Robert Mugabe’s Machiavellianism: The Grandmaster of Sophisticated Deception
Even though Robert Mugabe is now late, it is impossible to talk about Zimbabwe whilst leaving out the name Mugabe. To quite a number of people, Mugabe remains a mystery and an enigma. It’s very easy for anybody to formulate an opinion about Mugabe by just listening to his fine speeches. But when analyzing his speeches, one needs a deep, inner analytic eye.
If you analyze his speeches and appearance using an ordinary eye, you risk arriving at a false conclusion. One will say that Mugabe is now late, it’s no longer necessary to analyze him. But reader, history is not just the study of past events. History is the examination and evaluation of the past in order to establish its marriage with the present and the future.
Most of the Zimbabwean people, especially the youths, do not know much about Mugabe, they just look at his speeches and appearance to arrive at certain conclusions.
To comprehend Mugabe, you need to have a profound appreciation of history, not the history that is found in secondary school textbooks or that which people hear from ZBC, but the history which is a product of one’s own personal and rigorous research.
Mugabe used a plethora of tactics, a bag of tricks, to overstay his welcome at the helm of Zimbabwe. Some of the methods included violence, press censorship, elimination of opponents, human rights abuses, deception, etc. But today, l’m more interested in his deception as one of the methods which enabled him to stay in power for too long.
Mugabe’s deception was not just ordinary deception but it was sophisticated, artful and masterful in nature. So many people deceive others but not everyone is a grandmaster deceiver. When it comes to deception, Mugabe is probably second to none in Zimbabwe, he was the grandmaster liar. His lies were not ordinary, that’s why ordinary people couldn’t and can’t notice his lies. It’s called carefully calculated deception.
In this respect, l will extensively qoute from 3 eminent books that profoundly analyzed the art of lying, viz, The Prince By Nicolo Machiavelli, The Art Of The Lie By Marcel Danesi and a political satire called Animal Farm by George Orwell.
The pivot of this article is not to analyze the leadership of Mugabe as a whole, his achievements and failures, but just his sophisticated lies.
Coup Against Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole
The name Ndabaningi Sithole is not a famous name to the youths of Zimbabwe. If you ask many youths about Sithole, you will find that they know nothing about him. Most of them have never heard about the name Ndabaningi Sithole.
Reader, Sithole is the founding president of Zanu who was elected at their inaugural congress which was held in Gwelo in May 1964. At that congress, Leopold Takawira was elected vice president while Mugabe was elected secretary-general.
Fast forward to 1975, Zanu was deeply enmeshed and embroiled in bitter power struggles. The rivalry culminated in the dethronment of Sithole from the leadership of Zanu through the infamous/famous Mgagao Declaration Of October 1975
The Mgagao Declaration is written in very proficient English. Even though the document is said to have been written by young military officers in the then Dare ReChimurenga, a careful examination shows that the document was written by Robert Mugabe.
A careful look at it will show that there’s a striking similarity between the style of writing of Mugabe’s later speeches and the style used in the Mgagao Declaration. The Mgagao Declaration was written in false but very convincing information about Sithole.
The declaration accused Sithole of being an enemy of the liberation struggle. Yet, there is actually a video of Sithole calling for the intensification of the liberation struggle against Ian Smith at the same time the Mgagao Declaration was written.
The video is only coming out now, but during those days, much information was suppressed in order to sell lies. So when Mugabe and Edgar Tekere went to Mozambique in 1975, it was easy for them to lie to the soldiers that Sithole was against the liberation struggle.
Sithole actually wanted to use both the liberation struggle and negotiations in order to achieve independence. But Mugabe carefully twisted that and reduced it to that Sithole only wanted negotiations with the colonizers and was against the liberation struggle.
Actually, Mugabe took advantage of the fact that military commanders like Josiah Tongogara, Rex Nhongo(Solomon Mujuru) and others failed to support them after the assassination of Herbert Chitepo.
