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Hopewell Chin’ono: Robert Mugabe must first come clean on state sponsored violence

By Hopewell Chin’ono

Tuku and his son Sam left us a beautiful and yet poignant song called Ichakwana Nguva in which they talked about Tsime Rawora, Rawira Chidembo (the village well has been spoilt, a civet cat fell into the well and died in there).

Former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, turned 95 years old on Thursday
Former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, turned 95 years old on Thursday

The beautiful thing about Tuku and his music is that he allowed us to use the powerful lyrics to interpret any situation as long as it brought out the profound meanings of life, that is the purpose of song he would always say in his interviews.

Ichakwana Nguva reminded me of Robert Mugabe’s pronouncements on violence and military brutality in which he reminded President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he was not God.

Robert Mugabe was reported to have said these words at his birthday party held at his multi million-dollar mansion in Harare over the weekend.

These would have been extremely powerful words indeed if they were coming from someone else other than Robert Mugabe.

There is a popular urban Shona saying that says “Tsvagai Mwari Achawanika” loosely translated as “find God whilst you still can.”

The same can equally be said about Robert Mugabe after his empty words over the weekend.

He failed to redeem himself whilst he still could and when he still had the ultimate political power to change the course of Zimbabwe’s history.

A country that he thoroughly battered through corruption, mis-governance, embezzlement and plain selfishness that saw him hold on to the seat of power for 37 straight years.

It has become a tradition for ZANUPF folk to only speak out after they have been kicked out of their gravy train seat offered courtesy of their ZANUPF membership.

Robert Mugabe speaks out of an unrestrained anger of losing his powerful job, and that anger and animosity towards his lieutenants is clearly palpable and he will go to his grave an unforgiving bitter man.

He is not motivated by any patriotic interests or considerations but by his own selfish agenda that was cut short unceremoniously by his boys.

I have NO doubt in my mind that in the unlikely event of ZANUPF asking Robert Mugabe to come back and lead them again, he would do it and will be joined by his band of fellow travelers that met their demise together with him in November 2017.

It is always the citizen who bears the burden of being used whilst these politicians flex their muscles and fight for power or when they pursue their personal efforts in trying to destroy each other.

It was the Zimbabwean citizen who marched for the current political elites in order to give international legitimacy to their military coup, hoping that it was about the citizens yet Patrick Chinamasa warned us during the march that it was an internal ZANUPF affair.

Ironically today Mugabe speaks about violence and military killings as if it is something remote to his rule, and yet it is something that he perfected and ruthlessly used throughout his disastrous Presidency.

It is a bit like George Charamba disparaging Nick Mangwana about allowing ZBC and the Herald to dish out crude unadulterated propaganda and then seeing journalists ululating at such empty platitudes.

Some Zimbabweans do have a penchant for that shortsightedness and inability to realize when they are being used in pursuit of shallow, narrow, parochial and selfish objectives by political elites.

We are still to recover from a barrage of false and unfulfilled election promises by the not so new dispensation, and yet we are now lapping up at the hypocrisy coming from the Blue Roof birthday party.

There are some people who do not have any political or moral legitimacy whatsoever to speak about specific public discourse issues.

Robert Mugabe is one of such folks, he can’t speak about the use of state sponsored violence when he deployed it indiscriminately against civilian citizens claiming thousands of innocent ordinary lives.

We know that this violence was planned from his office and we have the evidence and yet Bob talks about it in the third person yet violence was central to his brutal reign, he even openly claimed that he had university degrees in violence.

That is why I am amazed by our shortsightedness that seems to be giving Robert Mugabe a pass and in the process handing him a moral compass that he doesn’t deserve at all.

If Mugabe genuinely means what he is saying, he should start by telling the nation what happened to the many ordinary and political luminaries who died at the hands of the state that he was presiding over.

All sane people know that he will not do this because he is simply being opportunistic at a time when he knows that citizens are angry about the abuse by the military at the behest of the ZANUPF political elites who succeeded him and removed him with the gun in November of 2017.

When Mugabe is talking about the gun not leading politics, he is talking about his own demise and not about a noble principle that should be universally embraced and adhered to.

He had an opportunity to do that for thirty-seven years and yet he failed dismally and like many before him, he only talks about the vices of ZANUPF after he has turfed him out of the party.

He had the gun leading politics for 37 years when he allowed the state security services to anchor his ruthless rule that claimed the lives of millions of Zimbabwean citizens through disease, violence, hunger and extra judicial killings ordered under his watch.

If Mugabe is sincere in his political and moral indignations, he should ask for forgiveness to the nation, and as the good catholic that he always claimed to be, he should confess his sins so that those who have failed to move on from years of painful anguish can finally have closure.

All those that are currently condemning the outfit in power today and yet they worked hand in glove together with them need to do the same thing if their political yelping is to be given any moral credence.

Otherwise the citizens should simply ignore them and focus on our immediate struggles for survival that stand before us.

We have become a broken society whose brokenness was penned by non other than Bob and the folks that today he condemns for doing what he did without a care in the world.

Mugabe’s rule did not only consign an endless list of Zimbabweans to their graves, it deprived today’s young Zimbabweans born out of the country of their heritage as many of our kids and grandchildren are now scattered around the globe holding on to foreign cultures and languages.

I went to school with many degreed people who are today cleaning dishes and pots in restaurants across the world, compatriots who ordinarily would have been home living comfortable lives had Mugabe’s corrupt rule not screwed the country up.

I have seen people lose their jobs and sink into alcoholism and eventually dying with nothing to their names leaving behind broken and penniless families due to the mis-governance of successive Mugabe administrations.

There are many parents who bid farewell to their children never to see them again, many of them were killed in South Africa’s violent streets as they were trying to eke a living all because of Mugabe’s irresponsible economic policies, deliberate corruption and historical nepotistic incompetence.

So when the old man speaks, he should remember that he is not speaking to kids, and also his hired surrogates should not get excited over superfluous hot air and present Mugabe’s ramblings as legitimate chastisement of an elder to his naughty successor, it is not.

These are the ramblings of an aging bitter dictator who feels nothing at all for the ordinary man and woman of this country.

Citizens that he subjected to abject poverty and yet he is today living off fat creamed through the destruction of people’s lives and theft, unbowed and unremorseful for what he did.

Mugabe is the chief architect of today’s economic problems, his apprentices have merely taken over from where he left before they forcibly removed him from power under the nozzle of an AK47, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone if they were still in good books with him.

You can relive the scary memories of Robert Mugabe’s brutal rule through the documentary film that I have attached below.

Nobody should ever claim that they didn’t know including those that speak on behalf of Robert Mugabe today, unless theirs is a sectarian or partisan agenda, there is the evidence of their hero’s violent works.

As Tuku and his son Sam said in their powerful song Ichakwana Nguva, “…tsime rawora” (the well is rotten) because violence is a culture not an event.

The man who is condemning violence today should not opportunistically chose certain elements of it that do not incriminate him.

He is the same man who boasted of “…kudashura” (pummeling) Morgan Tsvangirai in 2007.

If Robert Mugabe is sincere and wanting to position himself as a changed man he should say it all, even those of us who had a front row seat in history recording his violent grip might just forgive him, full disclosure or nothing.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.

He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

The recently departed music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.