The reason why Mugabe has been able to hang onto power for so long, despite naked repression and economic meltdown, long after the exhaustion of his brand of nationalism, is that the politics of the opposition leadership has genuinely been underwhelming:
To say many and probably most Zimbabweans want Mugabe to step aside is not the same as saying his ideas have been largely rejected by them. For example, most would want his flawed land reform effort to be fixed to work, not for it to be reversed. The MDC was slow to understand this and other nuances of Mugabe's complex legacy, losing it precious time and early support in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. (Makunike, 1 May 2008)If Mugabe had faced a better opposition, he would have been gone a long time ago.
The emphasis of the argument that leftists should be making in the case of Zimbabwe and others like it is not that there is a nascent left within the opposition despite the Western backing of the MDC (which is the point often made by leftists regarding Zimbabwe) but that the Western backing delays, rather than hastens, the much needed transition and moreover worsens the quality of the outcome of the transition, as well as obstructs the development of democracy in the West itself. That's the crucial nuance found in Makunike's article.