As a pan Africanist, Mugabe’s stand and wish for a purely independent Africa was clear
By Ssemanda Allawi
The holy scriptures both in New and Old Testaments have it; no man is righteous. In New Testament, Romans 3:10: “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” For emphasis, it is repeated in the same book, Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” It is more clear in the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 7:20: “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.”
Therefore, the shortcomings of Zimbabwe’s former president comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe cannot and should not in any way overshadow his positive contribution to the people of Zimbabwe, Africa and humanity at large. In many ways, he remains a true Pan-Africanist of our time and an inspiration for many who are still committed to fighting neo-colonialism. like he was alive, even after his death, comrade Mugabe as he was foundry called by many still represents what many would like to call inconsistent persona especially to what he believed in during his liberation struggle.
It is unfortunate that most of his critics even after his death have failed to realise that what they call his bad side was as a result of very entrenched colonial system Mugabe endlessly fought to bring to an end.
Some of the tributes after from different parts of the world are misleading describing him as a man who was brutal and undemocratic. It should be remembered that even when he faced untold injustice such as close to 11 years of imprisonment by Ian Smith’s regime that represented a handful of Zimbabweans, Mugabe remained committed to dialogue.
This is evidenced by his willingness under his Zanu party which was very certain of defeating Smith’s white minority administration in Rhodesia (as it was called then), at request of the London, Mugabe accepted accepted and joined Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu and made it to Lancaster House to negotiate peaceful way of ending conflict which many believed it was a matter of when not if they were going to win it. Such undeniable trait challenges the talk that Mugabe was a brutal man who liked violence.
In education sector, today Zimbabwe is ranked top as regarding the number of elites on the continent. This should not make us forget that at the time of independence, education system in Zimbabwe much favoured minority white Zimbabweans.
Smith and the colonial regime had ensured that education system favoured white students which Mugabe changed upon the country’s independence and introduced reforms that ensured “Education for all”, thereby giving opportunity to all citizens irrespective of their colour. Mugabe government also ensured girl child education was given priority that the number of school going girls increased from 43% in 1980 to 47% in 1999 in secondary schools.
As a pan Africanist, Mugabe’s stand and wish for a purely independent Africa was clear as he always overtly read on the same script with a few in Global south that were firm to stand against apartheid regime in South Africa.
It should be recalled that it was after the so-called Gukurahundi massacre that Mugabe was awarded with several honorary degrees in United Kingdom and United Sates of America. During his four- day visit in England (17-20th may 1994) which included a state banquet, the queen lauded him: “Through your personal commitment to economic reform... your economy seems to be well on the way to recovery and sustainable growth." It can be argued this was so because Mugabe at that time was silent despite white minority owning close to 70% of the country’s productive land as Zimbabweans suffered.
It was after he Mugabe sought to expand health and education services in the country that World bank and International Monetary Fund turned down. In many ways, these austerity measures turned upside down things in Harare that veterans who were enjoying state patronage felt changes and Mugabe’s support among elites and war veterans started dwindling. This prompted him to resort on land reform program. He consequently redistributed to African Zimbabweans which angered western capitals which resulted into economic sanctions that contributed to weakening of the country’s economy.
African leaders can therefore draw a lesson that it is prudent not give in your principles as a way of buying favours from foreign powers, once you see the light again and decide to stand by your people, they will see you as a spent force and work for your downfall. And because you have been in same interest bed with them, your people or countrymen may not fully embrace you, some if not many may start to see you as villain as some are doing now towards Mugabe.
Though the Bible assures us that “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake,” leaders can learn from Mugabe that it can taint your name no matter how good you may have been if you decide to crush those you perceive as against your existence. Rest in peace uncle Bob.
The writer is a PhD candidate in international relations and author of Global Governance & Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.