After the death of Louis XVI in 1793, the Reign of Terror began in France. The first victim was Marie Antoinette, the wife to Louis XVI. She had been imprisoned with her children after she was separated from her husband. The guillotine, the new instrument of egalitarian justice, was put to work. Public executions were considered educational. By July 1794, the Revolutionary Tribunal ordered the execution of 2,400 people in Paris alone and across France, 30 000 people lost their lives.
The Terror was designed to fight the enemies of the revolution, to prevent counter-revolution from gaining ground. Most of the people rounded up were not aristocrats, but ordinary people. A man (and his family) could be sent to the guillotine for raising the mildest criticism against the revolutionary government.
Maximillian Robespierre was the mastermind of the Reign of Terror. He was the leader of the Committee of Public Safety, the executive committee of the National Convention, and the most powerful man in France.
The promises of the Declaration of the Rights of Man were forgotten. The terror was the order of the day. In the words of Robespierre, "Softness to traitors will destroy us all."
The old maxim "the end justifies the means" describes Robespierre's policy well but eventually, even the radical Jacobins, the supporters of Robespierre, came to feel that the Terror had to be stopped. Danton rose in the Convention calling for an end to the Terror. He was its next victim.
Fearful of Danton's reputation of eloquence, the Convention passed a decree stating that any accused person who insulted the court should be prohibited from speaking in his own defense.
Danton was not allowed to defend himself. Nevertheless after the 'trial', Danton said "the people will tear my enemies to pieces within 3 months." As he was led to the guillotine, he remarked, "Above all, don't forget to show my head to the people - it's well worth having a look at." Modesty was never one of his virtues.
Before Danton could be guillotined, he told Robespierre that "today I go and tomorrow you shall follow."
When Robespierre called for a new purge in 1794, he seemed to threaten the other members of the Committee of Public Safety. The Jacobins had had enough. Cambon rose in the Convention and said, "It is time to tell the whole truth. One man alone is paralysing the will of the Convention. And that man is Robespierre."
Others quickly rallied to his support. Robespierre was arrested and sent to the guillotine the next day and was the last victim of the Reign of Terror.
Closer to home, the revolutionary Zanu PF party, which brags that it brought the country's independence 'through the barrel of the gun', has launched its own Terror of sorts.
First it was Joice Mujuru and her 'Gamatox cabal' who were sent to the guillotine over allegations of working to usurp power from nonagenarian President Robert Mugabe.
Mujuru was a poster child of the revolution but she was kicked out of Zanu PF over allegations that have not been proven up to date. The same guillotine fell on other 'heavies'; the likes of Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo.
Mujuru was stripped off all her liberation war credentials and claims that she gunned down an enemy chopper during the liberation struggle were rubbished as a big lie. She fell onto the sword she had lived by, with her fellow war veterans in the front line to nail her.
Out Mujuru, enter Emmerson Mnangagwa, a shrewd Mugabe 'loyalist' who is credited of standing by his master through thick and thin. Mnangagwa replaced Mujuru after she was booted out in 2013.
Nicknamed the crocodile (Ngwena), Mnangawa savoured the moment and kept rubbing salt into the wounds of Mujuru and her axed cabal.
It has to be noted that President Mugabe's wife, Grace, had played a leading role in the persecution of Mujuru and her cabal, convincing her husband that the Gamatox cabal really wanted to kill him.
From that time onwards, Grace began to show keen interest in national politics and she began her journey by clinching the Women's League top post.
The person who coined the phrase 'power is sweet and too much power corrupts' seemed to have prophesied current developments in the country.
Zanu PF had convinced itself that after flashing out Gamatox, the party had been cleansed of all bad things but the coming of Grace turned tables around and a new faction, Generation 40 (G40), allegedly led by Grace, emerged.
Grace immediately took aim at Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was believed to be leading a splinter faction collectively known as Team Lacoste.
The Lacoste faction is deeply rooted in Mnangagwa's home province, the Midlands and Masvingo. Some people of Masvingo and Midlands believed it was time for a muKaranga to lead.
Another reign of terror began and the revolution began eating its own children, anyone believed to be critical of the system.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWA) leadership, which had a field day when their former boss Jabulani Sibanda was axed for undermining the President when he openly told Grace that power was not sexually transmitted, were the first to be fired after they issued a damning communique against their patron Mugabe, telling him that he had overstayed his welcome.
The ZNLWVA executive, fronted by the highly garrulous chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, secretary general Victor Matemadanda and spokesperson Douglas Mahiya was send to the guillotine for challenging the status quo.
The axed war veterans supported Mnangagwa who however never lifted a finger to protect them. The all-powerful Grace, with the backing of her husband and the G40 faction, managed to turn the once feared crocodile into a mere toothless lizard.
The revolution had entered a second phase of purges and this time Mnangagwa, just like Robespierre, was send to the guillotine.
And just like Danton told Robespierre that 'today I go and tomorrow you shall follow', Mujuru told Mnangagwa the same and he indeed followed, falling by his own sword—ending the second phase of the reign of terror.
Mnangagwa's own anti-Mugabe pronouncements, "instead, it is you and your cohorts who will leave Zanu PF by the will of the people" have also come to pass.
The former VP has bounced back with the help of the army and has been named interim party leader pending the Zanu PF extra-ordinary congress and national elections next year.politics