The characteristics that set some men/women above others are well-defined by years of discipline, by dutiful application of the mind to self-improvement. With our Head of State and Government turning 93 this week, much will be said about President Mugabe’s decades-long journey in public life. And many of what will be said will be an attempt to figure out how he has managed to remain at the top of the game for so long.
But the reality is that no amount of words can sufficiently describe his exemplary leadership. All we can say is: You are a leader par excellence, Cde President, and the nation is eternally grateful.
But many people will miss the object lessons to be learnt from the life and leadership of President Mugabe.
Instead, many people – a good number of whom we expect to know better – will only be thinking of how they can wrest power from him or after him, without thinking about what it is they should learn from him.
There is an overwhelming obsession with succession without commensurate attention being paid to success. For some reason, these political busybodies cannot see what President Mugabe has been telling them all along: success is the best route to succession.
It is a very simple matter.
President Mugabe has said again and again that the people shall decide who they want to be their leader. This is the way it has always been since we won our Independece in 1980.
The people have spoken time and again that they want President Mugabe. They do this because they know what he can deliver.
They will do it again in 2018 because they trust him, because they appreciate his vision for the nation, because they have seen that he stands head and shoulders above others in the political sphere.
President Mugabe is a firm believer in the will of the people. Which is why he subjects himself to the public test. It is also why he says he will not appoint a successor.
If anyone wants to succeed the President, they must get the backing of the people as Cde Mugabe has always done.
And the only way to get that backing for succession is to deliver success in the present and going into the future.
“A successor is groomed by the people. Those around you can get the confidence of the people as they operate around you, and gain the confidence of the people, you see,” he says in his traditional birthday interview with ZBC-TV.
Whoever wants to succeed President Mugabe must first succeed in delivering to the people. That person must work hard to prove that he or she has the nation at heart.
The current self-centered pursuit of factional politics we are seeing in the ruling Zanu-PF is all about succession and not success.
Inasmuch as it is a bitter pill for the pretenders angling for power, it is one they must swallow: President Mugabe will be a hard act to follow.
His qualities are what make President Mugabe popular. No amount of jostling, name calling, tribalist posturing, tweeting or plotting will suddenly imbue our faction-mad politicians with these qualities.
They should simply knuckle down and prove their worth by delivering to the people.
If anything, President Mugabe did not have the luxury of leaning on someone “grooming” him for succession. He did not create a media myth of false power, he did not scheme his way to national attention, he did not tweet his perceived opponents into boredom.
He worked for success. The people saw it, the people still see it, and the people keep asking him to steer the nation.
The people see a leader in President Mugabe. Do they see leaders in the succession-bent politicians of today or do they merely see individuals who want to rule? Do they see people who can lead a nation or they see belligerents who would cause problems even for a burial society?
That said, Zimbabwe only needs to worry about the leader who will come after President Mugabe within the context of wondering if that person will be as people-centred as our Head of State and Government.
President Mugabe’s shoes are very big and whoever will eventually wear them will have their work cut out.
It is with that in mind that we say happy birthday Cde President, may the good Lord grant you many more productive years!
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