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Drinking to Mugabe’s best health . . . his legacy is safe

21 Feb, 2018 - 00:02 0 Views
Drinking to Mugabe’s best health . . . his legacy is safe Robert Mugabe

The Herald

Zimbabwe is celebrating its newest holiday, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day, for the first time today. The day was proclaimed a national holiday in November last year, through Statutory Instrument 143 published in the Government Gazette.

The notice read: “His Excellency the President, in terms of Section 2(2) of the Public Holidays and Prohibition of Business Act, hereby makes the following notice . . . It is hereby declared that the 21st February of every year henceforth, shall be a public holiday to be known as the Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day.”

The man in whose honour this day is being made is the former President of Zimbabwe who resigned last year on November 21, just a week before the holiday was declared.

The circumstances under which the holiday was declared and its historical context make it significant for the day not to pass without notice.

Former President Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years as Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, having been part of the leadership of nationalists that waged and won the liberation struggle to give Zimbabwe Independence from Britain in 1980.

The veteran leader oversaw a number of milestones during his long tenure, among them significant strides in educating and skilling citizens.

He will also be remembered for championing black empowerment that saw indigenous Zimbabweans become an assertive, self-determined and empowered people.

Zimbabweans pride themselves in being a resourceful and self-confident people wherever they go — and they rightly credit the former President for the consciousness.

But perhaps the most enduring legacy that former President Mugabe left Zimbabweans was that of the land reform programme that saw indigenous Zimbabweans reclaiming land that was stolen from them by British colonialists.

About three quarters of Zimbabwean land had been owned by some 6 000 white aliens, depriving the majority of the 13 million blacks of their land.

Zimbabwe was colonised by Britain in 1890 and land theft and plunder ensued, at the cost of thousands of black people. The white settlers used the powerful machine gun to wipe out resistant blacks. By 1896, blacks of this country had been pacified.

It took close to 100 years to reclaim Independence. Two decades later, Mugabe oversaw the land redistribution programme. He became the African hero, still revered to this day for the heroic programme.

Equally, he became a pariah in the West for being such a ‘bad’ African and developing world leader who dared disturb wealth ownership patterns and setting a potentially ‘bad’ example to countries such as South Africa and Namibia that were saddled with similar questions.

Not least, the revolutionary act of reclaiming land could strengthen the new wave of resource nationalism in Africa and beyond. Robert Mugabe had to be stopped.

Since 2000, the western world conspired against him and imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, of course predicated on allegations of alleged human rights abuses. He was cast as a monster.

However, the former Zimbabwean leader was loved and revered — at home by voters who continued to vote him — and abroad by the African Diaspora and other peoples of the oppressed world.

He was a hero, not least a fiery one in speech. He taught the poor oppressed world to speak up against neo-colonialism and imperialism. The West did not defeat Mugabe. It is a comforting reality.

It is equally comforting that the confluence of forces that led to his resignation on November 21, 2017 were meant to preserve the best of the liberation icon and revolutionary leader that we had begun to lose.

The story of the usurpation of the former President’s power by a cabal known as the G40 which was fronted by the then First Lady, Mrs Grace Mugabe is well told by now.

The cabal was counter-revolutionary, venal and greedy and abused their proximity to the former President to push an immoral and odious agenda.

Mugabe had his fallibilities, but in better, younger days the demonic G40 would not have held hence the need for Operation Restore Legacy to keep the best we knew and loved about Mugabe.

It is not surprising that on November 24, 2017, the man who replaced him — Emmerson Mnangagwa — paid a glowing tribute to him. President Mnangagwa at his inauguration at the National Sports Stadium said:

“To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader.”

“We thus say thank you to him and trust that our history will grant him his proper place and accord him his deserved stature as one of the founders and leaders of our nation.”

President Mnangagwa has maintained this narrative wherever he has gone and told the story of the transition in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe remains the Zimbabwean hero and the hero of Africa.

For all his faults, errors and commissions, he will remain the man who championed the cause of Zimbabweans and gave them a voice and stature on the international stage.

It is not surprising that his departure gave some countries the unlikely ladder to climb down on their awkward positions that they had been forced to adopt by the former President’s principled stand on many issues.

Robert Mugabe will be forever. As the founding father of the nation, he built a strong footing for Zimbabwe to build on and grow. He fought a good fight in two generations.

Mugabe the hero stood up when many leaders cowed before Western bullies. His tenure gave the world a lot to talk about. He left many quotes and anecdotes.

He will be remembered for a long time — long after he has gone. The Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day is one way to keep the best of memories of the man. There are also, by the way, street names and monuments across Africa to immortalise him as an icon.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was not the arch-angel that the likes of criminal elements that lately surrounded him preached with their forked tongues, but he was a hero.

His legacy endures.

He remains a hero, and we will be drinking to his best health today

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