Let's pretend for a moment that you're the dictator of a country that has long since reached the point of political, economic and social collapse. Your country, once one of the region's wealthiest, is now among the world's poorest, thanks to you. To make things worse, unemployment has surpassed 80%, inflation at nearly 4,000%, power cuts are rampant, and where your country used to be a major food exporter, it is now almost completely reliant on foreign charity to feed itself. What would you do next?
If you're Zimbabwean autocrat Robert Mugabe, the answer is simple: spend nearly $5,000,000 of public funds on a museum honoring yourself.
If Mugabe's decision to spend that much money on an utterly frivolous temple to himself seems odd, it shouldn't. He's always had a preference for putting symbolism at a higher premium than the mundane business of governance; his museum will simply reflect this. Since Mugabe's actual achievements as President have been frankly negligible, his museum will apparently devote the bulk of its space to honoring Mugabe's role as a freedom fighter against the government of Rhodesia. And that's probably a good thing, since good will for Mugabe took a fairly sharp nosedive when he decided to become de facto President for life of the nation he worked so hard to liberate.
The museum will also devote a large amount of exhibition space to gifts from visiting diplomats and heads of state (sound familiar?), a rather embarrassing choice in a country where the populace has been put into poverty by the government. One article describes one such recent gift that will be going in the museum, a 16 foot long stuffed crocodile given to Mugabe by his toadies in the ruling Zanu-PF party. One such sycophant, the improbably named Webster Shamu, gushed that the taxidermy specimen ...
" ... symbolized maturity, distilled and accumulated wisdom, and majestic authority - attributes that have been characteristic of the president's leadership during the protracted anti-colonialist struggle and even in the current struggle against imperialist and neo-colonialist forces."
That's obviously great news for the Zimbabwean public, who might have had cause to suspect that their country's transformation into a hell hole was due to leadership completely bereft of maturity, distilled or accumulated wisdom and majestic authority. Whatever else Mugabe's subjects might be angry about, I suppose they can be grateful that Wilson Shamu has cleared that up.