The one Comrade they can never get

05 Feb, 2015 - 00:02 0 Views
The one Comrade they can never get President Mugabe in his office at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Herald

President Mugabe in his office at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

President Mugabe in his office at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tendai Hildegarde The Arena

While the authors of “Mugabe Illustrated” said he held the keys to the future of the region, Clark, calls him a “great survivor”.

THIS is another “wow” moment, when you feel vindicated. On September 18 2014, I did an instalment: “When a book cover means so much” and in the process tried to unpack the cover design of the biographical text “Mugabe Illustrated” written by David Smith, Colin Simpson and Ian Davies, and published in the UK and locally in 1981.

I also tried to look for pointers which the authors saw in the Zimbabwean leader, so early in his leadership of the country, elements which some Zimbabweans in particular take for granted or choose to ignore, because they believe that only the “now” moments matter — massaging of egos, so to speak.

I tried to find meaning in a cover design, a design with the then Prime Minister’s full colour face filling up the map of Africa. I am still hoping that one of the authors, David Smith who has covered Zimbabwean issues for more than three decades, can unlock the mystery: why Africa then and not Zimbabwe or Southern Africa?

What was it that they saw in the Zimbabwean leader, which they believed would transcend time?

Why did they feel that his leadership would not be limited to Zimbabwe and the Sadc region, but that it would touch the whole continent?

Smith, Simpson and Davies also write in the blurb that he is mythical: “The man behind the myth – for 20 years, Robert Mugabe has been typecast as an extremist: a colourless Marxist-Leninist ideologue and a fanatical guerilla leader. Now, in his fifties, with the bitter experience of political imprisonment behind him, he represents the long sought-after reconciliation of a nation — and a continent — that has been many years in the making.”

But more critical are the questions they pose, whose answers we are beginning to see now, a few days before he celebrates his 91st birthday: “Who is Mugabe? What influence will he have on Africa’s future?” We can also add: what is his legacy?

Thirty-four years after that biography’s publication, do you as a Zimbabwean know who Mugabe is and his influence on Africa’s future?

Is it progressive or regressive?

Maybe, the question that really begs is, “Who is Mugabe?” We all have to answer this in our own way, because if we do not, others will only be too willing to tell us who Mugabe is.

They also write: “This biography presents an in-depth profile of the man who is the most influential and articulate of Africa’s statesmen, the black leader who holds the key to the future of Southern Africa.”

You do not use symbols such as key holder, unless you know the person’s capacity and ability to not hold that key, but to also unlock Africa’s value for the benefit of future generations. Now he holds those keys as Sadc and African Union chairperson.

And, this was not some advertorial by young British journalists trying to make a name for themselves, for Robert Mugabe had been in their radar system since the sixties, and continues to be. While they give their view of who Mugabe is in the book, it is very disturbing to note that some Zimbabweans seem clueless about who President Mugabe is.

You do not have to be a Zanu-PF cadre to know who Mugabe is and the influence he has had. Smith, Simpson and Davies were not Zanu-PF members who were singing for their supper. They located the man and told themselves that they would get to the bottom of that which makes him tick, and they are still doing it. It’s a game where they try to manipulate someone whom they believe they know and understand.

Meanwhile, some in our midst have been busy trying to bankrupt his ideas and principles, without even caring to understand the man behind the man.

The mere fact that his detractors did not want him to assume the African Union chairmanship means quite a lot. It was not scandalous for those who wanted to block him, but an indicator that even at 91, they have failed to contain him as they did a majority of Africa’s leaders — past and present.

After all, “no prophet is acceptable is in his hometown.”

But the two accolades he now has mean that he has been accepted elsewhere. I pointed out on September 18 2014: “President Mugabe has played an important role on the continent’s transformation, especially the quest for total political and economic emancipation. He is admired on the continent for his principled stand on issues that are African and for Africa. He has also become the lone voice on the continent speaking out against the West’s machinations on the continent and the divide and rule tactics they use against Africans. He has become thy brother’s keeper. You cannot speak about Africa without mentioning the name Mugabe, and you cannot also speak about Mugabe without hearing his voice about the well-being of the continent and its people.”

Just like Smith, Simpson and Davies, Neil Clark, another journalist, writer and broadcaster on February 2 this week wrote a thought-provoking piece on the man behind the man titled “Robert Mugabe — The great survivor”, published on the RT website.

While the authors of “Mugabe Illustrated” said he held the keys to the future of the region, Clark, calls him a “great survivor”.

Excerpts of what Clark writes are: “How to explain the extraordinary durability of Robert Mugabe? The Zimbabwean President, who is 91 in February, and who has led his country since 1980 has just been elected the new Chairman of the African Union . . . . It’s incredible to think that when Mugabe first became the leader of his country Jimmy Carter was the US President, Leonid Brezhnev was in charge of the Soviet Union and Tito was still running communist Yugoslavia. Mugabe has seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US-led wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and a whole host of world leaders come and go.

“Arguably Mugabe’s greatest strength, and the number one reason why he has lasted so long, is that he really doesn’t care what his enemies think of him. A very big mistake made by several leaders whose countries have been threatened by the US and its allies is to believe that acting reasonably towards those who are clearly out to destroy them will help prevent the attacks.

“Mugabe really doesn’t care if those he considers his enemies like him or not, or approve of his policies. That gives him a certain strength that other leaders might not have. Even if we don’t support him, or agree with every position he takes (his strong opposition to gay rights for instance would be anathema to many western progressives), you have to admire Mugabe’s defiance and his continued ability to ruffle feathers even into his nineties. His inaugural speech as Chairman of the African Union showed that ‘Comrade Robert Mugabe’ has no intention of cooling it, he declared that Africa’s wealth belongs to Africa and not “‘imperialists and colonialists.”

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