Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana
Although the deposed late former President Robert Mugabe was finally buried at his rural home in Zvimba, tongues will continue waging. As I see it, his snubbing the National Heroes Acre, a shrine he initiated, was a policy shift which warrants thoughtful analysis.
Throughout his decades long rule, Mugabe was conspicuous by the hundred-plus eulogies he delivered at Heroes Acre. He esteemed the shrine with utmost reverence, venerating it as the hallowed resting zone for departed gallant liberation heroes.
It was inconceivable that he would be buried anywhere else. There was consensus that his final resting place was at the mountain, pachikomo, as said in Zanu PF circles. Yet, that was not to be; the tide suddenly turned on him as it did with the biblical Samson.
A week is said to be a long time in politics. Indeed, events of mid-November 2017 were, to all intents and purposes, a long time for Mugabe. He was toppled from the Zanu PF party leadership and the presidency in a dramatic military intervention operation. Despite his initial resistance, defying with the phrase: “Asante Sane”, Mugabe eventually yielded. He henceforth became sworn enemies with the party he led for decades. Sadly for him, the daggers drawn out relationship later robbed his funeral of solemnity.
Wrangling marred his burial arrangements. There were soap opera-like dramatics over his burial details. While government haggled for him to be buried at the National Heroes Acre, his family dug heels deep and played hardball. Finally, the wishes Mugabe prescribed for himself prevailed. There were no prospects of deviating from wishes which he stated to his family. However, given President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s intimate knowledge of Mugabe, he should have known better that his late mentor was bound to be as obstinate in death as he was in life.
It was apparent from the onset that his family was obliged to respect his decision to shun the national shrine. He was a vindictive person, hence he did not want government in general and Mnangagwa in particular, to officiate at his burial.
While government pleaded on bended knees, including soliciting influence of traditional chiefs, the dye was cast for the Mugabe family. There were zero probabilities, not even the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell, for the family to accommodate government requests.
Despite it being overally benevolent, chartering a plane to Malaysia with party and government bigwigs on board, the family was not assuaged. It later underscored the obstinacy of Mugabe by refusing an offer for his body to be stored at a military mortuary.
Disdainful to government, the family opted for the body to lie in state at his Blue Roof mansion than a military morgue. As if the refusal was not sufficiently embarrassing, burial went ahead while a mausoleum, especially for him, was under construction at Heroes Acre.
Ultimately, Mugabe’s burial was held with no senior government officiating. He did not want anyone associated with his deposal to grace his funeral. Even the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, that used to be part of his entourage, was barred from his obsequies. Obviously, this was retributive scorn to his successor. Also, exiled G40 kingpins likewise dismissed with contempt the truce government offered. As I see it, the controversy that played out during his final moments were a perfect portrayal of his barbaric nature.
It is, therefore, pertinent to examine the view that his burial at Zvimba negatively impacted on Heroes Acre. With all due respect, my submission is that the shrine was not diminished. It is a lame conclusion that without Mugabe, Heroes Acre fizzles out to mere commonplace.
Although providence allowed him to be First citizen, he was not a nation builder at heart. He was preoccupied with himself than with the nation, hence he disregarded succession planning. Inevitably, his induced removal was a necessary evil; an act of last resort. Methinks it is basically foolhardy to decorate him. He was a bully~boy committed to a one-party State rule. He has a catalogue of atrocities and brutalities under his belt. During his tenure, many politicians, including Rtd General Solomon Mujuru, died in dubious accidents.
There are no ways a leader who established for himself a vast island of prosperity amid a sea of poverty could be a hero. It is, therefore, my fervent conviction that his burial at Zvimba did not blight Heroes Acre stature because he was never a hero from the onset.
At the imminent risk of inviting retributions from Mugabe loyalists, it is my submission that he was a villain. He wrought the ongoing economic meltdown. He committed electoral fraud. It is because of him that Zimbabwe is now deserted by investors and nationals also.
What was said of Harry Kumbula, then leader of African National Congress of Zambia is equally true of Mugabe. ”Kumbula branded anyone who opposed anything he wanted as either communist or sell~out,” wrote David Kaunda in his book, Zambia Shall Be Free.
There is a long list of nationals who were likewise labelled by Mugabe. He habitually berated not only his fellow party cadres, but the opposition and his counterparts from other countries as well. He wanted people to cower before him.
He was invective, resorting to outbursts as he did to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who he bellowed to keep his Britain. He was arrogant towards the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe when he abruptly withdrew the country from the league of nations.
His Look East policy, which he ran with after souring relations with the West benefited only his household. He sought medical care and eventually died there. As I see it, his burial at Zvimba was work of the proverbial invisible hand which separated wheat from chaff.
His obstinacy caused business closures and exodus of nationals to the diaspora. Basically, citizenry were ill fated. He was not a Statesman; not even a gentleman. He encouraged violent takeovers of commercial farms which culminated in Zimbabwe importing food. He talked of gutsa ruzhinji/ukusuthisa ilizwe (equitible distribution of wealth), yet he did not walk his talk. Instead, it was his family and friends who accumulated riches. He even got multiple commercial farms contrary to the one farm per family policy.
It was said of emperor Caesar Augustus that he improved Rome from being a city of brick to a city of marble. Yet, for Mugabe that was not so. He inherited Harare as a vibrant regional commercial hub, and left it merely a rundown village with no semblance of modernity. It is a grievous fallacy to regard him as superior in stature to the late Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Nikita Mangena and Herbert Chitepo, to mention, but a few liberation stalwarts. Overtures by his family to flaunt him as epic are wantonly misplaced and annoying. However, his family is not alone in esteeming him. Ironically, even the government that ousted him also offers libation. It raised a stench when Mnangagwa called for a minute’s silence in his honour during State of the Nation Address. As I see it, fatuous acts must end.