By Professor Ken Mufuka
The death of Robert Mugabe brings great sadness to all of us, but for different reasons.
For those who benefitted from his tyranny and rapacious rule, he was almost god-like, and they likened him to the angel Gabriel (his middle name).
To the four million exiles, destitute, held in contempt in the diaspora, their fortunes back home stolen or squandered by a rapacious government, they remember him with unforgivable sadness, their dreams quashed by the man who held their fate in his hands for 37 years.
There is a third group, that of whites, who remained in Zimbabwe, because of a promise of a new and great Zimbabwe.
On that fateful pre-independence speech of April 18, 1980, Mugabe made the greatest speech of his life, every dream and parameter delineated in that speech, he lived to betray and to dishonor.
Such was the man, on whom fate had entrusted the dreams of a nation, shameless, completely without honor, and prideful in his betrayal.
But, lest we be blinded by this betrayal.
Mugabe remained a hero to the majority of Africans of the Atlantic diaspora, whose parents had been enslaved.
Here was a man who challenged the white men, dispossessed them of their wealth, and died in his bed.
He, like United States president Donald Trump, spoke their words, and expressed their contempt of the white man, not without reason, for past misdeeds.
Herein lay the greatness or the treachery to humanity, if one takes the contrary view.
In order to understand the life and times of Mugabe, one must retrace the mythical story of the four elands and the lion.
Seeing four proud elands grazing in the rich vale, the lion informed the bull eland, who regarded himself as the most beautiful animal in the wild kingdom that he was held in utter contempt by his three siblings.
When the bull eland separated himself from the siblings, the lion knew that when it attacked, it would have no resistance from the other three.
Thus, one by one, each eland, in anger, at the behest of the lion, withdrew from common pasture, only to find itself a part of the lion’s dinner.
Mugabe, born physically weak, in 1924, in the Zvimba paramountcy, learned how to instill anger, play one big boy against another, and in the end come out the benefactor of perpetual internecine conflict.
“I urge you, whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive others and forget. Join hands in a new unity and together as Zimbabweans trample upon racialism, tribalism, and regionalism and work hard to reconstruct and rehabilitate or society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.” This was the speech of which destiny is made of.
He even talked of a “total commitment to build a great Zimbabwe that will be the pride of all of Africa.”
If Mugabe had achieved only half of the dream outlined above, a dream that attracted any white colonials to return from exile and some to remain in the new Zimbabwe.
Even as he outlined this shared dream, shared by his people and the whole of Africa, in his inner heart, he was secretly planning to undo the good that was before him.
He was secretly in conclave with North Koreans in an evil pact designed to destroy once and for all the Ndebele nationality and the leadership of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
It was in October, only six months after independence, that this secret conclave was discovered by enterprising journalists, and by February 1981, the Zapu leadership was on the chopping block.
An entirely tribal Shona army, trained and designed to destroy Zapu and the Ndebele, and cassus belli, sufficiently grave, was manufactured to justify the atrocities that preceded the murder of 20 000 Ndebele murdered and the wanton destruction of Ndebele villages.
I was a witness to these atrocities on two occasions.
In the autumn of 1983 (mwedzi wepfumvudza) I was a passenger on a Shu Shine Bus when we were stopped by a military posse and all passengers with Ndebele names asked to leave the bus.
They were never seen of again.
In another incident, at Esigodini, villagers were herded into the orange grove, where a fire revealed human figures going and coming.
Nevertheless, the ghoulish cries of men and women being beaten filled the night.
Passengers explained that the beatings were routine in villages where young men, being warned of the militia, had fled into the bush.
The elderly women and men were then “given the treatment” in order for them to betray hiding places.
Mugabe was lucky throughout his life. Both the Roman Catholic fathers and the British Mi V who gathered information were reluctant to scandalize Mugabe’s name.
They wanted his co-operation in the coming negotiations for freedom in South Africa.
So, even while Mugabe became a bloody tyrant, he kept a semblance of respectability on the world stage until 2000.
