The month of February is most famed for the annual celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day, which originated as a western Christian liturgical feast. Over the course of history the day transcended its western religious background to become a global holiday to celebrate love. While most Zimbabweans continue to recognise the significance of this day, there is hardly any celebration in the midst of such abject poverty and unprecedented unemployment. As news of Valentine’s Day quickly passes into oblivion, the local media is awash with both criticism and commendation of the fascinating 21st February movement annual celebration of the birth, life and legacy of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
The magnitude and significance of this event is a matter of debate among critics and admires of the president. The 21st February movement incorporated into Zanu pf’s annual calendar provides an opportunity for obsequious lieutenants and followers of the President to honor and praise him while denigrating and besmirching perceived foes and opponents. This event has over the years been held on a rotational basis across the ten provinces of Zimbabwe is held this year at Rhodes Estate preparatory school in Matobo in Matabeleland south province. While criticism has already began with the event’s venue concerning its proximity to the Gukurahundi mass graves, this just stands as a tip of the iceberg to multifarious controversies surrounding the event.
To begin with, the event amply relies on donations from a coerced business community and frightful sycophants. With its lavishness and pompous display, the event provides a musical Gala to an impoverished fraction of the citizenry who primarily seize the opportunity to see some of their favorite artists performing. On that notion, courtesy of the 21st February movement, upcoming musicians modestly grabs an opportunity to ride on rotten fame and established musicians, compete for relevance and shares of party incentives and through composing praise jingles on the person and work of the president which are of benefits oriented not legacy glorification. It is a fact beyond any reasonable doubt that the 21st Feb movement has failed to ignite genuine zeal from a disgruntled long suffering population to celebrate the birth of a revolutionary icon who now stands as an epitome of failed leadership. While the population has been very contemptuous of the birthday celebration of the president nothing has exhilarated the perpetually sombre Zimbos as rumors of his death.
Neither the intensions of President Mugabe nor the actions of Zanu pf towards the people of Zimbabwe give any justifiable motivation to the masses to celebrate the birth and legacy of the president regardless of their political affiliation. The communication vale and level of disassociation between the ordinary citizens and any pro Zanu pf events explain why the 21st February movement celebrations has been a party event zealously heeded only by dogmatic party members. While Zimbabweans have been stripped and denied the right of resistance to any form of oppression they do have the ownership of a decision to disassociate themselves from the event. The day President Robert Mugabe will depart the political arena and the face of the earth will ultimately be of more significance to the frustrated populace. The idea of celebrating this party’s most decorated event torments the citizen socially and is a bitter pill to swallow to the tax paying and the coerced business sector. Clearly the 21st Feb movement comes just as a reminder of the importance of birthdays to most Zimbabweans, whose own birthdays for those fortunate was last celebrated on the actual day of birth while for others the newborn stands as just another addition to a pile of troubles in their poverty stricken habitations. In this regard the party has virtually failed to export the 21st February movement into a national apolitical event.
After decades of unwarranted desolation and plundering of national resources arising from a blend of a patronage system, corruption, nepotism and incompetence, all hope and avenues of reform have been deemed a utopian Shangri-La. It is upon this premise that the majority of the population are thrilled whenever news of the president’s death break out and as such they eagerly await upon his demise and final call which shall signify the birth of a new era in Zimbabwe. The departure of Robert Mugabe shall denote the removal of a socio-legal order on the optimistic democrats expecting change in Zimbabwe. This has been evidenced by how the masses were drawn to attention by false news manufactured by Zanu anti sympathisers and news makers that the president had died in flight on his way to Singapore in summer last year. To the public, the news had an emancipatory impression.
However, the joy awaited the country before the return of the Zanu pf political god was a clear indicator which unambiguously explains popular expectations of democratic transition which has been arrested for so long through massive electoral riggings. False as it was, the only political gospel in that fluke was that the nation had sent a message that President Robert Mugabe’s death day will be the most celebrated national event but to the public dismay the president himself dismissed the news as barbaric and inhuman. Be that as it may a political and religious extremist Godfrey Mbavare (pseudo name) claimed that, “no earthly situation is permanent and unlike elections, there are two things humanity cannot charlatan that is death and old age.”
Multiple calls for reform and peaceful demonstrations including the famous 2016 April – September demonstrations calling for reforms have been met with intense brutality as the regime is deeply engulfed in its despotic modus operandi. It is a contemporary fact that, the regime has recently incarcerated Patrick Mugadza, a Kariba based prophet charging him initially with undermining the authority of the President, then criminal nuisance, inciting people of a certain religion against the regime. It is all these continued repressive tendencies of Mugabeism that large sections of a timorous society await impatiently to commemorate his death than to celebrate his birth and life. Since when has the jail cell instead of time has become the litmus test of the authenticity of an implied prophetic word? , a big question for a regime inclined meta narrators to answer. The media and public interference on Mugadza’s prophecy cannot make the verdict -true or false, instead time is the best arbitrator.
