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Saturday, September 1, 2012

the sleeping heads of Government .........

Democracy is ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’ – the rulers are our own representatives, elected by us.

Away in the African continent, is the landlocked country of Zimbabwe  with Harare as its Capital, located between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa, Botswana,  Zambia and a tip of Namibia.  Zimbabwe achieved recognised independence from Britain in April 1980.  Those of us following Cricket know Zimbabwe well – in 1983 Prudential World Cup, they delivered a massive blow to Australians defeating them and then pinning down India at 17 for 5 before Kapil Dev played that epic 175 not out. 

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, born in 1924 is the President of Zimbabwe. As one of the leaders of the liberation movement against white-minority rule, he was elected into power in 1980. He served as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987, and as the first executive head of state since 1987. Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s as the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) during the conflict against the white-minority rule government of Ian Smith. Mugabe was a political prisoner in Rhodesia for more than 10 years between 1964 and 1974. At the end of the war in 1979, Mugabe emerged as a hero in the minds of many Africans.  The years following Zimbabwe's independence saw a split between the two key belligerents who had fought alongside each other during the 1970s against the government of Rhodesia. An armed conflict between Mugabe's Government and dissident followers of Joshua Nkomo's pro-Marxist ZAPU erupted. Following the deaths of thousands, neither warring faction able to defeat the other, the heads of the opposing movements reached a landmark agreement, whence was created a new ruling party.  

Once popular, he is not without detractors and since 2000, the Mugabe-led government embarked on a controversial fast-track land reform program intended to correct the inequitable land distribution created by colonial rule. The period has been marked by the deterioration of the Zimbabwean economic situation. Mugabe's policies have been condemned in some quarters at home and abroad, especially receiving harsh criticism from the British and American governments arguing they amount to an often violent land seizure.  Years later a wide range of sanctions were  imposed by the US government and European Union against the person of Mugabe, individuals, private companies, parastatals and the government of Zimbabwe.

Now the voices of dissent have grown too louder. Senior politicians of the Country openly claim that the octogenarian president, has become a liability and must be replaced urgently because he is unable to stay awake in vital meetings !!!  Guardian quotes Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller of the MDC's two factions in uneasy coalition with Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF since 2009, as complaining  that Mr Mugabe's penchant for napping was making Zimbabwe a laughing stock. He claimed that the 88-year-old president, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, had to be woken up by Michael Sata, the Zambian President and his staunch ally, during one session of the recent Southern African Development Community summit in Maputo, Mozambique.
One of the main topics up for discussion at the summit was Zimbabwe's progress towards a referendum on a new constitution and elections expected next year.  "If you are strong and young, you sleep in a dignified way, but his whole body collapses when he sleeps," he told supporters at a rally near the southern city of Bulawayo on Saturday.  "You sleep to a point that you are woken up by an equally old Sata as early as 9am, who would tell other leaders: 'let us wake Mugabe he is sleeping'. You think that person can rule Zimbabwe?"

The outburst by Professor Ncube, who is also Minister of Industry and Commerce, is rare among Zimbabwean politicians who generally maintain a polite silence about Mr Mugabe's well-known tendency to doze.

You must appreciate the outright Prof Ncube – India is a mature democracy but we have seen many our politicians dozing during very important meetings and many sleeping without care during sessions of Houses.  

Our former PM HD Deve Gowde was the bud of many cartons about his dozing during important meetings.  There was a judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the right of a citizen to a sound sleep and the former PM exclaimed ‘the phoenix is ready to rise from the ashes”.  “What the SC, in effect, has said is that Gowda was exercising his fundamental right when as prime minister, I dozed off during official functions and meetings. I demand that the post of PM should be returned to me,” said Gowda at a press conference. Gowda was a lensman’s delight in 1996-97 as he couldn’t help catching up on his forty winks in public. He was fully awake only when he had to settle some petty political scores with his rivals in Karnataka.

There is another high profile politician with penchant for speaking – now the FM – P. Chidambaram.  When he was the Home Minister, he became the laughing stock within his party circles  by committing two deadly sins during the Congress Plenary Session.
First, he fell asleep while Rahul Gandhi was delivering his speech. At least three senior Congress members seated on the podium next to Sonia Gandhi confirm that Chidambaram’s gentle baritone snores were clearly audible even over Rahul’s high-pitched voice. Second, during his own speech later Chidambaram sought to play down his gaffe  - only to make things worse, as it turns out  - by claiming he had merely closed his eyes in rapturous concentration to absorb Rahul’s golden words the better.  Newspaper reports suggested that  the Congress Prima Famiglia (First Family) was upset with Chidambaram not only because of his snoring through Rahul’s speech, but also over parts of his own speech where he allegedly ‘misquoted’ Rahul’s words.

Perhaps politicians are the same be it Zimbabwe, India or even the much acclaimed UK.  Few years ago, in 2009, the British Foreign Secretary shook hands with President Robert Mugabe and later claimed that it was dark and he did not realise he was greeting the Zimbabwean leader. The British Foreign Secretary, who had described Mugabe's last election victory as a "tragedy" for the people of Zimbabwe, met him at a reception in New York. It came just after President Mugabe had attacked Tony Blair and George Bush at the United Nations for "raining bombs and hellfire on innocent Iraqis, purportedly in the name of democracy".

After he was filmed meeting Mr Mugabe by BBC2's Newsnight programme, Mr Straw said: "I hadn't expected to see President Mugabe there. Because it was quite dark in that corner, I was being pushed towards shaking hands with somebody just as a matter of courtesy and then it transpired it was President Mugabe."

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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