[OPINION] Mugabe, the most stubborn man I have met

There were many of us who did not believe - whatever the reliable wire services were reporting - that Robert Mugabe was going to step down as Zimbabwe’s president on Sunday.

Interestingly, we were invariably those who have met and spoken to the 93-year old.

Robert Mugabe is probably the most stubborn man I have met.

In the days when his political star shone bright, he could afford to be.

In our first interview in Maputo 41 years ago, he said his Mozambique host Samora Machel had taught him the invaluable lesson to retain white farmers and entrepreneurs.

In power 15 years later, to ward off a threat from a burgeoning opposition, he launched land grab that turned his country from the regional breadbasket into the continental basket case.

At the Lancaster Conference in London in 1979 he had his host Lord Carrington, the British Foreign Secretary, over a barrel.

Every time deadlock loomed, Mugabe would pack his papers and lead his team out.

He knew there could be no settlement without him.

On the few occasions I spoke to him in Harare, Mugabe knew he had the whip hand with overwhelming support from the military and the ruling party.

This enabled him to insult and belittle British premier Tony Blair, Botswana’s President Ian Khama and anyone else he perceived as a dangerous opponent.

Many years have passed and the glaring defiance has evidently dimmed.

He has repeatedly overplayed his hand. And, more fatally, he has allowed his South African-born typist wife to play hers.

Approaching his 94th birthday, the longest-serving head-of-government on the planet has obviously not grasped the reality that his actions, and those of his wife, have stripped him of friends, allies and supporters.

Mugabe will be impeached this week. The ruling Zanu-PF will make sure of it.

So will Zimbabwe’s military, desperate to avoid having the African Union officially characterise its actions as a coup which would automatically red-card the country.

What Mugabe will not be able to do is effect a dignified exit.

And he will find it infinitely more difficult to achieve the shelter he is seeking in Singapore for himself and his wife, who has been expelled from Zanu-PF.

Some find this sad.

The majority, however, are saying what Zimbabweans finally dare to go to the streets to declare: good riddance.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish