Independence 34: Is it time to deconstruct the #mugabe legend?

via Independence 34: Is it time to deconstruct the Mugabe legend? – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 18, 2014 by Paidamoyo Muzulu

OVER the last 34 years, a period in which Zanu PF has ruled Zimbabwe almost without interruption, a myth has been built around the figure of Robert Mugabe.

His story is reads like a Greek epic.

He has become a legend, a man who went on an epical journey to fight for his country, came back victorious and led his country to a prosperous future.

Mugabe’s odyssey has been characterised by a series of achievements and events which the State-controlled media has narrated in an elevated style. It reads like Homer’s Iliad.

The narrative has papered over some of his greatest weaknesses so much so that in the intervening years, it has become difficult to identify the man from the myth.

Media and contemporary history has made him a giant that lords over all and little has been done to show his Achilles heel.

In Africa, he is viewed as a giant, the ultimate nationalist and unwavering pan-Africanist.

He has been lauded for standing up to the West which formerly held the continent in its colonial grip.

Indeed Mugabe has, in this regard, played to the gallery at one time telling former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to “keep your England, let keep my Zimbabwe”.

For most Africans living in semi-decolonised States on the continent, Mugabe became the epitome of the fight against neo-colonialism.

Whatever forum he graces on the continent he, is received with a standing ovation. He has been compared to Nelson Mandela with a lot of hot air expended on how Mugabe is the greater African statesman.

But his African stature has in the past few weeks been put to scrutiny.
This was after the faux pas over the recent European Union-Africa Summit which he tactlessly refused to attend simply because his wife Grace, who is on European Union sanctions, was denied a visa to travel to Brussels, Belgium, where the conference was being held.

African scholars were able to see in this apparently insignificant incident how Mugabe’s idiosyncratic behaviour could have scuttled a huge African initiative to strike a more balanced trade deal with the European bloc.

Discerning Africans can now see how Mugabe’s egoism destroyed a country touted at independence in 1980 as the “jewel of Africa”, leaving its people at unprecedented levels of poverty.

As Zimbabweans reflect on 34 years of his rule, perhaps it is time to deconstruct the Mugabe legend.

Mugabe has lorded over the country in good and bad times – more of the bad it can be noted. He successfully created a coalition government at independence that set about reconstructing the war-damaged country and set the nation on a path to socio-economic development.

His government embarked on building schools and clinics, bridges and highways and, more importantly, the first phase of land resettlement.
Some 3,6 million hectares of land were distributed countrywide mainly to decongest crowded communal lands.

Mugabe’s star was rising. He became the de facto regional leader, a darling of the West and even hosted the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (Chogm) in 1991 where the world-famous Harare Declaration was penned, setting the Commonwealth of Nations on a new course.

The declaration reaffirmed the principles that guided this huge international bloc of former British colonies.

The principles were:

We believe that international peace and order, global economic development and the rule of international law are essential to the security and prosperity of mankind;

We believe in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief, and in the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which he or she lives;

We recognise racial prejudice and intolerance as a dangerous sickness and a threat to healthy development, and racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil;

We oppose all forms of racial oppression, and we are committed to the principles of human dignity and equality;

lWe recognise the importance and urgency of economic and social development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the vast majority of the peoples of the world, and seek the progressive removal of the wide disparities in living standards amongst our members.

Mugabe stood on the pedestal of international statesmanship, but that was his peak. Soon after the heads of state and government of the Commonwealth nations left Harare, he began to unravel the Harare Declaration and since then his stock began declining both locally and internationally.

But Mugabe’s darker nature was apparent from the outset. But in the independence euphoria many Zimbabweans failed to notice Mugabe sliding into a dictator soon after assuming power.

He started centralising authority and systematically decimating national institutions like the police, the army, intelligence services and parastatals.

As early as 1982, Zimbabwe started training a militia – Fifth Brigade – that was not part of the national army and was only accountable to Mugabe.

The North Korean-trained militia was deployed to effectively deal with military insurgency. It was deployed in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces with devastating effects in an operation codenamed Gukurahundi.

The operation was to effectively deal with acts of insurgency by a section of former guerillas some with links to Zipra forces. Thousands of civilians died in the five-year war that Mugabe described as a “moment of madness”.

However, many analysts believe the Gukurahundi was meant to decimate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu, the then main opposition party, in preparation for the establishment of a legislated one-party state.

The international community stood idly and continued to fund the new State despite the rising scourge of political intolerance and persecution of political opponents.

Unfortunately, this sad episode taught Mugabe that the world does not mind new African leaders oppressing and persecuting their political opponents.

Mugabe since then has used the same tactic to stifle opposition. Edgar Tekere, Ndabaningi Sithole and, most recently, Morgan Tsvangirai have suffered the same fate as Nkomo. They were arrested, their activities banned by police and their supporters persecuted relentlessly by Zanu PF functionaries.

Along the way, the world economy was quickly changing with the East’s socialist economies fast crumbling leaving the West, through the Bretton Woods institutions, to pick up the pieces.

Zimbabwe was not spared from the ravages of the world economic spasms, especially considering its sustained social spending that was not backed by economic growth and production. Mugabe and his government were forced to adopt the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) despite massive protestation from labour unions and social movements.

Zimbabwe adopted the Washington prescription despite the fact that structural adjustment programmes had not worked anywhere else in the world.

As the economy continued to contract, Mugabe’s Cabinet started to engage in systematic corrupt activities whose effects still haunt this nation today.

The first scandal was the Willowvale Motor Industry scam, infamously dubbed Willowgate Scandal, where ministers could get vehicles at factory prices and then resell them on the market at inflated prices in the process making thousands of dollars in profit without any value addition.

The Sandura Commission set up to investigate the scandal and the subsequent prosecutions against those implicated gave two important lessons to this country. Mugabe was too weak to deal decisively with corruption.

Corruption pays handsomely if one is connected to the system. Frederick Shava became the prime example of this. Mugabe pardoned him as soon as he was convicted and sentenced to a custodial term. Shava is the current Zimbabwe ambassador to China.

Since then other scandals have rocked the country with little or no action being taken against those implicated, particularly if they are Zanu PF bigwigs.

Those that come quickly to mind are the War Victims Compensation Fund (implicated several Cabinet ministers and Mugabe’s brother-in-law, Reward Marufu), the Senior Civil Servants Housing Scheme (which also implicated Mugabe’s wife, Grace), Grain Marketing Board scandal that sucked in Kumbirai Kangai and more recently the chaotic land reform where the majority of senior bureaucrats and ministers became multiple-farm owners.

High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi in a recent land dispute judgment came out forcefully that the new landowners cannot afford to turn their farms into weekend resorts when the country needs production.

Mathonsi said: “One cannot be allowed to hold on to large tracts of land they are not using simply to babysit an inflated ego. If a beneficiary is not using the land, that is breach of the conditions upon which the land is offered.”

The generally peaceful but disputed July 2013 poll seemed to have given Mugabe the final opportunity to amend and solidify his legacy as not only Zimbabwe’s but Africa’s greatest statesman.

However, the EU-Africa Summit boycott has dashed that hope. Both Sadc and African Union rewarded Mugabe in his twilight the opportunity to lead the regional and continental blocs.

He will chair the two blocs at their next annual general summits.

Mugabe, the giant of the liberation struggle and the African icon, allowed a selfish reason to destroy his legacy when he failed to attend the EU-Africa Summit on April 2-3.

His boycott despite the regional and continental obligations on him to attend was caused by Brussels’ refusal to grant his wife Grace a visa to the summit.

Zimbabwe, turning 34 today, was about to reach the pinnacle of her power in international relations when the first time since independence in 1980 Zimbabwe was going to this global stage wearing the two hats — regional and continental leader, but this was dashed because of a failed diplomatic stratagem.

Opposition parties, industry and labour while agreeing that independence should be celebrated and those who fought for it recognised, concur the country needs to introspect after more than a generation without renewal.

Main opposition MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora summed it up: “The ideals of the war of liberation have now been abandoned by those running the affairs of the State in favour of pursuit of self-aggrandisement. Economic opportunities are now the preserve of a small elite linked to Zanu PF.”

For now, the time may be nigh to start deconstructing the Mugabe myth.



  • comment-avatar
    Tiger Shona 9 years ago

    When you are managing a country or a company, you have to take responsibillity for what happens to that conern.
    Zimbabwe is in terrible shape, and Mugabe refuses to admit that it is beause of him.
    And the author did not manage how corrupt Mugabe is.
    If this man is a hero for people in Afria, then I am fearful for this continent’s future.

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    John Thomas 9 years ago

    The more we get to know Mugabe the less we like him. His early popularity was only because people did not really know him. He has always been the same poisonous fellow he is now.

    His successes at the AU is a reflection on the moral and ideological bankruptcy of that organization. Equally any success he has had in SADC is because that organization is mainly comprised of compromised very fishy leaders.

    Mugabe was a Marxist Lenninist, so he said. Now he is what? The only thing he has ever had is a hunger for power for its own sake. There are no ideas here. He does not want to do anything good with the power he has. He just wants the power.

    If you take a drive past his house or look at it from google earth you will see that it is some sort of imitation Chinese monstrosity. The man has no taste. Garish plastic imitation bling is as good to him as real quality. His grasp has so far exceeded his reach that finds himself adrift. It is in this light that his utterances should be measured.

