Africa’s oldest ruler
Written by: Khaya Khumalo
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is an intriguing leader who has stood the test of times. Mugabe’s legacy is fascinating and contentious at the same time, he was notorious for driving and spearheading the land grab policy in the early 2000’s where thousands of white farmers were kicked out and others tortured by his militias. Some people revere Africa’s oldest ruler, they perceive him as a maverick, a giant and one of the few African heads of state perhaps, in the same rank with the late Muammar Gaddafi who stood up against the West on several occasions.
During his recent state visit after 21 years in South Africa, Mugabe flanked by his 10 flamboyant ministers, including Patrick Chinamasa, the country’s finance minister. Chinamasa had a hard time in convincing the media that they are not stony broke, so they weren’t carrying a begging bowl when they were in Pretoria, it was just a historical visit where a series of agreements including the water pact, which will see us getting water from the Zambezi. Mugabe could barely walk by himself; he found comfort on leaning intermittently on President Jacob Zuma. Zuma invited him to the Union Buildings, the seat of South African government, which once witnessed terrible occurrences masterminded by Apartheid regime.
President Mugabe joked that South Africans can keep their colonial era tycoon Cecil John Rhodes’s statue, while Zimbabweans have his corpse lying uninterrupted at Matobo National Park where he was buried long time ago. This follows a raging debate about a number of colonial and Apartheid hero’s statues which are scattered in several parts of the country. Mugabe came to our shores and told us to keep hands off; keeping those statues will not deprive anyone an opportunity to know about Rhodes and his ill-gotten gains.
But Uncle Bob, as he is affectionately known, still charms despite his old age, he still gravitates his audience with the choice of words he uses, Except for his usual platitudes, he always blames former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for failing to meeting him half way on the land reform process, which killed Zimbabwean economy. Mugabe launched a tirade against the West for masterminding a regime change in Libya, which subsequently saw the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The elderly statesman further apologised on behalf of people who flocked to South Africa, when his socio-economic policies fell apart. It sounded really sincere and perhaps it’s an admission that Uncle Bob wants to make that his policies may have caused mayhem- not only for Zimbabwe, but for South Africa and some former frontline states like Mozambique, Botswana and others, who were terrorised by Apartheid regime. Mugabe’s behaviour is always full of surprises. When he went to the Hector Peterson Memorial in Soweto, he couldn’t hide his anger for what happened in the past. He couldn’t address the media properly; he just slammed a white journalist and indicated he couldn’t stand his sight.
One thing is for sure, President Mugabe, who also chairs the African Union and Southern African Development Community, remains influential and even though these positions may be ceremonial, they count.