When Chitepo was killed on the 18th of March in 1975 when a planted bomb detonated in his car in Lusaka, Zambia, the then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda arrested Josiah Tongogara, Rugare Gumbo and others while Rex Nhongo escaped from the arrest. The arrest was in connection with Chitepo’s death.
Kenneth Kaunda blamed senior Zanu leaders for the assassination of Hebert Chitepo. Reverend Sithole also refused to buy the narrative which said that Chitepo was killed by the Rhodesian Front. So, Sithole said that Chitepo was killed by fellow comrades in Zanu.
So senior members of Dare ReChimurenga were now against Sithole because he had refused to agree with their narrative on the assassination of Chitepo. Mugabe then took advantage of that feud to manipulate the young military officers to declare him the new leader while denouncing Sithole.
This shows us how cunning Mugabe was. An ordinary eye could easily believe the big lies in the Mgagao Declaration because the lies were not ordinary, the lies were were sophisticated and carefully calculated.
An eye that looks at the surface will not see that the Mgagao Declaration was a carefully planned military coup against Sithole. It was a coup that was successfully staged through superior deception, artful lies and sophisticated hyperbole.
So, Mugabe was able to wrestle the leadership of Zanu from Sithole through what George Orwell calls “carefully constructed lies.
The human mind is wired to accept lies more than it accepts the truth. In the The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli says ,”men are so simple and so subject to present necessities that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived. Mugabe knew this very well.
That’s why he was able to deceive the military officers because they were so simple and unconscious. Those commanders who were angry at Sithole were easily manipulated because of their anger.
There’s nothing as easy as manipulating people who are emotionally charged. For the grandmaster deceiver Robert Mugabe, it was one kick, one goal.
Mugabe was not just an ordinary man. By 1952, he had attained a bachelor of arts degree in Literature in English and History from the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. As a student of literature, he knew very well the effects of language on people’s minds.
I personally also did Literature in English and History, l understand how language can be used to stir people’s emotions.
If there is anything that Mugabe was very fond of creating after independence, it is the one party state. There’s nothing that Mugabe hated like being opposed. Mugabe had a mental problem called a narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder is an overly inflated sense of self-importance.
Mugabe viewed himself as a demigod. He believed nobody was supposed to disagree with his views. He believed in that, “Mugabe Is Always Right”, the slogan that was used during the time of the liar Benito Mussolini in Italy whereby it would be said, “Mussolini Is Always Right”.
So Mugabe wanted to create a one party state where no one would oppose his views.
But Mugabe knew that it was not easy to create a one party state. He had to look for a plausible excuse to create a one party state. As a Machiavellian, Mugabe understood how to justify his wicked plans. In one of his lectures in South Africa, Professor Arthur Mutambara once said, “Mugabe read The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli and l think he reads it everyday.
So the Machiavellian Mugabe looked for a neatly wrapped excuse to create one party state. Using his propagandist ZBC, he told the people that ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo was a dissident party. Many stories were fabricated to justify the ruthless exercise.
Mugabe also understood that the Shonas had some longstanding grievances against the Ndebeles, so he used that knowing that quite a number of Shona people would support his actions. As Mercel Danesi says in his The Art Of The Lie, “Machiavellian liars are astute readers of others, understanding how to get into their minds and manipulate for personal gain.
They are artists of manipulation, keenly aware of what words can do to influence thoughts”. This is the skill which Mugabe used to unleash the fifth brigade on ZAPU supporters. He told people one story, which quite a number believed.
What Mugabe did not tell the people is that certain Zapu soldiers were disgruntled with the integration process. Professor Blessing Miles Tendi, who is a lecturer at Oxford University did a research which he brings out the foundation of Gukurahundi, his biography of Solomon Mujuru called Mujuru: The Kingmaker. He found out that during the integration process, so many Zapu soldiers were ill-treated in the barracks and Shonas were mainly promoted while Zapu soldiers were ignored.
This bred resentment which caused some Zapu soldiers to ditch the army. These were few people who could just be arrested if they were indeed carrying any disturbances in Matebeleland and Midlands. But Mugabe’s government murdered 20 000 unarmed civilians.
