Dictators share one common trait: almost always, they overstay their welcome.
Having governed Zimbabwe for close to 37 years, often running it into the ground, the career of Robert Mugabe should have long been over.
Instead, he tried to manoeuvre to stay on, indeed, to hand over the reins of power to his wife Grace Mugabe, aka “Gucci Grace” due to her penchant for expensive handbags and accessories. Now it is over for Mugabe and Grace.
Even the members of Zanu-PF, which Mugabe co-founded to push his country into independence, voted the 93-year-old out on Sunday and appointed Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice-president who was fired by Mugabe earlier this month and fled Zimbabwe, as their new leader.
The party members gave importance to the party rather than Mugabe, party above individual, unlike back home in Malaysia where despite the many alleged multi-billion dollar scandals, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak stays as Umno president.
Najib is allegedly close to derailing Malaysia too. Thus what is happening in Zimbabwe carries salient lessons in an electoral democracy like Malaysia that is given to serious manipulation.
Not surprisingly, even African leaders who appeared at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the US are known to have used Malaysia as the personification of endemic “corruption”.
‘The Zimbabwe of Southeast Asia’
For the lack of a better word, Malaysia has become the Zimbabwe of Southeast Asia. Najib seems bent on staying, with or without the support of Umno, the ruling party.
Indeed, Mugabe’s resistance to an immediate resignation is reflective of all that has gone wrong in Malaysia too. Though as this article is being written, Zimbabwe Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda has just declared that Robert Mugabe has just resigned from the presidency through a letter, which stated that he wanted “to allow a smooth transition of power”.
One wonders if there was some pre-negotiated deal according him some level of immunity or “safe passage”, given Mugabe’s ruthless and draconian immediate past. This event is worthy of some followings as we may ourselves see it unfolding right here in Malaysia, someday.
First of all, Najib does not intend to leave his post despite the enormity of the 1MDB corruption scandal.
1MDB is the largest action ever brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by the US Department of Justice. Even if some of the money were recovered by the US Department of Justice, the latter is by law entitled to one-third of it.
Second, Najib has not allowed any questions on the 1MDB scandal to be raised in the Malaysian Parliament over the last four-and-a-half years, invariably consigning it to sheer suppression, which is typical of the deplorable governance of Mugabe and Najib too.
Third, instead of keeping his wife Rosmah from meddling in affairs of state, Najib had allegedly asked her when the 14th general election could be held. This was disclosed by Rosmah herself four days ago at a Wanita Umno program. The kitchen cabinet, it seems, has become more important than the formal one.
The spectre of a failed state
Therein lie the triple parallels with Mugabe. Instead of facing the will of the people sooner and head-on, Najib has decided to put out fake policy platitudes.
Take the recent budget, for instance. Of the nearly RM286 billion tabled for the fiscal year in 2018, close to 84 percent was dedicated to operational expenditure, with a mere 16 percent to be divided among the states that form the Federation of Malaysia.
How can so little be given to so few when the world is on the cusp of digital economic transformation which Malaysia cannot do without?
With little funds to develop the country, the spectre of Malaysia becoming a failed state is real. Whereas Mugabe took 37 years to ruin his country’s economy, Najib seems to have done it in nine or less.
In recent years, Najib has crushed opponents inside and outside Umno, in a manner that is not entirely different from Zimbabwe.
Najib, for lack of a better word, has presided over the immiseration of an economy that was still in good shape when Dr Mahathir Mohamad handed it over to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2002.
The lopsided budget is bound to ruin the future trajectory of Malaysia completely, given that Malaysia is in need of more all-round transformation, especially at the top.
God Save Malaysia.
RAIS HUSSIN is a Supreme Council Member of Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). He also heads the Policy and Strategy Bureau of PPBM.