We have just witnessed the end of the Presidency of President Mugabe. It is very interesting that today we refer to him as the former leader of Zimbabwe when a few weeks ago he was still President of that country and legally had more months to rule.
During the last few weeks of Mugabe’s rule, there was so much coverage about him than any other African leader. Getting attention on channels like BBC, CNN and Reuters is not for nothing. News on Robert Mugabe sells like tea to the British and beer to the Germans.
I am not sure that they are interested in him because he is the oldest President in Africa. It appears the West was looking forward to the day Mugabe will leave for them to ensure the reversal of some of his unfavorable decisions.
His situation got some Pan Africanists and pro African writers expressing mixed feelings about how he rose as a hero and fell as a villain. It got me also thinking about some of the things that he got right and wrong and what I can learn from him. Looking at the Mugabe experience, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from his story.
Don’t take your people for granted: For several decades, Mugabe lived and worked for his country. He went through many challenges to gain independence and to establish self-governance. However after he became President he started doing a lot of things which are reported to be worse than the colonists were doing. He took his people for granted because of his previous achievements and he thought they were going to stick with him forever. It doesn’t work that way.
Never think there is no one better than you: It is a fact that Robert Mugabe did a lot of wonderful things in Zimbabwe which includes playing a key role in the rejection of foreign rule country but it is also well documented that he got a lot of things wrong. Perhaps he thought he was better than all the people under him and never thought he will be rejected. The military made him aware that there were other people better than him who could lead the country.
Don’t undermine the contributions of other people, especially the members of your own team: After so many years in power Mugabe fired his Vice President. He forgot the contributions of the people who helped him to be who he was. For any leader to succeed he must have the support of the inner circle. Once the inner circle is broken it is easy for others to infiltrate the camp.
Never let anyone interfere with anything you have ultimate responsibility for: Mugabe forgot that he was the elected leader of the country. When the Military and his associates had indications that his wife had ambitions of replacing him, they showed him the exit. He was the one they voted for and if he was no longer capable of running the country he had to give that responsibility back to the people.
Don’t let people dilute your profile with bad things you don’t want the world to hear: Mugabe has a rich history which includes the fight for independence. I am not sure if he wrote his own memoirs or profile what he will include. Reading about him and his escapades was a tall order. It included everything about him and his family – the good, bad, ugly. Leaders must strive to do what is right for them to leave a positive legacy.
Leaders must know when they have overstayed their presence. Elected or not, there is a reasonable period for people to lead. It is a painful experience to subject yourself to a leader who has overstayed his presence. It is worse when the leader is reporting negative returns.
Leave at the peak of your performance, not when things are worse; Leadership is not an easy task. It can be very challenging when there is nothing to show for it. When things are tough and a leader can no longer achieve the group goals, it is better to handover to someone who is more experienced and skillful in that area. It is a more respectable thing to do.
When it is time to leave just leave in piece not in pieces. It is always better for leaders to leave in piece. Some political leaders in Africa and elsewhere have found crafty ways of extending their political offices when there are clear rules for their exit. Such leaders must know that one day they will be forced to leave and when that happens they will not leave in piece. They may leave in pieces and that is not the best. If I were Mugabe I would have not have contested the last two or three elections. Nelson Mandela’s record is therefore everyone to see.
From Georgina Asare Fiagbenu