It’s easy to understand the nefarious agenda behind Gukurahundi. In 1982, Mugabe gave a speech at a rally where he said, “Pamberi neOne Party State. The dissident father(Nkomo) and his dissident party are destined for utter destruction” One can see that the agenda was to create a one party state but he looked for other reasons to justify that heinous act.
This is exactly what George Orwell tries to put across in Animal Farm. When Comrade Napoleon is bent on stifling any opposition, he cooks up lies which he uses to chase away Snowball who proved his main challenger. This is the method used by dictators when they want to carry out a wicked action. That can be summarized in the maxim which says, “When a leopard wants to eat its young one, it begins by accusing it of smelling like a goat”.
When dictators want to crush their opponents, they look for excuses to eliminate those opponents. And indeed he was helped by the fact that many people depended on ZBC for news, which spread propaganda, so it was easy to sell the lie to those who were gullible. So Mugabe’s lies were not ordinary, they were carefully woven.
To notice that Gukurahundi was a wicked agenda, one can analyze Mugabe’s later words. When Mugabe was asked about Gukurahundi later on, he said, “It was a moment of madness. But look, he had justified it all along only to later on refer to his actions as madness.
That statement alone tells you that the justification for Gukurahundi was based on lies. But the lies were neatly wrapped.Upto now, those who were lied to by Mugabe still justify Gukurahundi genocide even though Mugabe later on condemned it by calling calling it a moment of madness.
Mugabe And The Formation Of The MDC
Until 1999, there was no political party which mounted formidable opposition to Robert Mugabe. When the MDC was formed, Mugabe was caught unaware. The MDC ran on the trump card of land reform and many other crucial issues. By now, the Zimbabwean economy was a shadow of its former self.
When Mugabe became the leader of Zimbabwe in 1980, he inherited what was called the breadbasket of Africa. By around 1999, the economy had now died. So Mugabe was now unpopular. His unpopularity and the formation of the MDC became thorns in his flesh. So Mugabe had to look for new lies.
Inorder to hoodwink the rural population, he grabbed land from white farmers. Mugabe embarked on this exercise not because he genuinely wanted to do it but it was for power retention.
Mugabe loved power for its velvet. So he had to make rural people believe that he cared for them even though he didn’t. He embarked on crusades where he pretended to be a champion of the poor yet he wasn’t.
He effectively used ZBC to sell his lies. As Adolf Hitler, German dictator once said, “the intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great”. Mugabe knew this very well, that’s why it was easy for him to manipulate certain people.
Some were made to forget what Mugabe did since 1980 and had to be deceived by the new lies because the masses easily forget.
This is also brought out in William Shakespeare’s play called Julius Caesar where the Plebians are seen celebrating Caesar’s victory yet they used to celebrate Pompey’s victory before he was killed by Caesar. So the masses can be easily swayed because of that forgetfulness.
Mugabe began to call the MDC a puppet of the West. George Orwell refers to this as, “organized lying”. Mugabe would tell rural people that the MDC wanted to bring back the whites to colonize Zimbabwe yet that was not true.
Ironically, Mugabe himself was a puppet of Chinese imperialism. If you go to the rural areas, there are still some people who still believe that lie which says the opposition wants to pave way for recolonization of Zimbabwe.
In order to add cosmetics to his lies, Mugabe came up with the slogan, “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”. This was a carefully created slogan which was aimed at duping certain sections of the population in rural areas where information dissemination is very low.
Most people there depend on state media. So it was very easy for Mugabe to brainwash those people.
This is carefully put across by Marcel Danesi in the following words, “A major weapon in the liar’s arsenal is name-calling, which is intended to hurt someone’s reputation, good name or character. Deflections, pre-emptive lies, deceit, hateful nicknames and the strategy called Whataboutism are some of the verbal weapons and shields in the Machiavellian’s art of the lie. They constitute a powerful arsenal of mendacity and dissimulation that the master liar can use to discredit opponents by accusing them of dishonesty and hypocrisy, besmirch them publicly and deflect attacks against them”.
