by Hannes Wessels
I’m certainly shedding no tears upon the departure of Robert Mugabe from this world but I look back upon his life and his monstrous misrule, cognizant of the fact that he was only a player on a bigger political stage, with an influential supporting cast that enabled the tragedy that befell his country, the continent and even the world. The fact is, he was only able to get to where he did and stay there, through the enthusiastic encouragement of many people in high places and much of that support was drawn from influential leaders within the Western democracies.
By all accounts, a quiet, introspective and thoughtful child. The son of an unidentified father, he went to a Jesuit mission school where he was noticed for his diligence and intelligence. One cannot help but speculate on what else might have transpired at this critical juncture in his life but these institutions were, we now know, in many cases, run by sexual deviants. Mugabe, later, expressed an unhealthy hatred of homosexuals, despite exhibiting a mincing gait and limp-wristed hand gestures that have left many wondering about his own sexual orientation and whether he may have suffered some sort of sexual and mental trauma at a young age that shaped him into the sinister personality he became.
His admirers like to refer to him as a ‘guerrilla fighter’ but this is a misnomer; he was never a combatant in any shape or form although he occasionally dressed as one; and this was the reason he was treated with disdain by real ‘fighters’ such as his armed-wing commander, Josiah Tongogara.
Tongogara, incidentally, may have been one of Mugabe’s early victims in his rise to power. He died in a mysterious car-crash having just returned to Mozambique from the Lancaster House talks in London which convened late 1979, where he made a big impression as a charismatic and rational man.
Having grown up happily on Ian Smith’s farm near Selukwe, Tongogara expressed a fondness for the then former premier and reached out to General Walls, who then commanded the Rhodesian military, in a spirit of real reconciliation. According to Walls, Tongogara was of the view that it was they – the ‘fighting men’ who should settle this and ‘to hell’ with the politicians. This message would not have been lost on Mugabe or the conniving Peter Carrington and the guerrilla commander was soon on a Maputo mortuary slab.
Ironically, given her perceived profile as being non-political, it was the Queen of England, who played the decisive role in propelling Mugabe to power. After the country’s first and arguably, only universal suffrage, free and fair election in February 1979, a moderate, black majority government led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, was elected. British PM at the time, Margaret Thatcher, promised to recognise the new leadership but reneged some months later at a Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka, following direct intervention from Her Majesty who implored her to change course which she duly did. This handed resolution of the issue to Foreign Secretary, Lord Peter Carrington who stitched up the settlement reached at Lancaster House and smoothed Mugabe’s path to power.
The BBC and most of the mainstream media like to tell us that Mugabe started off well and deserves recognition for commendable governance in the early years of his long tenure. This does not bear close scrutiny. The truth is, he took control of an economy primed for rapid growth and the best structured and governed country in Africa, with more blacks in schools per capita than anywhere else on the continent. Even radical black nationalists like Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and Mozambique’s Samora Machel, reminded him of his serendipitous situation and entreated him not to make the same mistakes as they had done.
He ignored them and quickly set about destroying ‘the jewel of Africa’ by dragging the country into an encounter with a command economy where he and his cronies would attempt to control all the levers in the public and private sector, while following a vaguely Marxist blueprint.
Tax levels were hiked to being some of the highest in the world, the best civil service in Africa was smashed, and his stated commitment to a non-racial meritocracy was a lie from the start. In all sectors, black political allies, regardless of their experience or qualifications were ushered into positions way beyond their ability. Anti-white racism was institutionalised throughout the public sector. Detention without trial was the order of the day and pressure on political dissenters mounted.
When the threat of an effective opposition appeared early in the 80’s in Matabeleland, Mugabe reacted ferociously. A systematic, state-sponsored genocide ensued and within three years of Zimbabwe’s independence, approximately 20,000 innocents were killed. The world looked the other way; British PM, John Major’s government rewarded him with a knighthood.
He returned from the investiture to Zimbabwe to announce that gays and lesbians should be evicted, before referring to like-minded people as “… worse than dogs and pigs … beasts … guilty of sub-human behaviour,” and called for them to be removed from society.
In the late 90’s, the Americans, despite Mugabe’s policies, were still cheering him on. Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tom MacDonald, was gushing in his praise of him and reached the astonishing conclusion that the country was an ‘An African success story.’
In 2000, in a fit of pique, after losing a referendum that would have granted him near dictatorial power, four thousand white farmers, (.03% of the total population) their families and dependents were ‘ethnically cleansed’ and the economy collapsed triggering the worst hyper-inflation in history. This resulted in soft sanctions and a travel-ban on the president and some of his cohorts but he was still warmly welcomed to The Vatican as a ‘devout Catholic’.
Zimbabwe now teeters on the brink of becoming a ‘failed state’ but when surveying the wreckage, one must remain mindful that this tragedy was only possible because the Western world, not only allowed it to happen, but enthusiastically aided it.
In a world obsessed with political correctness which forbids criticism of tyrants when they are black, Mugabe was accountable to no one and no institution and this is legacy. If the liberals who ruled and their media acolytes had removed their racist blinkers and applied the same rules to African despots as they do to their European counterparts the history of Zimbabwe would have been a happier one. Sadly, this message has not been lost on the people who govern and are now taking South Africa into the same abyss.