The 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe's State visit to his stripling of a 73-year-old counterpart, President Jacob Zuma, left observers wondering which of them was in better shape. Zuma is beset on all sides: his popularity is plummeting. Unemployment, corruption, the falling rand and the Eskom crisis are eating away at his authority. Mugabe, unlike his compatriots, seems to have a serene existence.
Mugabe has weathered more violent storms than his neighbour and
been prematurely written off so often that few dare to do so any more,
regardless of his extreme age. Zuma may look enviously at his fellow
comrade's freedom from bothersome elements like independent courts,
parliament and free media but Mugabe has had 35 years to whittle away
at such institutions.
Between 7th and 9th April, every South African commentator
some apposite comparison between the two nations born of anti-colonial
war but in the end it was the legacy of their common enemy that offered
the strongest symbol. Cecil Rhodes, the founder of one nation
super-exploiter of the other, still had the symbolic power to stir
passions. Students attacked the statue of him at the University of Cape
Town and it was removed for safe keeping. Mugabe, whose country hosts
Rhodes's grave, quipped, 'We have his corpse and you have his statue.
What do you want us do with him? Dig him up? We cannot tell you what to
do with the statue but we and my people feel we need to leave him down