To do this, Mugabe was aided by his press censorship. Those who relied on ZBC easily consumed and swallowed his lies without chewing them.
As the late Italian scholar Antonio Gramsci observes, “human minds are not swayed by truth or reasoning but by lies. The most effective unarmed prophet is the one capable of swaying people with words”. Mugabe understood all these things mentioned by these scholars, that’s why he could easily lie without the audience detecting that he was lying.
So, all sorts of lies were cooked to potray the then popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the “Trojan horse of the West”. Some people couldn’t vote for Tsvangirai because they believed Mugabe’s lies. Mugabe and Professor Jonathan Moyo made sure that Tsvangirai speeches were not aired on ZBC. Those people in rural areas never got to hear Tsvangirai’s speeches, they only heard Mugabe on radio and television. Whenever Tsvangirai news was broadcast, it was all meant to tarnish his image.
Jonathan Moyo, who was Information Minister was Mugabe’s chief propagandist. Jonathan Moyo was just like Joseph Gobbels who was Hitler’s chief propagandist used to sell his anti-Jewish propaganda.
Mugabe’s role model of leadership was Adolf Hitler, that’s why he once referred to himself, “Iam the Hitler of our time. And he kept the same mustache which Hitler kept. Jonathan Moyo was like Squealer in Animal Farm who manufactured all sorts of lies in order to manipulate other animals.
As William Cummings says, ” the human mind is wired to find conspiracy theories appealing” To those who were told that Tsvangirai wanted to pave way for recolonization, the conspiracy theory was so appealing.
That’s what sophisticated liars like Mugabe do, they are able to manipulate human minds with conspiracy theories. If you want to see the power of conspiracy theories, look at those who believed that Covid-19 vaccines were the mark of the beast. This tells you a lot about the human mind and how it is easily manipulated.
Mugabe understood that some people who were there in 1999 vividly remembered how ruthless the colonial administration was. So to easily make them hate Tsvangirai, Mugabe told them that Tsvangirai wanted to bring back colonialism. Mugabe was very cunning and calculative, he knew how to sell a lie without it appearing as a lie, especially to some rural people.
As Marcel Danesi says, “the rallies of Mussolini and Hitler were scary events. They told their racist myths over and over again to adoring crowds. They knew how to make their falsehoods believable through the format of confabulation, utilizing highly emotional slogans and a body language that literally enthralled their audiences. The master liar-prince is also a master performer”.
What happened at Mussolini and Hitler’s rallies is exactly what happened at Mugabe’s rallies. He used emotionally charged insults to lie that Tsvangirai wanted to bring back colonialism.He told his lies with so much confidence that it was difficult for many to detect that he was lying.
When some people lie, it’s easy to see they are lying since they lack confidence. Mugabe confidently told his lies to the extent that it was difficult for some people to believe that he was lying. For an ordinary person, it’s easy to say, “how can a person lie with such confidence? It can’t be a lie?”.
Mugabe understood that about the ordinary people, that’s why it was easy for him to lie. His lies were not ordinary that’s why ordinary could not detect that he would be lying. Extraordinary lies cannot be understood by an ordinary eye, only extraordinary eyes are needed to notice how grandmaster deceivers sell their lies.
Appearance Versus Reality:Grandstanding At International Platforms Aided By His Oratory Skills
Generally in life, it is very difficult and rare to win the minds, hearts and support of the people using logic and facts. To win the minds and hearts of the people, you have to stir their emotions. You have to tell them what they want to hear, rather than what they are supposed to hear.
Reader, let me give a very simple example. A man who tries to win the love of a woman using logic and facts usually fails. If there are such cases of those who won people’s hearts using logic, they are very rare.
A man who is able to stir the emotions of women is the one who is able to win them, the one who tries to use logic usually never scores. Even in politics, politicians who are not good at stirring people’s emotions, who try to be too logical usually don’t succeed.
