Uganda: Can Uganda Sink As Zimbabwe, and Museveni Rise Like Mugabe?

For, logically, Mugabe should be politically dead. Biologically, he is lingering near a six-foot pit that has no respect for big men. Surely, a masterpiece of living decay, when such a creature refuses to expire! The spectacle of a lion crumbling in slow motion.

There are times when Africa - as a mass of people - behaves like it has a death wish. Its capacity to self-destruct is amazing.

During the last few months, the uneasy peace of Zimbabwean society has been drawing closer to total disintegration. Several private entities have been on strike, protesting economic mismanagement, high taxation and corruption, while government workers have been protesting the non-payment of their salaries. Zimbabwe now seems to be a place of shutdowns.

So you have a situation where taxes are very high, and at the same time a national treasury that does not have enough money to clear the government's basic obligations.

You can guess what the plight of the chain of people who supply goods and services to the Harare government must be, and the malaise in the wider socio-economic fabric of Zimbabwe.

Retailers, creditors/banks, and - paradoxically - also the tax-collectors; almost nobody is spared; except maybe Mugabe, his wife and their cronies, who naturally make adjustments in cake distribution to offset any shortfalls in the financing of their personal luxury.

Twenty or 30 years ago, you did not think Zimbabwe would sink this low.

A drought - with Zimbabwe's said to be the longest in more than 20 years - can be of only limited value as an excuse. Governments exist precisely to deal with such eventualities.

Then there is the perennial complaint by senior politicians that the outside world - especially the West - is somehow responsible for Zimbabwe's decline. The sin of the West is holding back aid and not investing in Mugabe's country, treating Zimbabwe like a pariah state.

But in our folly, we thought Mr Robert Mugabe had a viable plan for Zimbabwe that was proportional to his swagger and his theory of Zimbabwean sovereignty and Black African pride. Instead, apparently, Western financial largesse tastes as sweet to Africa's revolutionary autocrats as Western prescriptions on governance taste horrible.

Mentioning Zimbabwe nowadays makes people glance at Uganda. Even in the exclusive club of African rulers who have clocked over 30 years in power, Robert Mugabe and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni radiate something special.

Perhaps charisma does not necessarily fade at the same rate as performance after all. Muhammad Ali was still "the greatest" when he was a physical wreck. At an international gathering, just the entrance of Mugabe can cause a standing ovation among the African caucus, even if in the same week Harare had witnessed several riots.

But then again, in addition, perhaps the condition of decay has its peculiar allure. Like the fascination with fossils, Egyptian mummies and very old tortoises.

For, logically, Mugabe should be politically dead. Biologically, he is lingering near a six-foot pit that has no respect for big men. Surely, a masterpiece of living decay, when such a creature refuses to expire! The spectacle of a lion crumbling in slow motion.

Uganda's Museveni is not there yet. But what if he did another 20 years? We are talking of records now. Fifty years in power! Shielded and simultaneously held hostage by the same police; surrounded by the same thieves; with or without a functioning economy or civil service.

A few days ago, as police-coordinated goons beat up unarmed and peaceful supporters of the just-bailed Opposition icon, Dr Kizza Besigye, President Museveni's convoy stopped along some upcountry road. A chair was brought out and set up at the roadside. The President sat there and waited until the phone rang. He talked to someone at the other end of the line for about 30 minutes. The exhibition was over.

As Africans are wont to do, country folk had come out in droves and gaped; some amused by the surreal event, and others rejoicing that His Excellency had sat down and talked on the phone in their village.

The President's media people posted pictures over the Internet, and we are told social media junkies had a field day.

Just think - 20 years from now - how many such wonderful deeds the President and his handlers will invent in 2036 AD to compensate the citizens for not achieving middle-income status as they had been assured they would by 2020AD.

Source: The Monitor