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      Jono Austin 9 years ago

      The OAU voted Idi Amin as chairman. OAU was precursor to AU. Tells you all you need to know.

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    The author claims Mugabe built highways,bridges and schools. Which highways and bridges were built after 1980? Zero! The main highway to south africa has not been maintained for 34yrs. All the schools in Mbare & Highfields that were built by the colonialists are in dilapidated state. Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals which were built by the same colonialists are dysfunctional. 34 years of shame shame shame.

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    Mugabe is NOT a legend. he is a nightmare. He has totally squandered his legacy and the rest in ZPF are going down with him. We reap what we sow!

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      Reverend 9 years ago

      RIGHT! He mugabe is not a legend, he is a villain and always has been. He has murdered even his own to ensure his own empowerment and he will go down in the annuls of history as an evil tyrant of the worst kind, like hitler, mousolini, amin and the rest.

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    Senzachena 9 years ago

    The man is, was and always will be a power hungry, incompetant thief, not to metion murderer and adulterer. This is the man who is worshiped by the AU and SADC!! The AU is no better than its predecessor the OAU, an old boys club of incompetant fools whose only interests are retaining power and their own back pocket. The only rule which is never broken by the AU is rule ONE “Never point fingers as they can be pointed back at you”.

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      mandy 9 years ago

      The achilles heel for Mugabe are in two; firstly the economy because the man is incapable of thinking beyond politics, albeit personal power. When his government built the clinics etc that he is always boasting about Mugabe was motivated by just the one desire of broadening the tentacles of political control. Such is the paranoia of the man with political power that he will go to any length to preserve it. Has it ever occurred to you that Zanupf claims that it send you and I to school. they then think Zimbabweans owe them a gartitude of retaineg them in power until kingdom come. Yes, in saying this they actually believe it. Where did zanupf get the money if it was not the sweat of our mothers and fathers who paid taxes. I have a question for Mugabe and Zanupf also. Who sent them to school? Why do they not feel obligated to the Jesuits that trekked all the way from Europe to come to Zimbabwe and build Kutama school for a people they did not know and had indeed nothing in common with?

      The second achilles heel for Mugabe has been Morgan Tsvangirai. A semi educated happy go lucky fellow, often naive and obviously lacking in sophistication who has been unrelenting in challenging the absolute power of the autocratic Mugabe now for close on twenty years. It was Morgan Tsvangirai that made Mugabe assume a pariah status. From the look of things Mugabe will soon go to his grave before he is able to shake off that pariah status. That is the reason why Tsvangirai like it or not has assumed the personification of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai, in spite of his obvious short comings has amply amplified the pariah status of Mugabe like a leech on a lone old man. Mugabe has tried to untangle himself from the pariah status but has to all intents and purpose failed. If what happened at the national stadium yesterday is anything to go by then Mugabe goes into the sunset without shaking off this ‘uncouth,’ half educated man from the dust bowl of Buhera.

      May I take this opportunity to address the professors among us who ooze sophistication, like Johnathan Moyo and have been blunderous in believing that they can only change Mugabe by working from within. We know where your heart is. But the end cannot justify the means. Soon and soon enough egg will be all over your face. One can only hope that in the forlorn hope of rescuing your efforts you will not slide down the precipice sufficient enough for you not to be able to turn back. Already your ZimAsset is still born. It is no secret that you and a team of close on 30 people laboured so hard, spending sleepless nights on that blueprint called ZimAsset. Your labor will bare no fruit all because of this one man called Mugabe. Already you can see for your self that international re-engagement, an aspect so critical to your blueprint’s success is being thrust on the back burner as Mugabe reveals his true colors. First it was the nigerians rubbed the wrong way as corrupt, then the chinese and now its back to the west imperialists. It will not stop there for sure. Unfortunately posterity will record you Johnathan on the side of the short sighted if not opportunists or worse still prostitutes who gambled with the people’s lives for personal aggrandisement.

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    He has made the deadly error of underestimating God. And he is a fool for remaining unrepentant. The time comes!!!!!

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    Mugabe is the only hero who realizes the brutal action and the misbehavior of the EU and their stooges are going to do before they announce and reacts immediately that is why they oppose him.

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      Reverend 9 years ago

      I hope and pray that one day you wake up to reality and the truth, as it seems you are a stooge of evil and will go the same way…sorry to say.

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    Johann 9 years ago

    Mugabe hates the west but flies in a Boeing and drives in a Benz.If he truly hates the west he would relinquish these evil machines in favour of something indigenous.

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      Reverend 9 years ago

      yes I would love to see him being taken to a rural clinic in a wheel barrow!! Savor the thought….

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    The Republicans, Thatcher’s UK government and most of the EU supported racist Apartheid South Africa.

    Idi Amini on the other hand was of course an African savage.