Mugabe understood that very well. He was a skilled orator who could “turn black into white”, to qoute George Orwell in Animal Farm.
At the turn of the millennium, Mugabe became well-known for grandstanding at United Nations General Assembly meetings. He preached the gospel of Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism yet he was butchering Africans back at home.
He would insult the then US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was now acting like the de facto spokesperson of Africa. He spoke so eloquently and convincingly about African issues. Turning a blind eye to his disastrous economic policies, he would present himself as a victim of imperialism. He spoke so confidently.
At the surface, he indeed appeared to be a Pan-Africanist, a fighter for African rights. As Nicolo Machiavelli says, “everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are”. Mugabe appeared to be a true spokesperson of African dignity at international platforms, yet that was not the case. It was appearance versus reality.
I asked a number of people about why they say “Mugabe was a great leader”. The answers l got were funny but they indeed help us to understand why Mugabe would cunningly lie to the people.
Some said Mugabe was a great leader because “he spoke fluent English, ” he insulted Western leaders”, “he had many degrees”. While it is true that he had these things, they are not a reflection of outstanding leadership. So all these answers help you to understand why human beings can be easily deceived. What mesmerizes them is not logical but emotional.
Noteworthy it is that Mugabe began to preach Pan-Africanism after 2002 at UN summits. Before that, he never preached that.Just look for his UN speeches prior to 1999.In 1982, he went to America where he was welcomed by the then President Ronald Reagan. Mugabe had coffee with Reagan and he showered Reagan with praises after having that coffee. He actually said, “Iam happy to be in this wonderful country with a wonderful people………
These are matters which the United States of America has long made a decision to uphold, matters of principle which make for greater democracy and greater freedom in society. We are prepared that this shall also be our tradition”.
Reader, that was Mugabe in 1982 heaping praises on America calling it a wonderful, democratic country with a wonderful people. By this time, gays and lesbians were already there in America. He never denounced gays during that time.
When he said a country with a wonderful people, he also included gays as wonderful people. Yet, Reagan was invading weaker countries, Mugabe never denounced such activities. He also went to Britain and had coffee with Queen Elizabeth.
He never talked about reforming the UN security council in the 1990s. So during this time, it was useless to talk about reforming the security council of the United Nations?
Reader, in the 2000s, Mugabe was now very unpopular. In order to remain relevant, he looked for new lies. Now it was pseudo-patriotism. Even though he was killing his own people, he tried to make other people believe that he was a patriot. Does a patriot unleash terror on his people?
So Mugabe came up with all these tactics in order to retain power. He was portraying himself as a victim in order to gain the sympathy of fellow African leaders. Most artful liars play victimhood in order to gain sympathy from other people. That’s how they deceive and manipulate other people.
By this time, Mugabe had to include attacks on homosexuality in order to manipulate certain Zimbabweans so that they forget about his economic mismanagement and vote for him just because he “opposed homosexuality”.
Yet he was silent about homosexuality before, he would even have dinners with lesbians and gays. And one of his lies was that “Tsvangirai wants to legalize homosexuality. Even though that was not true, some people believed those lies.
He was now calling America undemocratic yet he once called it a democratic and wonderful country with a wonderful people. When he was asked about his human rights abuses by international journalists, he would twist the story by saying “America did this and you never reprimanded them. That tactic is called Whataboutism. It is used by grandmaster liars to run away from their wickedness. And some ordinary people indeed failed to look at the bigger picture and they would indeed concur with Mugabe, “why are these journalists silent about American aggression”.
So Mugabe used this tactic to run away from accountability through deceiving people. Those who were gullible easily swallowed this deception.
