Mugabe Was Loved and Hated in Equal Measure

Published on 10th September 2019

There is a Setswana expression which goes, Bantlhoi ba kana ka banthati whose literal translation means, those who hate me are the same in number as those who love me. Hence the subject of this article, “Those who hated Mugabe should know there are others who loved him.”

Robert Mugabe was an accomplished scholar with a string of academic qualifications. He was also a freedom fighter who led his country to independence in March 1980. He obtained his first degree at Fort Hare University in 1951 having entered Fort Hare the year Robert Sobukwe completed his degree. When Sobukwe addressed students at Fort Hare, Mugabe would invariably grab a pen and a notebook, sit in front and scribble some notes. But when Fort Hare celebrated its centenary in 2016, Mugabe could not mention Sobukwe. He referred to him as others, his own mentor! Fort Hare itself also lost a golden opportunity to celebrate Sobukwe as I indicated in this article

Mugabe was one of those Africans who went to Ghana as teachers after that country’s independence in 1957. He worked in Ghana as a teacher where he met his first wife Sally and were blessed with a child. When that child passed away, Mugabe was in prison and the Rhodesian government refused to allow him to attend the funeral of his only child at the time. Before it became independent, Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia, named after that British colonialist and imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes.

Mugabe and others were freedom fighters who took up arms against the racist Rhodesian government after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1964 under Ian Smith. Those freedom fighters including Mugabe served in Rhodesian prisons as political prisoners. Mugabe served a period of ten years in jail where he suffered ill-treatment that is said to have affected his manhood.

Brief historical background

There was only one liberation movement in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo. In 1963 there was a split which led to the formation of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) whose founding members were Ndabaningi Sithole, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere and others. Mugabe belonged to this group and took over from Chitepo who was killed in a car bomb in Lusaka, Zambia in early 1975 after Mugabe’s release from prison. Chitepo, a Fort Hare trained barrister had succeeded Sithole, a man of shenanigans.

The death of Chitepo led to the expulsion of ZANU from Zambia. During that time, Mozambique had fought and achieved its independence. The government of Samora Machel provided military bases to ZANU. Under the leadership of Mugabe, the armed struggle intensified. At the end of 1976, negotiations to decide the future of Zimbabwe were held in Geneva but failed. Immediately after the failed Geneva talks, Mugabe announced that the struggle would intensify. Guerrilla attacks took place immediately after Mugabe’s announcement that the armed struggle would intensify. Zanla forces were at that stage hitting targets in Salisbury which is now Harare. In 1978, the Lancaster House negotiations were held in London. In 1979, guerrilla forces gathered in assembly points inside Zimbabwe. The following year elections were held which ZANU won with a landslide. In the run-up to the 1980 elections, Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara died in a mysterious accident. The assassinations of Chitepo and Tongogara have not been adequately explained.

The terms of the Lancaster House Agreement were supposed to last until 1990. When Britain was supposed to keep its side of the bargain, it reneged. When Mugabe wanted to make a move, the ANC at the time were engaged in imperialist brokered negotiations with apartheid government officials and captains of industry which were held in secret and persuaded Mugabe not to take a move because he would scare white South Africans. Mugabe acquiesced. In 2000 the ANC was already in office (not in power) and couldn’t care less and still Britain hadn’t kept its side of the bargain. Mugabe then moved and seized land that white Rhodesians had disproportionately held in their possession. Then Britain, US and the West in general imposed illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe. The same thing the US did to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro’s revolution swept the Batista dictatorship out of power and stopped gambling such as casinos, prostitution and seized sugar plantations that were owned by some members of the Mafia. Those illegal sanctions against Cuba are still in place today.

Those who condemn Mugabe for having ruined Zimbabwe don’t factor in the illegal sanctions Britain and its allies in the West have imposed against Zimbabwe. When they condemn Mugabe’s violence against the Ndebele people, they ignore the massacre of the Ndebele people by Cecil John Rhodes in 1893. The people of Zimbabwe may be suffering because of sanctions by western countries and other self-inflicted problems. However, South Africa is worse, white people are disproportionately owning land and the economy. Look at the shacks in South Africa, they are an eyesore. Mugabe may not be a saint but he left Zimbabwean land in the hands of Zimbabweans which Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to return to white people instead of distributing it equitably among landless Zimbabweans.

It was Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar who said, “The evil that men do live after them but the good is often interred with their bones.” Let the good that Mugabe did not be interred with his bones.

May your soul rest in peace, Son of Africa. 

By Sam Ditshego

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