Goodbye Robert Mugabe

Goodbye Robert Mugabe

Politicians are those mystics of time who in the whisk of a moment can turn the world upside-down or stand it up on its feet if they see the need to do so given the circumstances of a moment in time and history. Followed by throngs of party supporters, heckled by critics, often hated by the opposition in parliament, and frowned upon by the street judges of the world, this is the life of the politician and it bothers them none or affects them greatly in the course of their term of their rule.
Most of them will be forgotten with the passage of their regime, others and their names cling on until the end of time. This is the tale of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the man who came to be loved and loathed, detested and admired, considered the most educated megalomaniac and dictator who ever walked the continent of Africa following Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 by the former colonisers of Africa.

It is hard to hate Robert Mugabe, the road the angel of death walked in life can only inspire awe even in amongst the ranks of those he cudgelled to the ground when he felt there was dissension in his beloved Zimbabwe.
The villainous hero of African politics and Zimbabwe’s liberation was born on February 21, 1924 in Kutama, about 80km west of the capital Harare just a few months after the region became a British Crown colony.
An article in biography.com states that the resulting environment from this colonisation was one that found local people oppressed by the new laws that favoured the minority, forcing them to face limitations to their education and job opportunities. Mugabe’s father was a carpenter who left as a migrant worker and was employed at a Jesuit mission in South Africa when Robert was still a young boy.

Like many of the Makholoa his father mysteriously never came back home, and Mugabe’s mother had to raise Robert and his three siblings on her own. Unlike most of his peers, Mugabe was fortunate to get a good education, earning the name ‘Clever Boy’ in the eyes of his teachers.

A school director that came early in his schooldays, Father O’ Hea, would go on to become a great influence on the young Robert with his outlook that all should be treated equally and educated to the fulfilment of their abilities.
The article further posits that the values Father O’ Hea passed on to his protégés resonated with the young Mugabe, leading to his following in his mentor and mother’s footsteps. He taught at various mission schools while privately studying over a period of nine years. He then went on to continue his education at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in English in 1951.

He then returned to his hometown to teach, and two years later earned his Bachelor of Education degree through correspondence. He moved to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) where he taught at the Chalimbana Training College for four years whilst also working toward his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics through correspondence with the University of London.

This was followed by a move to Ghana where he finished his degree in economics in 1958. He taught at St. Mary’s Teacher Training College where he met his first wife, Sarah Heyfron and they were married in 1961.
It was in Ghana where the Marxist thoughts of the Pan-Africanist leaders of Africa such as Kwame Nkrumah began to influence him and had him supporting the Ghanaian government’s goal of providing equal educational opportunities to the formerly designated lower classes.

It was in this period (probably 1961) that Mugabe returned home on leave to introduce his fiancée to his mother that he found his homeland drastically changed by the effects of colonialism. Large numbers of the local black population had been strategically displaced by the colonial government and the white sector of society had literally exploded in numbers.
This new government imposed apartheid principles on the black majority. They denied the black majority rule, resulting in violent protests reminiscent to those in neighbouring South Africa. He agreed to address a crowd of about seven thousand protesters in Salisbury, 1961 held at the Harare Town Hall in protest to the recent arrest of their leaders.

Mugabe ignored threats from the police and went on to show his compatriots how Ghana successfully achieved independence through Marxism, seeing the government’s policies as tools of division when it came to access to resources and services leading to his making the declaration, “Africa must revert to what it was before imperialists divided it. These are artificial divisions which we, in our pan-African concept, will seek to remove.”
This was the beginning of the figure the world came to meet and know on their television screens and other media platforms later. Brash and full of bravado, there was however a lot of substance in the words of the most prolific orator on the African continent, Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

There is just no denying his skill and finesse when it came to the execution of rhetoric as an act supported not only by its verse but the rhetoric of the sort that is cemented by deeds. He in 1961 assembled a militant youth league to spread the message about achieving an independent state of Zimbabwe which led to the banning of his party the National Democratic Party of which he was an elected public secretary late in 1961. He was part of the remaining supporters that formed ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) that soon grew to have a membership of close to half a million followers. This movement was led by Joshua Nkomo.

Nkomo was invited to meet with the United Nations, and his call that Britain suspend their constitution and review the issue of majority rule fell on deaf ears. This led to the frustration of Mugabe and other members of the party executive, the main cry being that Nkomo did not insist on the colonial authorities setting definite dates for the proposed changes to be effected.
Mugabe was so frustrated that he even started to discuss starting a guerrilla war (later to be known as the Second Chimurenga) to achieve his goal of attaining black majority rule and independence. It is out of this frustration that Mugabe and other supporters of Nkomo formed their own resistance movement ZANU (Zimbabwean African National Union).