As Marcel Danesi says, “those who frequented Mussolini’s rallies were mesmerized by his slogans, reacting in unison to his bluster by shouting consent and approval frenetically”
“A liar prince has the ability to mesmerize people, prodding them to do what he wants them to do. He exerts a charismatic magnetism like a cult leader, inducing a kind of hypnotic trance in people that is hard for them to shake off”
So as a sophisticated orator, it was so easy for Mugabe to make people believe that he believed in things which he didn’t believe. That’s why upto now, it’s very difficult to convince people who were lied to by Mugabe that they were lied to. Mugabe was “adept at coining catchy patriotic slogans imbuing them with shrewd innuendos and dog whistles”
So Mugabe was very good grandstanding, convincing people that he believed in things which he didn’t believe in. Trying to potray himself to the world as a patriot yet he was engaging in corruption and human rights abuses at home . But all that hypocrisy was part of his artful lies meant for power retention and consolidating his position as an absolute ruler.
As Nicolo Machiavelli says, “the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it and in the world, there are only the vulgar” So people never bother about analyzing anything beyond its appearance. They just look at appearance and then mistaken it for reality.
People judge the book by its cover. At face value, it’s easy to say that Mugabe was a Pan-Africanist but a close examination of facts will show that he only appeared to be that but was never a true Pan-Africanist in reality. All the grandstanding about Pan-Africanism was part of his bag of tricks to retain power.
True religion must liberate people, not to keep them in chains. Religion can be used for good reasons while it can also be used for wicked purposes. Examples of activists who used religion for righteous purposes in politics include the late American Civil Rights activist Reverend Martin Luther King Jr and Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi.
These guys used religion to fight against oppression. But autocratic leaders also use religion to justify their wickedness and to manipulate their religious subjects . As the late German philosopher Karl Marx noted that religion is twisted by the ruling class to manipulate critical thought among their poor subjects.
Before the French Revolution of 1789, the oppressive Bourbon rulers used to tell their subjects that they ruled on behalf of God, they had what was called “the divine right of kings”.
And some people also believed that. That is one of the tactics used by Mugabe. Mugabe understood that religion usually comes with emotional strings attached to it. One of the things that Mugabe carefully manipulated for selfish gain is religion.
It is common cause that Mugabe grew up in the Catholic Church but later on in his life, he became a ruthless man. But in order to deceive people, he understood that he had to appear a religious man in their eyes in order to gain their support.
Mugabe had unholy alliances with certain apostolic churches like ZCC of Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi, Johanne Marange, Mudzidzi Wimbo’s and he also had an unholy alliance with Archbishop Norbert Kunonga of the Anglican Church, etc.
When Mugabe went to those church gatherings, he would be given a platform to speak. He spoke as if he feared God yet he didn’t. As Nkosilathi Moyo notes in his book called Dismantling The System Of Mugabeism, “Mugabe, the pretender, is an orator who can be given a standing ovation wherever he speaks”.
At religious events, Mugabe never disappointed. He preached the gospel more convincingly than most religious leaders. This made him a darling of members of the Apostolic churches who were misled by their leaders to believe that “Mugabe was anointed by God to rule”.
Even Mugabe himself used to say that, “only God who put me here will remove me, not the MDC”. Mugabe was deliberately lying that he was anointed by Mugabe. He knew that by saying that, he would easily deceive some religious people who would buy such mendacity. Mugabe was violating human rights, killing opposition supporters, rigging elections but he had the audacity to say that God supported his wicked hegemony.
It is common cause that Mugabe lost elections in 2008 but he refused to step down. In rural areas, some members of the Apostolic Churches were used to beat up and kill opposition supporters whom they accused of “not voting for a God anointed leader” in the run up to 2008 presidential election runoff.
If Mugabe had the support of God, one wonders why he saw it fit to call for the murder of those who didn’t vote for him when he lost the elections. All that was calculated deception.
As Nicolo Machiavelli says, “there is nothing more necessary to appear to be than being religious, in as much as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you”. So certain religious people just sympathized with Mugabe as they identified him as one of their own yet he just feigned piety.
Whilst religion was never designed to deceive, it is common cause that many use it to deceive others. For example, most men understand that women are very religious. So it’s very easy to deceive women using the trump card of religion. Mugabe understood all these facts about religion. While it is good, religion can be manipulated for evil purposes like power retention, just like what Mugabe did.
