Hopewell Chin’ono: Empty stadiums, empty ideas, empty social base

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By Hopewell Chin’ono

That the National Sports Stadium was empty today is not surprising at all. It was empty for a mixture of reasons, some deliberate and some inadvertent.

Empty stadium for Mugabe funeral
Empty stadium for Mugabe funeral

Empty stadium for Mugabe funeral

Citizens are always enticed to these big stadium State events and occasions not because of the events themselves, but because of the entertainment that is provided thereafter.

Football and music are the main instruments of enticement to be precise. Music is used to keep the crowds entertained during the event, and football is used to draw them into the stadium.

This was not the case this time around because even in death, Bob is still embroiled in an ugly fight with his protégé who removed him from office through a military coup!

It is quite clear that Emmerson Mnangagwa is too small for Robert Mugabe’s big shoes, both home and abroad, and the people around the new President are nervous about this reality.

Grace Mugabe mourns her husband (Picture by Bustop TV)
Grace Mugabe mourns her husband (Picture by Bustop TV)

Mnangagwa threw away the only “get out of jail card” that he had, that of turning out to be a reformer of the repressive and policy bankrupt Mugabe system which he was part of as Vice President!

That is the only reason the world choose to give him a chance, he spectacularly blew away that golden opportunity by retaining Mugabe’s folk and ways.

That bus of him being a reformer is now long gone, even if he tried to fidget around with Reforms, world leaders and citizens have simply seen him for what he really is.

He is now caricatured as a pathetic pretender, an incompetent President and the person who underwrote Mugabe’s violence charter as its Chief Enforcer.

This has seen him attempt desperate acts to endear himself with the world by seemingly wanting to be seen as the rightful custodian of Mugabe’s anti-colonial legacy!

That is why his people are desperate to have the old despot buried at the Heroes Acre, despite despising Mugabe, they all know that without Bob, they are nothing!

At least Robert Mugabe underpinned his repression with warped ideological arguments, but they found takers on the continent and certain corners of leftist politics around the world! It kept Mugabe going.

Now if you enter the world stage selling yourself as a reformer, and you fail to simply revoke and replace two laws like AIPPA and POSA for 22 months, what other credentials can you ride on to assert your leadership relevance?

Emmerson Mnangagwa is surrounded by known crooks, thugs and incompetent bureaucrats, and the world has seen through the New Dispensation charade!

The incompetence comes through when a President is given to read speeches that he is not able to deliver at all, this is done to either embarrass him, or the speech writer is simply subsumed into his self importance, betraying the need to communicate!

Mugabe attempted to injection some intellectualism into his reign of misfortune and terror, Mnangagwa is not only not bothered, he is also out of depth in that department, and those around him as I said earlier, are only interested in the continuation of looting the State!

The fact that Mnangagwa continues to say that his government is a New Dispensation, regardless of the world media avalanche of negative press shows how tone deaf he is to the realities around him, and the fact that he has lost support even inside ZANUPF itself.

He is not ruling through consensus, but through an iron fist but unfortunately that type of rule doesn’t last for long in this part of the century!

So undermining Mugabe’s last big hooray at the National Sports Stadium was deliberate, but also mixed with incompetence, and a failure to understand the relatedness of things.

The embarrassing numbers for such a defining State occasion also showed that both ZANUPF & Mnangagwa have no real substantial and loyal support beyond bussed crowds.

They only rely on the State’s instruments of brutality for cohesion locally, and mercenary intellectuals when dealing with the rest of the world.

Empty stadiums! Empty ideas! Robert Mugabe the corpse attracted bigger crowds at Rufaro Stadium than Emmerson Mnangagwa’s send off for the only boss he has ever known!

Debates will ensure as to why it turned out that way, but one thing is certain, it reflected to a global audience how things have come to be in Zimbabwe.

As one African Ambassador said to me, “…putting Nelson Chamisa to sit with POLAD mercenaries was the sign of vindictiveness that the President didn’t need to do.”

It surprises foreigners but not us, we know who these ZANU PF folk are!

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.

He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film coming out which is looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind. State of Mind has been nominated for a top award in Kenya. You can watch the documentary trailer below.

Video Player  Hopewell can be contacted at hopewell2@post.harvard.edu or on twitter @daddyhope


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