Mugabe, Civil Society, And Zimbabwe’s Pseudo Democracy


By Richard Runyararo Mahomva

The world we live in is an auditorium for contesting ideas. These do not only inform the political order of the day, but they influence general social dialogue. Now in Zimbabwe Mugabeism is emerging as a new idea determining public thought and debates on the country’s politics and governance projections.

As such scholars and political activists have grappled with elucidating this idea of Mugabeism. In some conversational regiments, Mugabeism is now usurped as a Zimbabwean political culture asset as confirmed by many civic campaigners’ catchphrase “Not only Mugabe must go, Mugabeism must go.”

Yet to some, Mugabeism reproduces liberation ideology continuity and positive revolutionary rigidity. One time arguing on a different note I stated that Mugabeism is an:

“On-going process of monopolisation over and manipulation of, the Zimbabwean political system by ZANU-PF under President Robert Mugabe for the past three decades.”

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This invidious manipulation of the national politics for the deliberate entrenchment of ineptitude in the service delivery side of politics has made Mugabe and his party to have incontestable political power. (Mahomva 2015: 189)

This summary of Mugabeism would find better lodgment among leftists in Zimbabwe’s political vicinity whereas marginalising other pro-Mugabe citizens.

This is why in my recent article written for President Mugabe’s 92nd birthday I had to reconsider the marginalised representation of the person of Mugabe and its system of Mugabeism.

I summarised the notion of Mugabeism as a multi-faceted motif of; decoloniality, redemptive economic epistemology. I added that Mugabe is now a think-tank of Africa’s post-coloniality.

However, in a crisis-ridden political environment like that of Zimbabwe it is difficult for such courageous annotations to the vilified character of the leader to be applauded.

This is because plentiful attention has been capitalized in concentrating on Mugabe as one responsible for crafting the immiseration of his own people contrary to the adorable disposition Africa perceives in Mugabe(ism).

This hostile ecology of thought and perception of Zimbabwe’s political climate around Mugabe suggests an emergence of rethinking the nation around the person of Mugabe and the daily political experiences of those under Mugabeism. Zimbabwe is caught up in ideological schizophrenic terms of decoloniality and liberalism.

All this is influenced by the need to provoke citizen thought on whether Mugabeism must be embraced or discarded. This is a making of the long war between the revival of the liberation legacies by ZANU-PF for political expedience and the ahistorical liberalist discourse fuelled by Zimbabwe’s opposition, MDC in its quest to capture power.

Due to these ideological apportioning lines of nationhood to credit one side is criminalised. Even the so-called liberals who advocate for tolerance have fallen prey to this vice. Hence running short of the virtue to embrace the culture ‘difference’.

This suggests a major flaw of the country’s regime-change democracy movement now increasingly becoming a replica of the nationalist movement they grossly accuse of violence and political intolerance.

Following the post the 2013 elections in Zimbabwe, it is imperative to engage on the challenges of the regime-change democracy movement not only as a socio-political order anticipating that “Not only Mugabe must go, but Mugabeism must go.”

We need to elevate our analyses to validate how this anti-Mugabe rhetoric has sustained Mugabeism. To break down the matter at hand I will focus on the role of the civic societies groups as frontiers of the regime-change democracy movement and how they have failed to achieve political change in Zimbabwe and the tragedy that may befall their “Mugabe and Mugabeism must go”  project.


The “Mugabe Must Go” Agenda

The proclamation of the above mantra was and is still used to lament the Mugabe-led government’s firm grip on power in Zimbabwe.  

The mantra is not only responsive to Zimbabwe’s domestic policy failures, it finds its existence in denouncing the pro-people driven initiatives led by ZANU-PF largely the Western vilified land reform programme.

This anti-Mugabe agenda had Western backing since its inception. The opposition and its aiding Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) were the proxies of this agenda which gained acceptance in Zimbabwe’s urban areas unlike in the rural spaces where the ruling had high consolidation of power.

By 1999, Western governments invested millions into this project aimed at dethroning Mugabe. This was to pave way for Western anticipated democracy symbolically expressed in the power transfer from Mugabe to Tsvangirai by his Western handlers.

This was the first error of this democracy model advanced through the whims of neo-liberalism in Zimbabwe. The Western meddling in Zimbabwean politics was more linked to the ruling’s historical attachment to colonial Britain.

Therefore it would be remiss to only associate Britain’s concern over Zimbabwe’s domestic politics as the then (1999) power alternative search. Instead, this was a reaction to the British’s overgrown miscalculation of the long embracement of Mugabe as “their boy”.

To their surprise, his rebellion to the Lancaster terms aimed at protecting white privilege in terms of land ownership followed. Through the influence of Western dictated democracy he was to cede power to another newly discovered boy of White interests in the person of Morgan Tsvangirai.

