President Mugabe turns 91 today, another step in the long and illustrious journey of a father, teacher, unifier and a leader par excellence.Â The man who has led Zimbabwe for 34 years and has become the chairman of both Sadc and African Union, is a towering figure, even with his relatively small frame, among world leaders.
Known for his candid, if militant, talk where he seeks justice, President Mugabe is no doubt Africaâs last liberator. But what makes Robert Mugabe a unique leader and a man for every occasion and question?
We bring you nine-in-one things making the ultimate hero.
President Mugabe grew under racist colonial rule. It was that system that he undertook to fight as a young man resisting the luxuries of being a teacher, and the urge to live in exile, what with a foreign wife.Â President Mugabe was prepared to pay the ultimate price and waged war on the settlers, along with other nationalists and gave himself to the forests and harsh elements.
He was jailed 11 years for his part. His people were slaughtered with 50 000 blacks reported killed by the Rhodesian machinery.
After the bitter struggle, what did Mugabe do?
He extended the hand of peace to his former jailers and murderers of his people.
Thus, at independence in 1980, he preached reconciliation, stating: âIn this regard I wish to assure you that there can never be any return to the state of armed conflict which existed before our commitment to peace and the democratic process of the election under the Lancaster House Agreement. Surely, this is now time to beat our swords into ploughshares, so we can attend to the problems of developing our economy and our society . . . I urge you, whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive others and forget.
âJoin hands in a new amity and together as Zimbabweans trample upon racialism, tribalism and regionalism, and work hard to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.â
Later, during the Unity Accord signed with Dr Joshua Nkomo and his PF-Zapu, after hostilities that had threatened to tear the country apart, he preached unity. For the record, Mugabe preached reconciliation well before Nelson Mandela.
Tony Blair, George W. Bush
No doubt, after independence and the disturbances in the southern parts of the country Zimbabwe led a rather modest and quiet life, out of the glare of the world.
But then came Tony Blair and George Bush, the one British Prime Minister, and the other American president; the duo being infamous for misadventurism in global affairs. They gave us the Iraqi war in 2003. They sought regime change in Zimbabwe to push Robert Mugabe out.
Inadvertently, the actions of the two men gave Mugabe a voice on the international stage – a voice for the voiceless; a voice seeking justice and deriding Western hypocrisy.
In one speech, President Mugabe said: âWe are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that there is but one political God – George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet.â
He also advised: âMr Bush (to) read history correctly. Let him realise that both personally and in his representative capacity as the current President of the United States, he stands for this âcivilisationâ which occupied, which colonised, which incarcerated, which killed. He has much to atone for and very little to lecture us on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
âHis hands drip with innocent blood of many nationalities. He imprisons and tortures at Guantanamo. He imprisoned and tortured at Abu Ghraib. He has secret torture chambers in Europe.
âYes, he imprisons even here in the United States, with his jails carrying more blacks than his universities can ever enrol. He even suspends the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights . . . Can the international community accept being lectured by this man on the provisions of the universal declaration of human rights? Definitely not!â
Tony Blair and his friend imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, after the latter embarked on the land reform programme in 2000.Â These sanctions have become a talking point in almost every speech President Mugabe delivers at home and abroad. He has vowed to fight the sanctions that punish his innocent people, for the life of it.
He says: âThe sanctions are still on us and what man is there who, when his own house is being attacked, will run away and leave the family and the children still under attack? Itâs a coward â¦ My people still need me and when people still need you to lead them itâs not time, Sir, it doesnât matter how old you are, to say goodbye.
âThey will say you are deserting us and I am not a deserter, never have been, never have thought of deserting people. We fight to the finish: thatâs it. I still have it in me here.â
Well, everyone is now fed up with the first black President of the US, Barack Obama. President Mugabe is identifiable with this disappointment, disillusionment.
âObama has been a complete failure in terms of what Africa expected from a black president of the United States,â is President Mugabeâs verdict
He has even failed Black Americans.
âGo to Harlem and Brooklyn today where blacks have poor services in terms of education and social services. There are more blacks in American prisons than in American universities,â President Mugabe sadly notes.
President Mugabe has conquered Barack Obama, like Bush, before him. President Mugabe says of Zimbabweans: âItâs your support which enables me with my small frame to instil fear in the likes of Obama. They invite all other leaders to meetings but say Mugabe cannot come and I wonder whether itâs my misfortune. In the past, when we attended these meetings, Western leaders would disappear once they knew that I was around.â
The Iron Lady was a controversial figure, even in death. However, she was principled and she earned the respect of President Mugabe.Â âMrs Thatcher, you could trust her,â says President Mugabe.Â âBut of course what happened later was a different story with the Labour Party and Blair and company, who you could never trust. You couldnât compare them to Thatcher and the others . . . Oh, who can ever believe what Mr Blair says? Here we call him Bliar.â
Mandela, so much beloved of the West – for a good cause. Most Africans think he left the job unfinished.Â Hard to hate, but hard to swallow Mandela left South Africa as it is now. President Mugabe had this to say about Madiba: âThey will praise you only if you are doing things that please them. Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of them . . . Thatâs being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.â
Well, like any man President Mugabe has been pursued by questions around his private life.Â There has been the late Amai Sally and the present Dr Grace and some sections have been peddling speculation and scandals around the subject. In an interview with a South African broadcaster, President Mugabe opened up.
He said of the beginning of his relationship with Dr Grace: âWhen I said I wanted to marry her, I meant it. I said to her from that moment on if I had any girlfriends, I would leave them and thatâs what I have done to recognise you (Grace) and you alone as my partner.
âWhether you believed it or not, thatâs what it has been . . . After Sally was gone it was necessary for me to look for someone and, even as Sally was still going through her last few days, although it might have appeared to some as cruel, I said to myself well, itâs not just myself needing children, my mother has all the time said: âAh, am I going to die without seeing grandchildren?â
âSo I decided to make love to her. She happened to be one of the nearest and she was a divorcee herself, and so it was. We got our first child when my mother was still alive.â
Go anywhere in the world, Mugabeâs word on the question of homosexuality is known.Â That is, whether you like it or not. He is about the greatest advocate for the natural order of things.Â âThey (homosexuals) are worse than dogs and pigs, yes worse than dogs and pigs,â he says. âI keep pigs and the male pig knows the female one.â
And he has also rapped US President Obama for trying to preach the gospel of homosexuality.
He says: âThen we have this American president, Obama, born of an African father, who is saying we will not give you aid if you donât embrace homosexuality. We ask, was he born out of homosexuality? We need continuity in our race, and that comes from the woman, and no to homosexuality. John and John, no; Maria and Maria, no.â
Fighting capitalist gods
Lastly, President Mugabe has distinguished himself as the fighter for the poor when he called for rich nations to help poor countries who stand to suffer more from effects of climate change. (This is also in sync with his greater calls for equality among nations, and at international organisations.)
He said in 2009: âWhen countries spew hazardous emissions for selfish consumptionist ends, in the process threatening land masses and atmospheric space of smaller and weaker nations are they not guilty of gross human rights violations? We raise these questions not out of spite or vindictiveness, but out of concern for our very endangered livelihoods. When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it is we, the lesser mortals of the developing sphere who gasp, starve, sink and eventually die.â
Thatâs the nine-in-one of President Mugabe.
Only we can never fully fathom the enigma that is this wily character.