Mugabe was later arrested on a trip to his home and was sent to Hwahwa Prison then later to Sikombela Detention Centre and Salisbury Prison in the course of the ten years he spent in jail. He like all other liberation fighters had to rely on secret communications to launch guerrilla-style attacks in operations aimed at freeing Southern Rhodesia from the clutches of British rule.
Ten years into his sentence, Ian Smith allowed Mugabe to leave prison and go to a conference in Lusaka. He however escaped back into Zimbabwe and gathered troops for the Chimurenga. This contingent grew and wreaked so much havoc that by the end of the decade in 1979, Smith had to relent and give in to black majority rule. The early years were not as smooth as many would have purported, with constant squabbles between ZANU and ZAPU.

These were the beginnings of modern post-independence Zimbabwe until that point in time (2000) when the Zimbabwean land grabs began and the economy began to plummet, besmirching the name and the countenance of perhaps one of the best leaders Africa ever had. His refusal to cede power became his main undoing, with lynching, intimidation, arrest, torture, and other forms of persecution becoming the hallmarks of the last years of his stay in office.

It could well have been a political game that Mugabe’s 37-year-long tenure in office ended as it did, this has been the bane and curse of Africa where political leaders overstay their welcome in office and begin to view the office as their home. It is this type of attitude that has many political leaders clinging to the reins of rule and power, forgetting that their stay in office should rightly be only for a few terms.

Mugabe’s demise came from the hubristic tendencies of leaders who get into politics thinking that they would be leaders for life. It can only be achieved in Communist terms where the bodies of Lenin and Mao, Kim Jong-Il and Stalin lie in state for eternity. Out here, one does their part and passes the baton on, there is just no holding the reins of power until one’s sight is vague and the mind is ravaged by senility.

His quotes are among some of the best in the history of time, a few examples which can be drawn from the various speeches he made over the course of his 37-year-long presence in office. In a speech at the World Summit on the Information Society Switzerland on 3 December of 2003, he stated:

“Yet in this new age, we continue to face basic paradoxes. The duality of development and under-development remain implacably in place as the basic and core dialectic to which there is no apparent synthesis. The rich, imperious and digital North remains on the one end of the development divide; the poor, dis-empowered, underdeveloped South remains on the other end of the divide. Yes, for us post-colonials, we still have an aloof immigrant settler landed gentry – all-white, all-royal, all untouchable, all-western supported – pitted against a bitter, disinherited, landless, poverty-begrimed, right-less communal black majority we have vowed to empower, and in the cause of whom Zimbabwe continues to be vilified, in a country that is ours and very African and sovereign.”

Full of depth of insight unequalled, perhaps due to his tremendously high educational acumen, there is a high likelihood that his sentences were largely misunderstood as the world advances to a more receptive type of democracy where everyone’s views are respected as it was when the idea and concept of democracy began in Classical Greece. Mugabe could at times be considered to be obtuse, but there is no denying that he in those moments became the devil one could kiss.

With his caustic sarcasm and a sharp sense of humour, Robert Mugabe could well go on to be the name associated with the invention of the long speech and witty political rhetoric. He is the figure that will be hard to forget, not only because of his legacy, but also for the simple fact that some of us find him largely misunderstood. African politics are largely driven by self-interest, and where one comes to assert their authority by any means necessary, those that do not understand him end up thinking he is the devil’s incarnate even if the interests work in the crowd’s favour.

I would often look at Charlie Chaplin moustache and wonder if he is a Hitler fan, and the answer came with the declaration made in 2003, “I am still the Hitler of the time. Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for.”

The Third Reich came and fell, Mugabe came and is now gone, what we can only do is remember the best of times and the worst of moments, there is just no arguing with the dead, the best we can do is to honour them despite or in spite of whatever injustices we feel they meted upon our poor selves. Death knows no glory or state, only the simple fact that all of us shall end in her arms one day. The only things we shall be remembered for are our deeds and our words. This old man did a lot to ensure that his memory remains remembered.

Ever the pans-Africanist and staunch follower of African Marxism his statement, “We of Africa protest that, in this day and age, we should continue to be treated as lesser human beings than other races…” could well and truly be considered as useless by those that are not aware that there was a lot of truth in his words.

Ask the black soccer players plying their trade in European clubs and you will hear of the same sentiment Mugabe shared in this quote. That we still have episodes of racism on the black peoples of Africa is a sure sign that perhaps, just perhaps, he was right after all when it came to analysing the world’s outlook on Africa’s problems. We suffer because we cannot rid ourselves of colonial tendencies as a continent.

We suffer because there are no leaders willing to address the real concerns of this continent. We suffer because we are willing to lick boots that are used to kick our teeth back in. Perhaps Robert was right in effecting changes that were somewhat unsavoury to those that begged with their cap in hand for aid they have rightful ownership over. Go well, old man, Africa shall remember that you once were here and fought and died for loving the continent with all of your heart.

Ts’episo Mothibi

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