All were betrayed
If I were to make a list of those who served Mugabe and eventually were betrayed, I would not make an end of it.
Almost all the henchmen who were tasked to do some shady work for Mugabe either died in suspicious circumstances, once they had expended their usefulness.
General Josiah Tongogara died on his way to Zimbabwe in a bizarre accident.
One report said he was driving a lorry through the bush at night. The general who replaced him is reported to have died from a cigarette fire in his house.
There were no witnesses.
His vice president, a man who had been by his side for fifty years, survived poisoning. Another general, with similar long service, was incapacitated by poisoning.
Others, after serving their master came to ignominious ends.
The brilliant politician and constitutional expert, Edison Zvobgo, wrote the document that elevated Mugabe to a dictatorship.
He was sidelined and died a bitter man.
And so the list of political supporters who outlived their usefulness, were sidelined or died in suspicious circumstances goes on.
A lover of power, the world was bamboozled by his impeccable British attire, assuming that clothes maketh a gentleman.
Here is one man who fooled the whole world, playing, as the mythical story of the elands has shown us, one against another for 37 years.
The world was also enchanted by his professed Roman Catholic upbringing and piety to believe that there were two Mugabe’s; one a man of professed piety and reasonableness, the other a tyrant.
In my book, Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed, the evidence does not favoUr two Mugabes.
“There was only one Mugabe throughout his life. Mugabe wanted to be master of everything he laid his eyes on.
“A perfect illustration is that he insisted on being chancellor of all the ten state universities and capping every graduate.
“What he could not master he destroyed. In his universe humans were to be used and discarded when their usefulness expired.”
At independence, the white population numbered 100 000.
Of these 5 000 were wealthy commercial farmers who had made Zimbabwe the bread basket of Southern Africa, 1953-1980.
Having failed to incorporate this small population into his one party state, he set about destroying the basis of that power, nationalizing their farms without compensation, 2000-2005.
Thus, the former breadbasket of Southern Africa became the basket case.
But, it was not about wealth. Power was everything. The discovery of the largest diamond deposits in the world would have made Zimbabwe the richest country in the world.
It was not to be.
To buttress his power, he parceled out the diamond fields to his military supporters and the remainder to the Chinese, who literally stripped, stones and earth, transporting them to China, vacuuming a forty year diamond field in less than ten years.
He is given credit for having expanded education enormously in the first ten years of his rule, surpassing Egypt and Morocco in literacy.
In the black world, and in Africa, he is regarded as a hero, a black man who stood his ground against imperialist forces and remained standing.
In Zimbabwe and abroad, four million exiles are celebrating his death.
Fate was gracious to Mugabe in the enemies who challenged him. Joshua Nkomo, the founding nationalist hero, was tricked to join the ruling party only to find that the title of vice president had no responsibility.
He died a bitter man.
Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, won the election of 2008 with a 73% majority but had to seek refuge at the Dutch embassy in Harare fearing of his life.
If an electoral victory was not worth dying for, Mugabe cannot be blamed for remaining in power when the winner was nowhere to be seen.
While Mugabe’s death marks an era, Mugabeism, that intertwining of violent tyranny and corruption that formed the foundation of a criminal state enterprise has remained.
Zimbabweans, sitting on fabulously rich mineral deposits remains the poorest national population behind Haiti.
There is no laughter in Zimbabwe, the celebratory fires signify nothing but sadness.
To crown it all, Mugabe, angry at being overthrown by his own, has indicated that he does not want a national memorial.
He wants his body to lie in a tribal grave, next to his mother.
Even in death, at the Gleneagles Hospital, a colonial relic of British imperialism in Singapore (founded by the British that he despised so much) the killer of dreams, lived and died, without friends, a dissembler.
Ken Mufuka spent ten years researching the Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed, 2018. It is sponsored in Zimbabwe by INNOV Bookshops and can be found on the Internet on kenmufukabooks.com. In his previous life, the award winning writer, served as a representative of Zapu in the West Indies.