Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo has said President Robert Mugabe is no longer eligible to run the country due to his advanced age and should hand over power to save the country’s economy from further collapse.
Mapfumo said Mugabe should listen to the voices of ordinary Zimbabweans crying for leadership change.
Speaking to NewsDay in a wide-ranging interview this week, Mapfumo welcomed the entry of Zimbabwe People First leader Joice Mujuru into opposition politics and attacked MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai for being lethargic. He said Mugabe should just do the honourable thing and retire.
Mapfumo said Mugabe’s advanced age had thrown him at the mercy of political vultures who now abused him to settle political scores in the party’s raging succession wars.
“He (Mugabe) is old. He could have sober or lucid moments, but at times his name has been abused by some hungry sharks using him to extend hate, secure power or get even with some old enemies,” the outspoken musician said.
“Since he (now) depends on briefings and gossip, he needs to listen from real people on the ground. He could save Zimbabwe from drowning.”
Mapfumo, now based in the United States of America, has used his music to decry injustice, becoming a fearless social critic during the days of the country’s liberation war against the Ian Smith regime.
Since the 1980s, he has openly criticised Mugabe and his government through his revolutionary music, questioning the country’s leadership on corruption through the prophetic song Mamvemve from his Chimurenga Explosion album.
Dubbed The Lion of Zimbabwe for his fearlessness, Mapfumo urged Mugabe to step down as President while there was still time to save his skin and not to take heed of wife, Grace, who has said the veteran leader would rule from a wheelchair.
Mapfumo said Zimbabweans were desperate for political change and the entry into opposition politics of ex-Zanu PF stalwart and former Vice-President Mujuru to challenge Mugabe’s stranglehold on power was a welcome move.
“I can’t speak much. I am yet to see where she stands. I haven’t read her manifesto. I don’t know her potential. At this time anything that can help to restore our towns, cities and infrastructure as well as jobs and housing could be welcome. We are desperate,” he said.
On fears that the First Family might be gearing to build a Mugabe dynasty, the Chimurenga music guru said: “That’s taking people for a ride. Ask yourself many questions: Can you freely walk on your streets, are your people happy, do they have jobs, offer housing, healthcare and power?
“If the answers are in the negative, step down and let able leaders do the job. Obstinacy will not save Zimbabwe from going down the drain. The people have suffered enough.”
He was, however, quick to warn Zimbabweans not to concentrate on the removal of Mugabe alone, but the whole governance system.
“Not if we still maintain this current culture of ‘chefs’, corruption, police bribery, fear of the CIO and the incapacity to question authority. By the end of the day, it could be a system issue started by Mugabe, but propelled by the people of Zimbabwe to support social injustice.
“A fight against an arbitrary system is not determined by weather, time or race. A bad system that causes people to suffer deserves condemnation for all intents and purposes. I berated the Smith regime as bad.”
He added: “Our own black government took over and has done worse things. Check the millions of Zimbabwean refugees abroad. Our opposition is ineffective.
“Look at Tsvangirai. Anyone could believe the theory that he accepted millions of dollars as ‘silence fee’. His ideologies, statements, beliefs and dreams are misplaced. His inertia speaks volumes. We are doomed.”
He castigated the recent attack by police on war veterans who wanted to hold a meeting in Harare and said it was proof of a looming crisis due to general disgruntlement of the people.
Mapfumo was, however, quick to criticise the ex-freedom fighters for acting as Zanu PF “hired mercenaries”.
”Stay with the people and listen to them. You didn’t fight in the struggle as hired mercenaries. You were patriots. Remain humble and stay out of corruption and greed. In any case, everyone fought because villagers were cooking as the youths sought logistics. Now at the big table, just a few are enjoying.
“War vets are people exercising free speech as stipulated in the Constitution. Why should they be publicly beaten? But at least they had a taste of their own medicine to spend a day in the shoes of the ordinary person on the street. They didn’t deserve such ill-treatment, but at least now they know the way the wind is blowing.”
He said he will not keep quiet from telling the truth as long as there is misrule by any government.
“Check the infrastructure, the poverty and the corruption. Check police brutality. Those are the triggers for activism. Our people are suffering under a duly elected government,” he said, adding that he did not have any personal regrets over his decision to leave the country and reside in the US.
“No one forced me out of Zimbabwe. I am a musician doing his job at international level. Where I am now, I can freely express myself, live well and still get my children into decent colleges where they can earn decent qualifications,” he said.