How Education Was Twisted
If there’s anything that Mugabe never wanted to create, it is a society of critical analysts and thought leaders. He knew that if he allowed critical thought to flourish, it would mean that his lies would be unmasked. This explains why Mugabe’s government had running battles with student leaders like Tendai Biti, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Arthur Mutambara and others in the late 1980s.
Gwisai and Mutambara were actually jailed for six weeks in 1989 after they dared to oppose Mugabe’s one party state idea and corrupt activities. In his In Search Of The Elusive Zimbabwean Dream:An Autobiography Of Thought Leadership, Professor Arthur Mutambara reveals that one UZ lecturer called Shadrack Gutto who was a Kenyan was deported since he was accused of influencing student radicalism by Mugabe’s government.
Other lecturers like Kempton Makamure, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro were detained and harassed for their alternative scholarly discourses. Mutambara also talks his statement “In Defence Of Academic Freedom” which he wrote on the 2nd of October 1989 which led to the closure of the University of Zimbabwe on the 4th of October 1989.
Other examples include Dr Takavafira Zhou who was chased away from Great Zimbabwe University and arrested by Mugabe’s government while being accused of being “an academic terrorist” in 2008. If there’s one thing that Mugabe hated, it is the thoughts that contradicted his own, the thoughts that exposed his government’s hypocrisy.
In schools, he made sure that certain components of our history did not filter. For example, the name Ndabaningi Sithole doesn’t appear in secondary school history textbooks. When other nationalists were written about in school textbooks, Sithole was deliberately omitted despite the fact that he played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle. Sithole was jailed for eleven years by Ian Smith for fighting Zim independence. Even the role of Zapu in the liberation struggle is not sufficiently written, it is just mentioned in passing.
All this was carefully calculated by Mugabe so that he could easily lie to the people. In his Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, Brazilian scholar Paulo Freire talks about what he calls, “the banking concept of education”. According to him, this form of education is whereby critical thought is suppressed through propaganda and the presentation of discourse to students in a manner that does not allow them to critique such discourse .
This happens in autocratic regimes in order to mask their lies. Mugabe understood that in order to be a successful liar, you have to keep people in a perennial and perpetual state of ignorance. But this ignorance is actually banked into people’s minds in the name of education.
That’s why American academic Professor Noam Chomsky says “education is a system of imposed ignorance”. Dictators like Mugabe understand/understood that people need to be indoctrinated and brainwashed in order to easily lie them.
That’s why those who were brainwashed by Mugabe believe that Reverend Sithole was a sellout yet he wasn’t. So Mugabe carefully created the banking concept and indoctrination in order to make his lies remain sophisticated.
So those who don’t invest in their own researches and further reading from what they were told by ZBC and form 2 history textbooks were easily deceived by Mugabe.
Machiavellianism refers to the deceptive political doctrine founded Nicolo Machiavelli of Italy. He wrote a manifesto on consolidating power which teaches people how to be grandmaster liars. Mugabe is a prototype of Machiavellianism.
When it comes to lying, he was a grandmaster. Anyone can lie but not everybody can become a grandmaster liar like Mugabe. That is the reason why prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga describes Mugabe as “the greatest trick the devil ever played”.
What Malunga was simply saying is that Mugabe was a character with a sophisticated lying disposition. It is very important to mention that the current hegemony is a continuation of Mugabeism but the current one lacks the sophisticated lies of Robert Mugabe.
The lies of the current administration are so open and unattractive, that’s why some say the former administration was better.Of course the argument that Mugabe’s administration was better is a good strategy to use when discrediting the current hegemony.
During the time of Mugabe, inflation reached record high levels but Mugabe would always find his way out. One of the methods he used was sophisticated deception. So even though Mugabe used different methods like violence, human rights abuses, rigging elections, killing opposition supporters, etc.
It is not in doubt that he included artful deception and Machiavellianism in his bag of tricks.
Clayton Gonese is a 21 year old interested in extending the frontiers of knowledge.