I remember the day my wife returned home from Kwekwe, a year or so ago, expressing profound confusion as to whether a new street name sign she had just seen in the central business district (CBD) was what is appeared to mean.
She said that there was an awkward, and apparently haphazardly made, sign, seemingly indicating that the city’s main street – which, we had known as “R.G. Mugabe” – had been changed to, “E.D. Mnangagwa”.
We spent a considerable amount of time debating whether such a brazen move would be possible, postulating that – as much as the new Zimbabwe president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa had toppled the long-time dictator, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in the most humiliating manner ever imaginable, thorough a military coup d’etat in November 2017 – he would never go as far as removing the late tyrant’s legacy, and replacing it with his.
After quite a number of enquiries to local journalist friends, whom I expected to be in the know – yet, most expressing equal shock, and ignorance of this latest development (further buttressing our suspicions that this move had been hastily made) – it was later confirmed in news reports later that evening.
In the midst of this unbelief, I wondered to myself, “If ED had the temerity to wipe out his predecessor’s legacy – a man who had been his mentor for five decades, and the leader of his party – what made him so confident that his own legacy would not be wiped off the history books, once he also exited power?”
It became clear to me, how folly it was for any leader to rely on a fragile legacy built on unpopular anti-people misrule, corruption, and repression – since, it could easily be washed away, into oblivion, the moment they left office.
Honestly, who would have ever imagined that, a man who ruled with a ruthless military-based iron fist – clearly premised on a deluded belief that the country between the mighty Limpopo and Zambezi rivers was his and his family’s personal property, thereby claiming every piece of land they desired, looting the country’s mineral resources with reckless abandon, practically ruling by decree, naming every major street after himself, and being portrayed as a gallant liberator above all other liberators – would one day find himself being gradually stripped of that legacy.
I would have thought that his successor would learn from such, and avoid repeating the same mistakes, and errors of judgement.
However, I was wrong. Extremely wrong.
This cycle has not only continued under this so-called “Second Republic”, but has actually taken on an even more repulsive, malicious, and amoral form.
Not only is the “new dispensation” taking the, “we own this country” delusion to shocking new heights – through what many scholars and activists agree is unprecedented looting, tyranny, and mismanagement – but, they appear determined to outdo Mugabe in the field of self-extolling and self-glorification.
They have not wasted any time publishing biographies and autobiographies, whose sole intent appears to whitewash their disastrous careers – characterized by rabid corruption, unforgivable savage brutality, a genocide that claimed over 20,000 lives, and unprecedented incompetence – by, clumsily and futilely attempting to evoke their not-so-glamorous 1970s liberation war exploits, whose only “success” appears to be blowing up a locomotive, escaping the gallows by a whisker, and serving a ten-year prison term.
…that historical version, in itself, still highly debatable.
Furthermore, awarding spouses with undeserving grand national awards – yet, those who have accomplished more, and over a far longer period, being overlooked – and, going overdrive in naming more and more streets after themselves.
If the ruling elite in Zimbabwe did not learn anything from what they themselves did to Mugabe, then maybe I should spell it out for them.
Long-lasting and permanent legacies are never imposed on the people – but, are cultivated over a protracted length of time, based on genuine servitude to the citizenry, respect for their rights, and improving their livelihoods.
That way, the citizens themselves will honour a truly great leader – even if that happens years after they have since left office, and possibly passed away – with a legacy that will last for as long as life on earth persists, and no one will ever think of erasing or changing.
A founding father like George Washington is still honoured and revered in the United States, nearly two hundred and fifty (250) years after his feat of independence – yet, Mugabe was already steadily being wiped off Zimbabwe’s map barely a mere 40 years after his takeover of the country.
An imposed legacy is akin to a tree without roots, or a house built on a weak foundation – it will never stand the test of time, and human judgement.
Street names will be changed, awards either revoked or simply forgotten about, books will gather dust or used for fire, and all the looted property reclaimed by the people.
The only legacy that will remain will be history books filled with stories of leaders who once made the lives of Zimbabweans a hell on earth…for that will be the true record.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and, political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: email@example.com