That Robert Mugabe’s name is indelibly inscribed and embellished in the hall of Africa’s revolutionary icons is not contestable. In his trail blazing years, Mugabe inscribed a permanent mark on the sand of Africa through vision, ideological clarity and leadership.
Along with liberation luminaries such as Julius Nyerere and Samora Machel, Mugabe played a central role in the liberation of Zimbabwe and of course, many other African nations. Being one of the few surviving strongmen of Africa’s liberation, Mugabe is not only a current brand and political personality, but also a historical figure. As such he is a link between the past and the present.
The reason why Mugabe gets such applause at African conferences is because he is a living representation of the liberation era, which cannot be taken away from him. Even his fiercest critic cannot ignore such a hallmark feature erected on his path. To many, he represents the idea and actuality of victory over the oppressive white minority rule.
However, despite such a decorated resume, Mugabe has done unthinkable things which outweigh his noble contributions in the past. When his legendary exploits of the past are juxtaposed to his current deplorable status, one is convinced beyond any doubt that indeed power corrupts. Mugabe has presided over monumental failures in the past 37 years of his leadership journey. Not only that, he continues to dodder on the affairs of Zimbabwe despite his inability to perform his duties as a result of old age.
In his political and natural sunset, of course, with the help of his thuggish motor-mouth wife, the aged President of Zimbabwe seems determined to drive the final nail into his coffin.
This same Mugabe, on one hand, is an unquestionable liberation personality yet, on the other hand, is an apt embodiment of leadership failure. Mugabe has presided over cataclysmic atrocities against Zimbabweans, such the Gukurahundi massacres, Murambatsvina, violent land grabs, abductions and even murdering his opponents.
The Mugabe led government’s mismanagement has plunged Zimbabwe into economic doldrums. Zimbabwe does not even have a currency of its own. Cash shortages and black market activities have become the order of the day. The majority of Zimbabweans live way below the poverty datum line.
Several millions of Zimbabweans are in need of food aid. Over one million school going children attend school on empty stomachs. Zimbabweans are dying daily of curable diseases belonging to a bygone era such as Typhoid. The rate of unemployment is above 90% and most graduates have resorted to vending almost anything, including their bodies.
It is against this backdrop that I consider the decision and declaration by the government to make Mugabe’s birthday a public holiday not only absurd but a mockery of epic proportions. It is an insult to Zimbabweans who have been led through untold suffering and oppression by the same Mugabe.
In fact, it is actually evil.
Mugabe’s name no longer deserves to be included in the same sentence with the word legacy. Whatever had accrued to his name in terms of legacy has been destroyed by his dismal leadership after the attainment of independence.
Patson Dzamara is a leadership coach, author, political analyst and activist based in Zimbabwe.