Some have tried to portray Robert Mugabe as a hero. Was his land redistribution well-handled, and can we as Africans be proud of him after his death?
Many Pan-Africanists still think of Mugabe as a saint and heap praise after praise upon him. They argue that unlike a much praised Mandela who left the status quo unchallenged and unchanged, Mugabe fought it to the bitter end by returning the land to the true owners, the black people. So according to them, this qualifies him as a hero. That’s my point of departure and I will labour to explain.
What is a hero? I understand a hero as a person noted for courageous acts, a person with nobility of character, a defender and protector of the most vulnerable, poor, weak folks among us, a champion of peace and a liberator. Does Mugabe suit my understanding of a hero? Let me evaluate him a little more.
Mugabe, together with others, got Zimbabwe’s independence through violent means. Nevertheless, he got it. In 1980 Zimbabwe was the food basket of Southern Africa. The economy was strong and functional under the minority White Leadership of about 4500 White descendants of mainly British and South African colonial era settlers.
Mugabe cooperated with them at first and instead concentrated on fighting his political opponent under Joshua Nkomo. It’s on record that Mugabe massacred over 20,000 Ndebeles between 1983 and 1987. His militia would round up villages, force people to dig mass graves and shoot them and bury them right there. The UK and American governments didn’t raise any dust over that. They paid no attention to his brutality. Why? He was serving their interests. In him, they thought they had another crown to dance at their whim.
Mugabe was the darling of Western Powers. Several universities gave him honorary degrees – a despicable form of corruption promoted by the West – and in 1994 he was knighted by none other than the Queen of England. Hypocrisy. You remember the Gukurahundi massacres and then you see the British Queen knighting the mass murderer. Does that tell you something how the British monarchy works?
How then did he attract hate? Simple. He touched the white farmers’ land and then the West woke up in condemnation. In the late 1990s, Mugabe devised a method of wining more influence and retaining power. He wanted to be president for life so he tactfully looked for a soft target. An easy-to-sell platform to blindfold the pan-Africanists, attract sympathy from gullible voters and reward his cronies. He went for the white settlers, the farmers who owned much of the land.
His rhetoric started. He claimed – and rightly so – that white farmers had his people’s land and made them “a race of no rights beyond those of chattel”. If he had followed through according to his word, it would have been a just course of action. The law had been made to the effect that land would be negotiated and purchased from the white settlers and distributed to the landless blacks. It would have been a good move, but it was never implemented. I understand the land owners objected to it and were backed by the US and UK governments. They wanted the status quo to remain, the majority black Zimbabwean to remain poor, landless and disillusioned! Was that fair? Yes to the West. No to the Africans.
Mugabe didn’t bother to negotiate further with white settlers. He tried to have the law changed to allow him grab the land by force but the law was not amended. What did he do? He resorted to bush violence and used his war veteran bandits to attack white farmers. Many fled the country, a few who remained where tortured and some were killed together with the black Zimbabweans working for them. Who took the land? Was it the poor landless Zimbabweans? Was there a proper formula of redistricting the land? Absolutely not. It was an Idi Amin style land grab. His cronies, war veterans and political allies got farms they couldn’t manage. Result? No food production and the country known as the “food basket ” was no more…
“And the reason why he took farms (from both white and black farmers by the way) was because he suspected that the Commercial Farmer’s Union (CFU) was sponsoring the new opposition. He had awarded the war veterans with $50 000 each 3 years before, and $2000 for the rest of their lives yet none of this money was budgeted for and it was the first blow to the Zimbabwean economy. The Zim dollar back then had the same value as the US dollar, so that was a lot of money. Opposition grew after this, particularly from the Commercial Farmers’ Union and an opposition party rose soon after. Rumors that this opposition party; The Movement for Democratic Change had been sponsored by the Commercial Famers’ Union led to the land grabs from every farmer, black and white. He only publicized it as land reform for the media, but Zimbabweans who witnessed the whole thing unfold know very well that was not the case.”Takudzwa Mazwienduna
But that’s not what brought Zimbabwe to her knees. It was the economic sanctions by the now annoyed Western powers. Mugabe would kill the Ndebeles and all his opponents, that was fine with them but touching the white settlers made all the difference. Hypocrisy at it’s best.
By the end of 2008 Zimbabwe had 500 billion % inflation and GDP fell by 40% and this was the highest inflation in history. Zimbabwe’s Central Bank introduced a 100 trillion dollar note worth around $43. Even that failed to solve the country’s problems and Zimbabwe resorted to using foreign currency. It was a country on it’s knees, a failed state. Mass unemployment, organised chaos, murder and looting was the order of the day.
Meanwhile, Mugabe lived larger than life. His wife, Gucci Grace, held lavish birthday parties spending millions. Mugabe build himself palaces including his 25 room “Blue House” residence in Harare decorated with gold! His mega palace is said to have been constructed by foreign companies, sitting on 44 acre landscaped ground protected by a multi-million dollar radar system and it’s off limits to the general public. African dictators know one thing, they know how to distance themselves from their own people.
He rigged his way into leadership twice. The opposition won but he couldn’t allow them lead or rather rule because they were “backed by foreign powers”. He wanted not only to rule for life but at 93, his plan was to hand over power to his wife, Gucci Grace. No doubt, this was another monarchy in the making. The British had mentored him so well.
When the military got tired and fired him, he was out of power. Sadly, his cronies never took him to court to face justice. This criminal died without getting tried for the crimes he committed. It must inspire other dictators to do worse. They can kill you and steal from you, and as long as the US, UK, Russia and now China supports them, the Western media and powers will praise them. Let that sink in.
Are leaders in the West saints? Far from it. Look at all of them and see how many lives they have destroyed all over the world. King Leopold of Belgium, Hitler, Winston Churchill, Bush, Blair and Obama…. All these folks have been brutal murderers, looters, and champions of organised chaos and violence – but they do much of this in other countries beyond theirs. They are generally praised at home but their foreign policies stink and disadvantage the world. The media sings their praises so you may never know how dangerous they are to the entire human race.
Does this justify us having the Mugabes of this world? I say no. We deserve better. We can’t afford to tolerate a leader butchering us, treating us as their property. That’s my point of departure. That’s why I reject misrule, violence, oppression, thuggery, and all forms of exploitation no matter the skin colour of the perpetrator. Wrong remains wrong and I vehemently condemn it, whatever the source.