Egypt is gushing with euphoria following the fall of Hosni Mubarak. We have seen this elation elsewhere before; it will be short lived, but nevertheless joyful for the masses triumphant. Some, outside Egypt, may envy this sudden release of jubilant hysteria, from beneath the umbrella of their concurrent oppression. Others may be reflecting inwardly, scheming, perhaps wondering who has the audacity to encourage their first freedom forgathering.
Many, like the author, will be making a few comparisons between Egypt and Zimbabwe. Clearly, there is none, that is, between the politics of Maburak’s Egypt and that of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. One was an iron fist dictatorship evolved from, and supported by, the military and the other is a pseudo democracy where true freedoms are yet to be realized, a transition between tired, single party, absolute power and apparent political polarity.
The common territory between the, now disassembled, Egyptian regime and the power base of Zimbabwe lies with the insatiable need of an individual to retain power. Some say at whatever cost. Many will draw the comparison between a hugely transparent military involvement that uplifted the Mubarak regime and the more opaque involvement, and power influence, of an elitist military within Zimbabwe’s political circle.
The hypothesis presently kicking around is that the people’s revolution in Egypt will erupt in other Middle Eastern countries. A few hopefuls speculate its eruption in other parts of Africa, and Zimbabwe is no exception. The question is, do Zimbabweans, in comparison with their Egyptian brothers, have the passion to perpetrate something similar to the Nile Revolution? Indeed, is there actually a need to do so?
One may envisage such revolution in Zimbabwe and ask if a peaceful atmosphere with mass demonstration could actually be achieved. Mubarak’s army turned its back on their erstwhile leader and lowered their barrels. Many doubt Zimbabwe’s generals would do the same. Mubarak’s army refused to fire upon the surging masses and one wonders if Zimbabwe’s finest would imitate that lead.
Ignore the potential response of otherwise noble military officers, in the face of popular uprising, and consider the history of mass protest in Zimbabwe. Has this ever been truly peaceful? Has not mass protest been marred by death, injury and malicious damage; bullets, teargas, water cannons, and fire? Violent response may not bloody the hands of the generals, but rather soil the mitts of an unruly coterie of ignorant lackeys, blinded by their own propaganda. This is the most perilous, potential danger of ‘peaceful’ protest in Zimbabwe.
Another danger lurks with yet further comparisons in the unlikely scenario which could evolve. The Egyptian protests have created a political power vacuum. There is no organized politics to fill the void, save a fringe fundamentalist movement already dribbling in anticipation. The ayatollahs must be gleeful and the military have been forced to take control. Zimbabwe has its opposition, which presumably would fill the void, but people are beginning to ask if indeed it will.
It seems, to the casual observer, that the opposition appears to have retreated into its shell, like a timid tortoise. It has lost its bottle. The parties are not awfully vocal, nor protesting about much these days. Tsvangirai’s MDC seems to be enjoying the trappings of its sham leadership, while the key political focus is on their apparently more dominant foe.
The Ncube or Mutumbara MDC, or whoever is running that seeming shamble of a party, appears to be concentrated on their rather divisive, petty, internal squabbles. No one is hungry or dribbling in anticipation, and certainly no military transition could allow such disingenuous opposition to take control. And therein lays the real threat, the insatiable retention of power.