• Thu Oct 24 2019
  • Robert Gabriel Mugabe is dead but alive

Robert Mugabe had his university education in Ghana where he met and married Sarah Francesca Hayfron in 1961.
Journalist @ New vision
Robert Mugabe had his university education in Ghana where he met and married Sarah Francesca Hayfron in 1961.

Racism and wives influenced his national policies. Thousands of words, letters, and state tributes have been written about Robert Mugabe who died at the age of 95. This article is none the worse, an addition. 

The words that have been published are descriptive of a man who straddled the land of Zimbabwe that the colonialist, Britain, named after its chief executioner, Cecil Rhodes, the master dreamer of the Cairo to Cape project.

That Mugabe was a hero who represented the aspirations of many millions of black people, no doubt. 

That he was a dictator as described by the same colonialists, no doubt either. So here is a snippet on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe and racism that he fought all his life.

Racism is real, so Robert Mugabe was quoted as saying. To paraphrase; Mugabe said as long as we use white paper in the toilet, drive in cars with black tyres, racism is alive.

My first encounter of white racism and segregation was, believe it or not, in Nakuru, Kenya.

This was during a field trip for Agriculture students at Makerere University to experience firsthand advances in farming in Kenya.

The class of 1970 was on a tour in western Kenya. Impressively large, these farms were in what was then known as White Highlands.

We did not know that the land had been acquired through forceful removal of indigenous Kipsigis people of Kenya. 

There was no way one would miss the extensive farms of wheat, barley and exotic cattle astride the Nairobi-Kampala Highway at Nakuru. These were the Delamare Farms.

The most prominent hotel in town was Stags Head, immaculately vanished with a reflective wood floor that we had not seen in Kampala since the Idd Amin era.

And so, the proud campus boys and girls walked in like it was home in Kampala, muddy gumboots and all.

The old white ladies in the hotel foyer could not take the invasion and made it known that this was Kenya, not Uganda.

How dare we, blacks invade their little racist nook? Never mind, of course, that Makerere University was the highest academic institution of repute throughout independent Africa. But we cowed and trooped out with "tails between our legs".

My other encounter with racism was nowhere else but Zimbabwe, independent from white rule. I had driven from Johannesburg on my way to Ndola, Zambia, my home at the time.

White people were still everywhere dominating all sectors of the economy, especially visible in farming, dubbed, "White farms". The white element cropping out again.

Coming from Uganda, it could never escape my mind that what I had read of colonial domination of Africans was staring in my face.

And so I entered Harare, the new Salisbury. A bit of Nairobi and a bit of Johannesburg in high rise buildings. Wide avenues and big size supermarkets or what they referred to as hypermarkets.

OK Supermarket that Kenneth Kaunda back in Zambia had nationalized along many other companies that were South African owned dominated the scene. I was visually impressed.

In the midst of my "aurora", I drove into my host's residence, a Ugandan at the University of Zimbabwe, UNZA.

My car was muddy from the long 600km journey from Johannesburg. Harare was experiencing water shortage and it was noticed to whoever cared to read that water conservation was vital for all users.

So here enters this foreigner, aided by another one and we asked the security guard if he would oblige to clean up the car.

As soon as he switched on the hose in drove a white lady, shouting to the top of her voice, on how dare we rebel against City Council call not to waste scarce water? 

The guard disappeared and I and my host were left with an egg on our faces, as it were. Do you, as a reader from our undisciplined Kampala, drift along?

That was Zimbabwe then; crispy clean, disciplined but racially segregated. Zimbabwe was described as the breadbasket of southern Africa for smallholders and large scale farmers together produced the highest maize yields per unit area anywhere in Africa.

Then strange mentality started creeping in. The black Zimbabweans starting feeling superior to their neighbours whose national economies had been ruined, in part because of wars against racism in Rhodesia and South Africa.

 I had again driven from Zambia into Zimbabwe at Chirundu border post. I had gone to lead a team to control locusts and grasshoppers (ensenene) that had invaded the so-called white farms.

Large expanse of impressive farms that stretched beyond the horizon. These, of course, Mugabe ordered for the seizure by gorilla veterans of the liberation war.

Zambians were seeking to enter Zimbabwe to buy essential commodities including bread and sugar. Largely elderly women, the Zimbabweans were turning them back. 

See how the world can be cruel. Today, there are millions of Zimbabweans living outside their own country in search of essential life needs. Many have even been killed in South Africa because they are considered foreigners.

Robert Mugabe was clearly the most educated president that Africa has ever produced.

He had a chain of degrees to his name, most of them earned while in prison of colonial Rhodesia from 1963 to 1975.

I leave the interpretation of such high academic performance and its relationship with political achievements to analysts.

Robert Mugabe had his university education in Ghana where he met and married Sarah Francesca Hayfron in 1961.

Sally was from the Hayfron family, educated, political, and well-connected and part of Ghana high society.

Mugabe found what he wanted; an influential loving woman that would project his image well. After marriage, she moved to the then Rhodesia, became politically active and consequently suffered indecencies of racist Rhodesia. 

She worked hard to mobilise women to support the guerilla war that was being coordinated by her husband.

Independence came and Sally clearly had huge influence on Robert Mugabe with his conciliatory policies that saw Zimbabwe record the highest literacy rates on the continent. 

When she died, Robert Mugabe remarried Grace Ntombizodwa. And by sheer coincidence or calculated by Grace, the economic policies drastically changed. It appears, therefore, that wives of Mugabe had an overwhelming influence on the fortunes of Zimbabwe.

At the state funeral in Harare, Mugabe, was heaped with praises by African leaders as an exemplary leader that had courageously fought colonialists all his life. 

That is largely true. But there was no single mention by anyone of the more than 20 past and present African presidents who said a word of the misdeeds of his government against his own people especially in Matebeleland where thousands were killed with assistance of North Korean troops.

There was no reflection of how democratic practices in Africa can be improved with the experiences of the likes of Robert Mugabe.

I end with one of many colourful quotes by Robert Mugabe and consistent with African custom and beliefs, I will leave the worst of his leadership to his God to judge. To cite Shakespeare: "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred in their bones".

Mugabe faced imminent death due to age with wit. "I have died many times. That's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I have died and resurrected and I don't know how many times I will die and resurrect."

Au revour Robert Mugabe.


Dr John W Bahana (PhD) is a science writer.