All dictators are completely blind to their own evil

The resignation of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf may or may not have caused palpitations among some of African leaders: Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, Joseph Kabila, Omar al Bashir and others.

The resignation of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf may or may not have caused palpitations among some of African leaders: Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, Joseph Kabila, Omar al Bashir and others.

But it was a classic example of a leader accepting that he had failed and his only alternative was a decent, respectable exit while the people still retained a modicum of tolerance for him.

Had he not there are few who would have expected him not to face the same fate as a number of other Pakistani politicians, the last being the late Benazir Bhutto, whose father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed by an army dictator who himself died in a plane crash.

In Africa they will hang on until most of their so-called subjects wish they could be dealt with by this Great Someone who cannot be asked to account for his actions by mere mortals.

Mugabe, for one, has singled Him out as the only One to get rid of him. He might yet get his wish. He has done enough harm to God's people to probably deserve the worst of his wrath.

On the periphery of the debate on the staying power of Africa's dictators must be analysed the endless search for the perfect system of politics and government.

Musharraf claimed in his resignation address he had tried to do his best for this country. They all say that. Even Hitler might have whispered this to his lover before they died in the Berlin bunker.

Musharraf, in his nine years as dictator, presided over a country in a permanent state of crisis and poverty. He had achieved power through a coup and was aided and abetted by the US for his role in the so-called "war on terror".

It was the war on poverty Bush should have targeted. Good fortune could have swung in both his and Musharraf's favour then.

But the latter was a nasty piece of work, sabotaging the judiciary and giving Benazir Bhutto not much of a chance to campaign for elections on a level playing field.

Not many could shake off the suspicion that he colluded in her assassination.

Musharraf might have claimed to be a democrat but so have many African leaders - even while their supporters butchered opposition members.

Always, the loudest claimants of a democratic system are people who will resort to murder and mayhem at the drop of an unkind word - Vladimir Putin, for instance.

Bush lost all credibility as a democrat once he pushed for the war in Iraq. If the Republicans lose the presidential election in November, you can imagine what celebrations Saddam Hussein will have - wherever he is.

All over the world the search for a perfect system of government continues. The great people of ancient Rome and Athens are recorded as having paved the way for what passes for democracy today - the word itself is Greek in origin.

Modern Greece was once ruled by a military dictatorship. Modern-day Italy has a leader said by some of his opponents to be one of the most corrupt people in the land.

Silvio Berlusconi would probably send the great Roman proponents of democracy into hysterical guffaws if he insisted he was the perfect model of a democrat.

South Africa has been cited, so far, as the nearest example of what a democracy ought to be - in Africa. Nigeria is not.

South Africa could lose all that lustre if it lets poverty continue unchecked. No democratic system can thrive where there is poverty, a lesson Musharraf ought to have learnt.

lThe writer is deputy editor of TheStandard in Zimbabwe

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