If ever there was a case study on the dangers of allowing unlimited presidential terms, it is Zimbabwe. The southern African country shows in stark relief the perils of allowing one man to helm the state indefinitely. It demonstrates how difficult it becomes to remove him the longer he stays in power. And, tragically, it reveals what a high price the people pay when a regime becomes immovably entrenched.
In the event anyone doubted the plans of aging Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, he spelled them out as clearly as anyone could a few weeks ago at the African Union summit when he declared, “I will be there until God says ‘come,’ and as long as I am alive I will head the country.” With that, he sent a message to the people of Zimbabwe that the end of his disastrous rule is being prevented by his own longevity.
A few days later, as if to underscore the convergence of his long life and his nation’s calamity, Mugabe celebrated his 92nd birthday with a lavish party estimated to have cost upward of $800,000, held in a region particularly hard hit by a catastrophic drought. As he sliced into a massive birthday confection decorated with the map of Africa, it looked as if Mugabe was enacting for the millions of Zimbabweans currently dependent on food aid a parody of “let them eat cake.”