which is questioning and doubtful, because deep down he admires things British. He is conservative."

As the Guardian puts it, Mugabe is probably a cocktail of all these things, in addition to being a disciple of the Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli's book The Prince. Machiavelli believed that in order for a politician to keep power longest, they must have many sides and know the art of when and how to show the appropriate side. Mugabe seems to have mastered this art.

Read more on:    zapu  |  mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  priscilla misihairabwi-mushonga  |  welshman ncube  |  nelson chamisa  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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