This year the president will be turning 93 and it is beyond doubt that all velour and potency of any man born of a woman would have long disserted him. While it is a sure thing that the president is tired of the complex issues of governance or even tired of life itself it is a conundrum for skeptics to deduce whether the president is only tired or even tied. As things stand Mugabe is expected to contest in the coming water tight 2018 elections and one wonders if it is his insatiable obsession and fascination for power or he is now being used as the face of the system by covetous and malevolent individuals outside and within the ranks of Zanu pf.
Whatever the case maybe, one thing is for sure the person of Robert Mugabe is going to leave a tattered legacy, fractured Zanu pf and a desolated fragile Zimbabwean state. In this regard, it is imperatively clear that his death will usher in a new epoch albeit uncertain as it maybe, it’s a change anticipated across the political divide.
Over the years the president has fallen out of favor with his own comrades who now excommunicated him, the war veterans who acted as the glue which bonds the party together. Currently Zanu pf is all but a rusty cracking machinery with obsolete leadership and it is of great anxiety for opposition political parties to come as a united alliance against a disjointed Zanu pf trembling in the face three factions Lacoste faction, G40 faction and the faction of neutrals or non-aligned. Contending for the control of the party in the anticipation of an ageing leader’s demise are two of the three factions. These succession squabbles in the face of his imminent departure, are unambiguous indications that the leader’s time is certainly up and that the center can nolonger hold, as an inspiration of togetherness and as a vanguard of continuity. In light of these factions, Robert Gabriel Mugabe has reprehensibly failed to successfully groom an acceptable charismatic successor who shall keep the party intact and keep Mugabeism in motion. Robert Mugabe has recently remarked that he will not hand pick his successor rather people will choose someone who is acceptable to themselves and that it is the people who groom their leader. However such misguided rhetoric utterances can only be taken into consideration by political illiterates, after 37 years of ruling his failure to mentor someone who will to carry on with his own profound legacy is beyond comprehension. An open secret is that failure to groom a successor is equivalent to self-betrayal and disbelieving the relevance of his own legacy.
While propaganda and bombastic narratives have been excessively employed by the regime to present a flawless legacy, failure is failure and words cannot redeem it. As Robert Mugabe slowly but surely disappears from the political map of Zimbabwe, ultimately either by death or by retirement, one who will assume power from within Zanu pf ranks, faced with a daunting task of unifying a crumbling party must not be found in the madness of repeating the same experiments and yet expecting different results.
Upon independence and few years after, undeniably Robert Mugabe was the linchpin of the celebrated African nationalism and African political renaissance, Robert was indeed an energetic African statesmen a par excellence his idea of reconciliation was the most recognised far beyond the diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and the then British administration by this, Robert Mugabe matched the ideal Philosopher King of Plato’s ideal society. This laid the foundations of a long lasting legacy to live after the person of Robert Mugabe however the consequences of his clandestine mania and enthusiasm for power boomeranged against his remarkable legacy. As if that is not enough these mistakes have living precautions on the survival of the party.
Today Mugabeism is based less the original ideas of African Nationalism and popular sovereignty in which himself and other founding fathers of decolonization and African nationalism framed. If the architects of Pan-Africanism are to resurrect today they would witness a distorted pan-African concept as indeed the majority are as pigs frying in their own fat. Africa’s politics and development is currently under siege from a coterie of leaders whom Mugabe is their political consultant. The adoption of Mugabeistic tendencies by most African leaders of consolidating political state power by any means necessary, without carefully creating a necessary precondition and arteries for national economic formations is holding the continent at ransom. In this notion, it is beyond scholarly debate that Africa at large is lamenting Robert Mugabe’s virtue of being a politician.
Not very far, Libyans continue to be the case study of consequences of hard core dictatorship and its aftermath. The 17th of February 2017 marked the 6th anniversary of celebrations of the fall of Gaddafi. The Lybian people commemorated their emancipation from his rule which was said to be somewhat benevolent as claimed by some sections of Pro African thinkers. Colonel Maummar Al-Gaddafi died on 20 October 2011 in the first Lybian civil war commonly referred to as the 17 February Revolution, having developed his own variant of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism known as the Third International Theory and later on embracing Pan Africanism and served as a chairperson of the African Union from 2009 – 2010. This is a living testimony that lessons abound as to the effects of living by a sword and the socio political indicators that the people of Zimbabwe will celebrate their long serving leader’s departure and death day like the Lybian are overwhelmingly celebrating the demise of despotism.
However like any other democratic citizens we are duty bound to say happy birthday to our revolutionary icon par excellence and we wish him many more years of good health and a fruitful life. As we say happy birthday President, we implore him to accord Zimbabwe a chance for bloodless peaceful democratic transition. Frankly it’s not his death that the people are interested in it’s his departure from politics hence can live up to 100 years as he wants but it’s high time for him to depart from politics. It would be unruly to overlook his tireless efforts, for he deserves a page of recognition in the narratives of Zimbabwean de-colonial history. Most importantly, to be 93 is a very rare gift from God which only a chosen few enjoy and life itself should be acknowledged as a precious gift from the Good Lord and as fellow Christians, we advise him that he should try to live in the best way possible while we are all preparing to meet our Master.
- The authors are independent social and political analysts.