History has proved that arrogance is men’s most dangerous failing.
by Everson Mushava
For the millions of ardent readers of William Shakespeare’s fascinating works, the eponymous hero Julius Caesar disappears halfway through the play because of his unbridled pride.
“Beware of the Ides of March,” a soothsayer warns the majestic Caesar from the crowd as he strolls down the streets of Rome on Lupercalia, an ancient Roman religious holiday.
Despite fervent warnings from his wife, Calpurnia against wading his way into the streets of Rome because she had had a nightmare about his death, the naturally superstitious Caesar dismissed the soothsayer as a “day-dreamer” and marched on to meet his fate at the hands of the conspirators.
Caesar’s outward arrogance and lack of humility became his tragic flaw. His egotism blinded him from seeing the plot against him.
His tragic story has a striking resemblance to the arrogance being exhibited by Zanu PF in the wake of protests by citizens against the ever-deteriorating economic situation in the country.
It is an undeniable fact that Zimbabwe is in turmoil but Zanu PF insists it is business as usual.
For the past three weeks, a social media campaign led by Harare pastor Evan Mawarire through his #ThisFlag movement and #Tajamuka/ Sesijikile as well as Occupy Africa Unity Square groups have led to various protests against the government.
This has prompted many Zimbabweans to believe that the country is hurtling towards the failed State status.
After protests triggered by the ban of the importation of basic commodities rocked Beitbridge two weeks ago, most people had expected the recent Zanu PF politburo meeting to come up with a conciliatory approach to the crisis.
However, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo’s utterances afterwards portrayed Zanu PF as uncaring and arrogant.
Chombo claimed a third force was behind the protests and described those taking to the streets as misguided and childish.
“Zanu PF is quite steadfast and is focused on what we need to do and we cannot be shaken by these activities, not at all,” Chombo retorted.
“State security organisations are working around the clock to put the situation under control and those found on the wrong side of the law will be severely dealt with. They are being seriously warned to desist from this unwanted behaviour.”
A Zanu PF MP, Psychology Maziwisa said President Robert Mugabe could not be “tweeted out of power,” in response to growing online movements against the 92-year-old leader’s rule.
Mugabe himself plunged into the debate days later, blaming sanctions and a foreign hand for the disturbances. He flatly refused to take responsibility for the economic decline that has been rocking Zimbabwe.
The Zanu PF government has struggled to open new lines of funding and is unable to pay its workers on time as the economy continues on a nose dive.
Zanu PF’s defiance in the face of a storm has triggered speculation that the social media-triggered protests could signal the beginning of the end for the ruling party.
Observers say Mugabe should learn from the fall of his long-time friend, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who described his people as rats and cockroaches, but eventually was the one to be caught like a rat, humiliated and shot.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said Zanu PF’s arrogance was the genesis of its fall. He said Mugabe’s party had remained glued to the past, thinking that it was still the popular people’s party.
“Zanu PF’s arrogance could be a signal of its fall,” Rusero said.
“In the past, there used to be demonstrations by political parties and civic organisations, but the ball game has changed.
“It’s the citizens who now lead the protests and Zanu PF should swallow its pride and realise the danger confronting it. Pride will not pay.”
Rusero added: “The protests are just symptoms of more things to come. A real uprising is coming if Zanu PF continues to be that arrogant. The party has already squandered an opportunity to contain the situation.
“Using force alone will not be enough; the most critical [thing] is to address what is causing the people to be in the streets. Zanu PF has chosen to act like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand by blaming other forces, discounting the Zimbabweans’ ability to organise themselves.”
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said there was a sense of denialism in Zanu PF akin to the downfall of Gaddafi yet everything on the ground was against the party.
“There is a reason to make-believe that this is a passing phase, but the reality is that Mugabe’s end is close and there will be no Zanu PF to talk of after him,” Mandaza said.
Another analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “Everything is falling apart. His [Mugabe] arrogance is informed by misinformation and bad advice from hangers-on around him.”
He added: “Zimbabwe is sinking and his regime is edging to an end, sadly advanced age and bad advice are blocking him from seeing the reality. It’s sad. The seeming arrogance is actually ignorance.”
But another Zimbabwean analyst Miles Tendi had a different view, saying Mugabe would not be brought down through online campaigns.
“These predictions of Mugabe’s imminent downfall are wrong,” he wrote in an article, Why a Hashtag Isn’t Enough for a Revolution in Zimbabwe first published by the Foreign Policy magazine.
“The reason is quite simple: the angry urban social media activists and pro-democracy pundits have failed to absorb two key lessons of the Arab Spring,” he said.
“The first is that the role of the military in times of civil unrest is pivotal. The second is that social media activism can never substitute for organised political activity on the ground.”
He said the success of the Arab Spring that brought down regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco was mainly because of the position the security forces adopted, which was not the situation in Zimbabwe.
He said there was no robust cooperation between the protestors and the opposition political parties.
“What Zimbabwe needs now, most of all, is a well-thought-out and pragmatic approach to the 2018 election — one that will unite civil society, the opposition parties, online activists, and urban and rural youth. That is the key to finding a new path ahead,” he wrote.