Gwede Mantashe's offer to help President Robert Mugabe win the next election should come as no surprise.
The ANC secretary-general made the offer at a Zanu-PF conference in Bulawayo.
Mantashe has since tried to explain it was not Mugabe to whom the ANC was offering assistance but his party, but everybody knows that Mugabe is the party, and that anyone who challenges him for the leadership is likely to be locked up and never seen again.
This is why he was unanimously elected as the party’s presidential candidate for next year’s election. Those in Zanu-PF with presidential aspirations are saying to themselves: “The old bugger’s about to turn 88. Surely he will kick the bucket sooner than later.”
The ANC clearly hopes later. Mugabe is one of the last dictator friends it still has.
What with the Arab Spring, the demise of Muammar Gaddafi and a gaga Fidel Castro, dictators are getting thin on the ground. The ANC has to nurture the few who remain.
At one stage, when Thabo Mbeki was still president, the ANC government allegedly sought to persuade Mugabe to stand down, by way of quiet diplomacy. But there are no flies on old Muggers. He saw through quiet diplomacy in a flash, and told Mbeki he would outlast him, which he did. Now the ANC has switched from quiet diplomacy to loud friendship.
It’s the only way to stay in a dictator’s good books.
Poor old Morgan Tsvangarai has hit the diplomatic skids. It turns out he has had girlfriends and/or mistresses all over the place, seriously distracting him from his few duties as prime minister that Mugabe still allows him to perform. At least our President Jacob Zuma marries most of his girlfriends, and the one he hasn’t yet he calls his fiancée.
They are thus nearly all honourable distractions, and can’t be blamed for his recent poor appointments including a white former judge who once said Mbeki was justified in firing Zuma and has now defamed Mbeki himself.
The question arises what sort of electoral assistance the ANC has to offer. One thing the ANC won’t have to do is beat up opposition voters and organisers. Mugabe’s men have that side of the election all sewn up. They also very good at remaining in power even after they have lost an election.
Instead, Mantashe said: “We can teach them to send out party messages efficiently and how to handle a hostile media.”
How about: “Vote Zanu-PF or we’ll turn off your water. Also your lights and any chance of getting a free farm or your own mine.”
As for handling a hostile media, Mugabe has already got that down to a fine art. He only allows Zanu-PF newspapers to exist in Zimbabwe, and deports foreign journalists whose stories annoy him. In fact he could teach Mantashe a thing or two. He would find him a ready learner.
Mugabe still blames Zimbabwe’s dire economic woes on the Brits who left him a country in good running order 31 years ago.
This should encourage Mantashe in his belief that after a mere 17 years, apartheid is still the fault of every ANC government misdemeanour.
In fact, Mugabe and his henchmen should be invited to assist the ANC in its election next year.
So much easier if you can dispense with the niceties of democracy.