By Richard Mahomva
His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie the First of Ethiopia once said “Africa awaits its creators…” The statement speaks to contemporary pan-Africanism linked with the life purpose of Robert Mugabe here deliberately explained through a biblical messianic allusion. Once again the clamor made at the birth of the Christian savior Jesus the Christ in the book of Matthew, “Unto us a child is born…” resonates with the birth of Robert Mugabe not in Zimbabwe, but in Africa at large.
Without any attempt to liken President Robert Mugabe to the Christ it is significant to look back at what his life means to the provision of pan-Africanism and its tenets largely reconstructing political, economic empowerment and building an Afrocentric unity of purpose in response to the immemorial Western imperialist dominance.
As a starting point, I declare the writing a not-eulogy to the person of President Robert Mugabe. Neither is it a commentary solely immersed in the Zimbabwean political landscape. The article is conscious of how he is perceived at home by critics opposed to his rule, but this does not criminalise the need to look at him from a different perspective.
After all debate is a good ingredient for democratic thinking which regime change proclaimers opposed to “tyrannical Mugabe” advocate for in Zimbabwe’s polarised public sphere.
Therefore, I boldly seek to engage the transfiguration of Mugabe’s person into an idea safeguarding the values of African dignity. Mugabe as a reclamation of the African pride long dumped in the doldrums of Western denigration as observed by Dr Tafataona Mahoso:
Mugabe is now every African who is opposed to the British and North American plunder and exploitation… So, old Mugabe here is not the person of Robert Mugabe. Rather it is that powerful, elemental African memory going back to the first Nehanda and even to the ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians who are now reclaiming Africa in history as the cradle of humankind…
According to Mahoso, President Robert Mugabe should not be only viewed in terms of his person, but as a vessel of the African ancestral decolonisation resistance. Today the attempt to critic Robert Mugabe has found lodgment in the academia largely as a theoretical reconstruction of his legacy now termed Mugabeism and not his person per se.
Mugabe as a concept and not the being is an articulation of Machiavellian political traits that have since created the demise of political opposition to Mugabe a system and not the person.
This is described by Brian Raftopolous (2013) as “The End of an Era” for opposition politics in Zimbabwe. The fundamental Afrocentric approach in policy making and governance issues at home makes Mugabeism a triumphant extension of pan-Africanism as affirmed by Mahoso:
The Zimbabwe opposition and their British, European and North American sponsors have exposed themselves as forces opposed to Mugabe as Pan-African memory, Mugabe as the reclaimer of African space, Mugabe as the African power of remembering the African legacy and African heritage which slavery, apartheid and imperialism thought they had dismembered for good… It is not accidental that both the opposition to Mugabe and its sponsors sought to denigrate African liberation history as outmoded and undemocratic traditions.
Mugabeism now represents the being of all Africans seeking absolute renaissance of Africa through Zimbabwe’s domestic policy. The policy tenets substantiate how President Mugabe has pioneered the path to real decolonisation unlike the delusional independence limited to flag-waving experiences of other African countries.
Therefore, the 92 years of President Robert Mugabe’s life provides an audit opportunity of his lead in redemptive expectations of contemporary pan-Africanism. Like any other leader including those of the so-called most democratic countries, the President might have his inadequacies, but that does not allow us to exploit selective memory not to appraise him for his other God-given abilities largely those working for the good of the continent in its search for a new decolonisation paradigm. Let me explain.
Robert Mugabe and the redemptive economic paradigm of Africa
Africa impatiently awaits economic liberation, Africa is not short of poverty, pandemics, inflation, corruption and economic accountability. In summary, Africa is in abject poverty. The major reason being that the continent’s resources are in the hands of Western capitalism. Only recently, the East has surfaced as a substitute for Western supremacy with arm-wide welcome in numerical African countries.
The ceremonial role of the continent’s leaders which most of us are not aware of is the factor behind Robert Mugabe’s ideological rebellion to the West complimented by the land reform programme. Unlike Robert Mugabe, most African leaders have been sceptic of relieving themselves from the Western economic albatross affirming what Nkrumah states as governments that do not govern, but merely control the machinery of government, being themselves controlled by the hidden hand.