Unfortunately, Mugabe defiantly objected that dictation until this day. In reality, the involvement of the West in Zimbabwe’s politics was to substitute Mugabe with a conservative of British interests. T

his was the neo-colonial conservation which the war veterans through demands for land forced Mugabe to denounce. Mugabe’s radical endorsement of the land reform programme was a response to the nationalist direct mandate that had crowned him to the helm of the country’s power in 1980.

Therefore it should be clear that all local institutions financed to service the “Mugabe Must Go” rhetoric were not paid to marshal real democracy. Instead their agenda from the producers of their script was to stage Zimbabwe’s hunger for a foreign crafted democracy which CSOs were solely feeding into Zimbabwe’s leadership crisis.

It is also a confirmed fact that the need to remove Mugabe from power was stirred by British neo-colonial conservative disappointments which were a making of the war veterans in the late 1990s.  Contrary to their set targets, Robert Mugabe prevailed and has failed to go since then.

This is another minus for the frontiers of this model of democracy –the CSOs. Furthermore, there is awash evidence of monopoly of the civic sector in the country. The CSO route had done more to improve the stomach infrastructure of their directors using the banner of saving the suffering masses for self-enrichment.

Of late there have been clear indications that deterioration of the political crisis in Zimbabwe gratifies the economic base of CSOs and their administrators. These are the theoretical pro-people interest advocates and practical self-aggrandisement individuals can be better described as civic society entrepreneurs.

The whole plot of pursuing democracy through the civic society became a business if not a means of employment creation instead of being a voluntary pledge to serve one’s community and their nation at large. This is why our civic society is now a staggering movement which has even failed to follow their taskmasters’ script to remove Mugabe out of power for the past decade.

Mugabe(ism) now unmistakably serves as proof that Western democracy targets leaders rebellious to upholding the neo-colonial status-quo. Moreover, stands to testify that this fashion of democracy is solely focused on terminating office tenure of those leaders resisting the new wave of Africa democratisation through Western orders. Consequently this character of democracy becomes untrue to itself and worse those who see it as a model for political progress in Africa.

This explains why Mugabe(ism) is a heroic reclamation of modern African political resilience.  Moreover, the reason why Mugabe(ism) symbolises a recollection of the coloniality puzzle set for dismantling and a conscience re-awakening of every African opposed to the treacherous Western democracy.  

Such Africans refuse the appointment of African leaders through a bogus democracy which validates itself through the ballot to preserve neo-coloniality. However, what the British and their other global political gangsters miss is that no matter how much they may manufacture leaders to promote their interests in Africa they will never defeat African reason and common sense.

The same manufactured leaders would rebel against their orders to deliver the mandate that would have facilitated their rise into power. Therefore, had Tsvangirai been helped to grab power the issue of land was to remain pressing, the labour sector’s demands were going to haunt his government.

Eventually to sustain his domestic favour Tsvangirai was going to be another Mugabe denouncing the role of being a boy of the British. Therefore, Mugabe’s stay in power is not only a making of the man’s self-driven interests. Rather it is a response to the external forces’ resource investment for his dethroning. This fittingly implies that external forces are the reason why Mugabe is not going as a means of resisting the externally set agenda in pursuit of his political abdication.

It also becomes valid to blame Mugabe’s stubborn stay in power on Western countries’ foreign policies on Zimbabwe. Arguably, Mugabe’s condemned long-stay in power is now an exercise of political realism than it is a matter and expectation of Western framed democracy.

The West’s wrong support to the crisis

As stated earlier, donor funding for the regime-change democratic model is being misappropriated. Inevitably we have a civic society that is not self-sustained.

The challenge of the CSO and the liberal democracy framework is that its backing from the West only supplies it with finance and not the ideas relevant to win the masses to their favour.

This is where Mugabe(ism) will do the rigging for the clueless opposition and their civic society counterparts. It is this external financing which will promote the quest for democratisation that takes the shape of a project instead of an unrelenting revolutionary process.

This is the same revolutionary fashion which lacks in driving the engine of the civic sector whose participants need to be paid to attend workshops, stage demonstrations, write petitions to the government.

I wonder if Africa was going to be free today, if the pan-African nationalists and the masses demanded incentives in the fight against colonisation.

The regime-change democracy movement needs to rethink its model if they are to be successful in their aspirations to capture power from the well-grounded and ideological compact nationalist model today replicated through the antagonist and protagonist variances of Mugabeism in Zimbabwe.

They need to be relevant to the past of this country to win the favour of the future.

Richard Runyararo Mahomva is an independent academic researcher, Founder of Leaders for Africa Network — LAN. Convener of the Back to Pan-Africanism Conference and the Reading Pan-Africa Symposium (REPS) and can be contacted on



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