What Mugabe is learning now, and it is something of which Zuma should take good note, is that the people are an ungrateful lot, and are likely to turn against you just when you most need their support.
Up till a week ago, it was presumed that Mugabe retained the backing of all who mattered in ZANU-PF and that he would again be its candidate for president at the next election. But now, like many a dictator, he is having to learn fast that the people no longer love him.
Past allies, like the war veterans, had already turned against him, repudiating his apparent bid for his wayward wife, Grace, to replace him.
ZANU-PF Youth leader, Kudzai Chipanga, initially declared his willingness to “die for Mugabe” and labelled Major-General Constantino Chiwenga, the leader of the non-coup, a traitor when the army first intervened. After being locked up, he shamefacedly read out an abject apology, begging forgiveness, and pleading the inexperience of youth.
This has been followed by all 10 provincial organisations of ZANU-PF calling for Mugabe to go, and even encouraging ordinary people to join the marches being organised by opposition parties and civil society demanding his dismissal.
Zuma is too wily a politician not to know that once he loses the party presidency, his support base will drain away, and that he will become known as yesterday’s man.
Yet like Mugabe, he will take comfort from the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), for there is nothing his fellow presidents dread more than the prospect of any one of their number facing impeachment.
He will also know that, unlike Mbeki, whose stature in Africa remains high, he has no viable future as a roving ex-president. Zuma will know that if he wants to enjoy his retirement in peace, he has to leave South Africa before he gets tangled up in court proceedings.
His best option will be to grab those two suitcases, make a hasty exit and move in next door to Bob and Grace in Dubai.
By Roger Southall. This article first appeared in The Conversation