The major fear being that the West does not only have the biggest financial monopoly for institutionally bullying Africa, but it also has advanced infrastructure for extending its violence. Beyond the instilled belief of the West’s dominance, today Mugabe whose legacy is an adversary to the haters of Africa is not different from Patrice Lumumba whom before dying had the following remarks:
History will one day have its say; it will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris or Brussels, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets.
Therefore, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe is now history writing itself for Africa. He symbolises a path of economic freedom contrary to the demands of neo-coloniality. It is only African countries that have rid themselves of colonialism which will affirm that on this day “… unto us a child is born, unto us decoloniality awaits”.
From the land reform programme up to the economic indigenisation policy, President Mugabe has displayed that Africa’s economic decoloniality is possible. The progenies of numerical countries of this continent need to be given their dues for the blood sacrifices of their kith and kin in liberating the motherland.
To this day many parts of the continent are physical landmarks of protracted warfronts and they stand desolate watching the sons and daughters of the soil languishing in poverty. Just across the Limpopo, Sharpeville in today’s Gauteng in South-Africa still has the blood stains of her young men and women. It then comes as a surprise when our people ignore the lament of President Mugabe for Africa’s economic decolonisation.
Even his call for the revision of the United Nations Security Council structure where Africa is traditionally excluded. Here Mugabeism becomes a prescription for equality in the global political-economy and unlearning African economic subjectivity. If Africa can modify the affirmative repossession of her economy guided by Mugabeism coupled good governance she would not be beggar of crumbs in the high-tables of coloniality.
The liberation war veterans of Zimbabwe aggressively lobbied for land repossession and in respect of the values and ideology of the country President Mugabe had no option, but to give the land to the people. However, in Marikana the story was different, when the people demanded a share in the mining sector they were greeted by live bullets on their chests. Surprisingly such a government is given respect by the West and our black ‘western’ liberals as the “most democratic” government in Africa. But the question is; democratic in whose eyes and ideological interest? Democratic in the eyes of the poverty stricken African populace or before the eyes of the looters and plunders of Africa?
Mugabeism: Antonym of neo-coloniality or a nom de guerre of decoloniality?
Now Mugabeism is a mythical symbol of tyranny to Western think-tanks and some opposed to the political person of Robert Mugabe not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa. Therefore, it is true Mugabeism is an enemy of neo-coloniality which describes the ties binding the ex-colonies and the West. Mugabeism as an idea or a theoretical extension of pan-Africanism will remain an enemy to Western political-economy hegemony in Africa since in reality it is a symbol Africa’s modern neo-colonial resistance.
The challenges facing Zimbabwe following the radical economic repossession moves during President Mugabe’s reign have also contributed to the vilification of Mugabeism by the neo-colonialists and in some cases with valid justifications.
However, people cannot embrace uniform thought patterns. On that pretext, some Africans fought on the side of the imperialists in Africa’s varying decolonisation processes betraying continental aspirations of freedom just like other leaders of Africa are doing today. This is why Robert Mugabe’s position on decolonising Africa’s economy represents not only peripheral, but pertinent remnant underpinnings of ‘being’ in global politics. As the post-Mugabe era approaches, Africa must collectively free her economic capacity from the hands of the coloniality. This would expose how the West needs Africa’s resources to sustain the daily livelihoods of its citizenry as history has testified.
Robert Mugabe and rethinking post-coloniality
Like any other country, Zimbabwe has experienced its own challenges and prospects. This commands immediate introspection of Zimbabwe’s degree in successfully realising and achieving post-coloniality. Bearing in mind the ongoing process of rebuilding Zimbabwe, the stagnations and learning from mistakes unique to our experience we are not far from the essence of post-coloniality.
As affirmed by Professor Nhamo Mhiripiri at the Back to Pan-Africanism Conference in 2014 that “Zimbabwe is Africa’s only post-colony”. Thanks to the life of President Mugabe which has been dedicated to achieving the dream of post-coloniality, which in itself entails the ingredients for absolute decolonisation that Africa impatiently awaits. Happy birthday Bob!
Richard Runyararo Mahomva is an independent academic researcher, Founder of Leaders for Africa Network-LAN. Convener of the Back to Pan-Africanism Conference and the Reading Pan-Africa Symposium (REPS) and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.