FORMER Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe finally fell on Tuesday. His spectacular downfall closed a chapter of Africa’s 1960s leaders who successfully liberated the masses, only to transform into some of the worst despots that these countries had seen.
Such a list includes late Malawian President Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. It is particularly sad that Mugabe had to go the way he did.
After all, this is a man who on taking over as the country’s head of state, ensured that Zimbabweans had an education system that was the envy of the continent.
He also stood against former colonisers and the might of the apartheid state to ensure that the whole of southern Africa was liberated.
For some strange reasons Mugabe is a victim of his own making. After raising his status as a regional power broker he succumbed to the attractions of self enrichment, while his nation fell into poverty.
The list of his critical misdemeanours stretches from his wife Grace, to his children who continue to live as if there is no tomorrow.
So when Zimbabweans call the end of his era the second independence, it is understandable for a population that has not known any other leader but Mugabe.
But it also cast a spot on a rather impressive record of Africa’s visionaries such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Nnamdi Azikiwe, whose battle cry over the years was that Africa’s political liberation had to be followed by the economic emancipation of her children.
They emphasised that Pan-Africanism was critical to the continent’s economic and social progress.
It is this trajectory that has given way to a new era where the commitment to the selfless development of a people has been replaced by personal interests.
Should the continent be worried? Should we be scared? Perhaps.
Mugabe’s era also indicated that Africa could be moving from a strategic path towards the collective development, and to self benefit.
Talks about the free movement of goods and people across the continent seems to have given way to sectoral interests.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s celebrated African Renaissance seems to be a thing of the past.
It is a worrying trend, because it leaves the continent with no immediate economic recovery plan.
When Europe was obliterated to ashes by the ravages of World War 2, the West came together and produced a plan to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernise industry, and make the region more prosperous.
A key element of the Marshall Plan initially was that it would discourage any military overthrow in any country (which eventually took place in Turkey and Greece).
It emphasised peace and democracy and encouraged dialogue between warring factions.
Something akin to what African Renaissance sought to do.
Sadly, the African Union this week described the military takeover of Zimbabwe as intervention, endorsing the very people who have butchered the continent and plundered its prospects to nothing.
That the military carefully choreographed Mugabe’s exit from power does not take away its own complicity in Zimbabwe’s economic downturn.
The generals were some of the biggest beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme that plunged the country from a bread basket into a basket case.
Together with Mugabe they masterminded one of the bloodiest repressions against Zimbabweans.
They also got well rewarded for assisting in the general plundering of national resources that brought the country to its knees and cost it some of its best brains to the four corners of the wind.
In Mugabe’s world, it was okay for the rest of the population to live in abject poverty while he and his military backers lived comfortably.
The incoming Emmerson Mnangagwa also helped Mugabe in ensuring that the rule of law only favoured the political elite. It is an era that has become all too familiar on the continent.
It is currently playing itself out in South African television screens where the parliamentary select committee on public enterprises is probing how a select few individuals came to reap benefits that were meant for all.
Nearly every witness has told of how they were called into meetings with the Guptas, and told how to sway tenders and businesses in the politically connected family’s favour.
It is the modern politics of greed that has replaced a common purpose among many African states.
It is characterised by how a minority lives an opulent life in the midst of poverty.
Just recently, Mugabe’s son, Chatunga, poured champagne on his $60 000 (R841 807) wrist watch, and proceeded to tell whoever cared to listen that he could do so because of his dad’s status.
Chatunga and his brother Robert Jr are particularly known as centres of attraction in South Africa’s most exclusive nightclubs, where they binge on the most expensive of wines, while Zimbabweans continue to live on less than a dollar a day.
The richest woman in Africa, Isabel Dos Santos, is the daughter of former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos – who ruled the African country for 38 years before stepping down last August.
In pre-Arab Spring Libya, Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif was rumoured by Forbes magazine to be a billionaire who owned luxury villas as far afield as Vienna and counted a white pet tiger among his personal possessions.
President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is probably one of a few millionaires in the world who has amassed a massive pile of wealth without any discernible entrepreneurial skill.
So while Mugabe’s downfall should be celebrated, it should at the same time be a chance for the continent to review its vision and to come out with a plan that will constrain military interventions, while encouraging openness and dialogue among its nations.
But that can only happen if our leaders mastera political will to do so.