By Asikason Jonathan
I am termed dictator, even called Hitler, because I have rejected this White supremacists’ view and frustrated the neo-colonialists.— Mugabe
IN a remarkable contradistinction to what Shakespeare said about cowards, Mugabe died many times and still remained valiant before his final expiration on September 6, 2019. That he claimed that this feat surpassed that of Christ whom he said died once and resurrected once, clearly showcased the latter-day banality that characterized the man Mugabe.
As expected of a personality of his cut of cloth, Mugabe’s death was in itself a controversy! While his Western critics have continued to weigh his afro-centric, iconoclastic and idiosyncratic stances against the megalomaniac spirit that later enveloped him, worthy of note here is that the West made Mugabe. Their betrayal of the terms of land transfer as signed in the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 was what Mugabe spent most of his 37 years in office fighting.
During the 1979 independence negotiations at Lancaster House Conference that lasted from September 10 to December 15, it was agreed that land was to be redistributed on the “Willing-buyer, Willing-seller” principle for the first ten years after independence before any policy review. However, the West’s grouse with Mugabe started when his government embarked on sweeping land reforms that is based on the State’s compulsory acquisition. The Zimbabwean Land Acquisition Act of 1992, as it is called, empowered the government to acquire any land as it deemed fit, albeit after payment of financial compensation, went against the unifying policies of Mugabe’s early years in office.
With this controversial policy, everything changed for Mugabe; the revolutionary the West knighted and extolled for visionary leadership suddenly became a synonym for an autocrat, tyrant, despot, etc. To this end, the Matabeleland massacres were dredged up and used against him. And by so doing, the hypocrisy of the West was laid bare in that they were aware of the heinous killing of more than 20,000 Ndebele people between 1984 and 1987 by the army’s infamous Fifth Brigade, but waited for a fall-out with Mugabe before using it against his government.
By turning a blind eye during the brewing days of these massacres, which were aimed at crushing the core of the electoral base of Joshua Nkomo, a fellow liberation-era figure whom Mugabe feared could mount a formidable challenge to his rule, the West engendered the consolidation of Mugabe’s dictatorship. So when they later came with their sanctions, Mugabe had been fully immunized and thus was hell-bent on correcting what he saw as the colonial imbalance in which the minority White population owned most of the country’s arable land.
The dogs of White supremacists were unleashed. The Western media vilified and demonised him as a dictator who stifled democracy. They said he expropriated land from White farmers who were the backbone of the country’s economy. And to remove him, they propped up and generously funded an opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, to bring change.
And the indefatigable Mugabe came out fighting:
“You don’t leave power when imperialists demand you leave. There is a regime-change programme by the United States and the United Kingdom, which is not just targeting Robert Mugabe, but Robert Mugabe and his party [to remove them] out of power. That naturally means we dig in and remain in our trenches.”
To this end, Mugabe garnered all the paraphernalia of war within his grasps. He fought the White supremacists to the extent of transforming ordinary Zimbabweans to the proverbial “grass” that suffers when two elephants fight.
The ramifications were far-reaching: the country’s economy, once on the cusp of being one of Africa’s most developed, shrank and ebbed. According to The Mail and The Guardian (2009), the country’s economy fell significantly after 2000, resulting in a desperate situation for the country’s widespread poverty and a 95% unemployment rate. The following year, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita collapsed to a level last seen in 1952. The hyperinflation that the country’s economy suffered from 2003 to 200 as reported by Sebastien Berger of UK Telegraph in 2008 and the cholera outbreak of 2008 that afflicted thousands of people merely confirmed the obvious: Zimbabwe became a failed state.
Even when Zimbabweans were against this backdrop tired of Mugabe and wanted to catch a glimpse of what Tsvangirai’s presidency would look like, the former couldn’t throw in the trowel. The 2008 presidential election was a fight to finish affair. Pictures of battered Tsvangirai who, according to exit polls, won the first round majority for the election, littered the cyberspace, AU came in but at the end Mugabe tacitly garnered all the executive powers to himself and thus reducing Tsvangirai to an ‘Also-ran’ in the so-called power sharing government that was fashioned by Thabo Mbeki. “The MDC will never be allowed to rule this country, never ever. . . only God will remove me,” declared Mugabe.
Mugabe would have been celebrated more than South African Nelson Mandela had he left when the ovation was loudest. Thus, his insistence on leading the struggle and not transferring baton to the younger generations in his ZANU-PF was where he shot himself on the leg. Mandela aptly captured this when he said: “He was the star and then the sun came up.”
Becoming infected with the metastasizing virus of African sitightism, the lines that separates nationalism and self-aggrandizement got smudged. Mugabe transmogrified into a bogeyman not just to the West but also to the poor Zimbabweans that he spent 10 years in prison fighting for their emancipation. He became the God of Zimbabwe and caricatured African leaders who were removed by popular revolt as being the cause of their misfortunes. Together with Grace, his second wife, Mugabe amassed wealth and lived in affluence at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans. This explains the celebration that seized the streets of Harare when he was toppled in a coup that was all but in name.
All in all, while Bob, as he is fondly called, was not as bad as his many Western critics painted him, he was not also as good as many of us Pan-Africanists are eulogising him. Nonetheless, his place in history shall continue to be controversial.
d have sent flowers, Mugabe, for you broke
the white chains of Cecil Rhodes’ Rhodesia. But you
moved into your jailors’ quarters, painted the white
chains black, & made Zimbabwe, Bob’s Mugabesia.
I would have sent flowers, Mugabe, but the gardens
of Matabeleland no longer sprout lilies and roses.
their earth is still gorged with the blood of the twenty
thousand, still choked with the bones and the bones
and the bones of sleeveless hands. I would have sent
flowers, Mugabe, for the moving socialist rhetoric of
your freedom-fighting years. but neither the Marxist
manifesto, nor your love for the people, survived the
incense of independence, the drunkenness of power.
still, I would have sent flowers, Bob Mugabe, but your
guard of honour the short- & long-sleeved ghosts of
Gukurahundi have no hands to hold your garlands