When Robert Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe in 1980 his dream was to turn it into a one-party state in line with what was happening in Africa then.
But Mugabe did not realise his dream, which he deferred. Recent events in Zimbabwe are a clear indication that he has revived his dream.
As early as 1981 Mugabe showed that he was not a fan of the multiparty political system. In an interview with Australian television on April 8 he said: "The party in opposition vows never to be in agreement with the party in government because to be seen to be in agreement on fundamental issues is to show oneness with that party and therefore to create no basis for the existence of a separate party ... by and large the opposition party is there to oppose the government whether the government is right or wrong. That is a waste of taxpayer's money."
Mugabe believed that people could still exercise democracy within a one-party system. It is perhaps important to show how the cunning Mugabe has been scheming to implement it.
When African countries attained independence they inherited the liberal democratic political system of their colonisers, mainly Britain and France. After one or two elections they abandoned it because "it was not original and not suitable to address the needs of the new nations".
Africa's leaders gave various reasons for adopting the one-party system. They also argued that what was of primary importance was nation-building and development, which would not be possible in a multiparty system. Another reason was that there was a need for the total transformation of African society.
Those in favour of this model argued that the masses needed to be led by an enlightened elite. Some nationalist leaders argued that since their movements liberated their countries, they should rule forever.
Three methods were used to implement the one-party system. The first was the use of repression against the opposition.
The second was to legislate against the existence of other parties. The third method was to co-opt members of the opposition into the ruling party or effecting a merger.
Mugabe wanted Zanu-PF to be the only party in Zimbabwe. He could not achieve this as he was bound by the Lancaster House Agreement, which stipulated that whites should have 20 seats in parliament for seven years.
He also had to contend with Joshua Nkomo's Zapu with its 20 seats.
It is now history how he used repression against Nkomo in order coerce him (Zapu) into a merger with Zanu. The so-called merger was nothing but a takeover of Zapu. Mugabe used the first and third methods to effect a one-party system.
The resurgence of civil society in the mid-1990s, which culminated in the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), interfered with Mugabe's dream of a one-party state.
The growing popularity of the MDC as seen in its performance during the 2000 elections had Mugabe worried. To remain in power Mugabe rigged subsequent elections.
This resulted in the MDC losing some seats it had won in 2000. Going into the 2008 elections, Mugabe was confident of an easy victory. He was shocked by the results.
He set his mobs against the opposition. By so doing he went against what he said on April 18 1980 during a state of the nation address. "Democracy is never mob rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule, requiring compliance with the law and social rules. Our independence must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups of individuals with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will."
l Phil Mtimkulu teaches African politics at Unisa.
l Taxi2.com returns in two weeks.