What does Malaysian Mahathir Mohamad, Filipino Ferdinand Marcos, Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, Indonesian Suharto and now Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe has in common? They were all once dictators who ruled with iron fist without regards to basic human rights. More importantly they were highly corrupted dictators who get to retire – fabulously rich.
Mahathir retired after ruling for 22 years, knowing very well that he had exceeded his welcome, but not before enriching his family and cronies. Marcos regime, infamous for its corruption, extravagance and brutality, ruled for 21 years before being toppled, only to be saved by America and lived in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii, until his death in 1989.
Pharoah Mubarak ruled for 30 years until be was brought down by 18 days of demonstrations during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. He was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment but after a lengthy retrial and serving a short period of sentence in luxury prison, he was freed on March 2017 by Egypt’s top appeals court. His sons were freed too.
Suharto, a good buddy of Mahathir, wrested power from Indonesia’s founding president – Sukarno – and ruled with authoritarianism for 31 years under a so-called “New Order”. In spite of his dictatorship and widespread corruption, the present Indonesian government is actually considering bestowing Suharto with a National Hero title.
Now, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is about to join the elite and prestigious club. After 37 years ruling and plundering his country, he has finally decided to retire following a coup. He was responsible for economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, racial discrimination, human rights abuses, suppression of political critics, crimes against humanity and whatnot.
In fact, of all the corrupt and brutal dictators above, Mugabe had done more harm than everyone combined. Yet, like the others, not only will Mugabe retire a multi-billionaire; he is now untouchable and won’t be spending a single minute on trial for his previous mischief. He’s free to stay in Zimbabwe and won’t face prosecution at all.
Heck, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front actually said the country has nothing against him and his family and even considers Mugabe the hero of liberation, similar to Indonesian Suharto. Besides granting the brutal dictator immunity, the military authorities in Zimbabwe has decided to give him a “generous pension” in addition to protection.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, who happened to be a buddy of Malaysian former dictator Mahathir too, has reportedly refused to leave Zimbabwe, saying he wanted to die there, and rejected safe passage to exile in Singapore and Malaysia, where he has been receiving medical treatment and is believed to have several properties.
The immunity deal covers Mugabe’s numerous extended families, including his stepson and nephews, and may also include senior ruling party officials detained by the military or in hiding overseas. Interestingly, the only reason he delayed his resignation during his 8-day house arrest was because his “investment empire” was so vast that they couldn’t tally his wealth and fortune.
Mugabe regime is brought down because of his wife. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace”, the ambitious and power-hungry First Lady was instrumental in influencing his ailing husband to attack and fire his loyal Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mr. Mnangagwa, a protege of Mugabe’s who had been his ally since the Zimbabwe War of Independence in the 1960s, fled to Mozambique temporarily.
Zimbabwean army Chief General Constantino Chiwenga was one of Mnangagwa supporters targeted by Grace Mugabe. Chiwenga was ordered to be arrested upon his return from an official visit to China but soldiers loyal to him had instead overpowered police at the airport and cleared the way for his arrival, leading to the military intervention in putting Mugabe and Grace under house arrest.
Mugabe’s track record of human-rights abuses, including violent crackdowns on political dissent, which had earned Zimbabwe international sanctions, is a public record. His regime destroyed the country’s healthcare system and pursued policies that ruined what had been a vibrant agriculture, depriving all but a tiny elite of proper nutrition, water, and a sustainable livelihood.
The hospitals in Zimbabwe have gotten so bad that Mugabe flies to other countries for medical treatment. He celebrated his 90th birthday in a Singaporean health clinic. WikiLeaks exposed that Mugabe was battlingprostate cancer as far back as 2008. His doctors urged him to step down but the power-crazy dictator refuses and chooses to cling to power instead. He had his prostate operation in Malaysia in 2011.
During his 37 years (since 1980) leading Zimbabwe as either president or prime minister, Mugabe was also the most corrupt leader the African Continent has ever witnessed. From a booming agricultural sector and a wealth of human capital, almost a quarter of Zimbabweans are currently in need of food assistance and 80% live in poverty today.
A former Marxist guerrilla, Mugabe regime rule the country based on autocratic, undemocratic and oppressive. In order to reward his cronies and family members, the dictator even violently took over white Zimbabweans’ farms and lands. But the inexperienced cronies hadn’t a clue about agriculture, and soon the country’s farming failed miserably.
His central bank began printing money faster than lightning to pay off debts. But Zimbabwe isn’t America, so the money printing stunt didn’t work. Instead, it triggered hyperinflation so horrible that at one point in 2008 the inflation hit the rate of 231,000,000%. Yes, Mugabe’s proudest moment was when 1 US dollar worth $100-trillion Zimbabwe dollar.
Instead of prosecution, the country’s tyrant is being rewarded and the generosity of the package is likely to anger many in Zimbabwe, where unemployment is as high as 80% – many live in deep poverty thanks to the Mugabe regime. But will Zimbabwe emerge to become a better nation with Emmerson Mnangagwa as the new president?
It’s too early to tell. After all, Mnangagwa had been part of the corrupt system for 37 years and there’s a reason he earned the nickname “The Crocodile”. Zimbabweans are celebrating without realizing that their new president could be worse than Mugabe. When Mahathir resigned in 2003, Malaysians celebrated too, only to be led by a clueless Abdullah Badawi and a more corrupt Najib Razak today.