Going by available records, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, in Kutama, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In 1963, he founded ZANU, a resistance movement against British colonial rule. Mugabe became Prime Minister of the new Republic of Zimbabwe after British rule ended in 1980, and he assumed the role of president seven years later. Mugabe retained a strong grip on power, through controversial elections, until he was forced to resign in November 2017, at age 93 and he died recently at a ripe age of 95.
Normally, it will be hard not to describe someone that recorded the above achievements as a hero. Aside from leading a frontline struggle for his country’s independence, Mugabe was a man that loved, sought and got enough dose of education. Fundamentally also, as reputed of heroes, his rise to power, his forced resignation and eventual death had not only elicited controversy but left great lessons for both present and future leaders.
However, the chunk of these commentaries and lessons disproportionately tends to the negative.
As an illustration, some have described Mugabe as a blessing to Zimbabwe for using his knowledge and personal sacrifice to secure independence for his people; he kicked out about four thousand white farmers and gave their lands to the black Zimbabweans, and as a lover of education, the solid educational foundation laid in this direction made the country a nation with the highest literacy rate in Africa.
On the other hand, while many describe these accolades to Mugabe as not factually backed, they went ahead to state that he (Mugabe) enjoyed more burden than goodwill in the estimation of the right-thinking Zimbabweans.
Others argue that since Mugabe in his quest to hold on to power, massacred 20,000 of his people and not animals, he remains a murderer and an evil man with the blood of 20,000 on his hands, adding that he died in Singapore because he could neither build nor sustain a good hospital in Zimbabwe. The rest are of the view that the man who destroyed the nation’s economy while his wife looted millions of dollars, such a man that ruled with an iron fist, killing his opposition, cannot be regarded as a Hero.
Whatever the true situation may be, one useful lesson seems to stand out.
In the leadership world, just like in the real world of business, performance does not count in absolute terms. Rather, it is the performance that is people-purposed and rendered with a human a face that counts
Frankly, as humans, we are advised not to speak ill about the dead. But I must say that way back in September 2017, before his forced resignation, after reading a piece authored by Mbizo Chirasa, Poet and a very prominent voice in Zimbabwe, of which the content will form the plot of this discourse, I concluded that Robert Mugabe was not only part of the nations’ problem but that his days as president of Zimbabwe were numbered. However, I neither envisaged it coming that soon nor contemplated it will occur through an undemocratic means.
Mbizo Chirasa in that piece noted that ‘the revolutionary CADRES believe that change in Zimbabwe must begin by changing the leadership matrix in the ruling party, including laying off their political lotteries, Robert Mugabe- whom he roundly blamed for the infuriating scorn, the liberation veterans received from the verbal cyclone, Grace Mugabe, whose verbal acid burns the fontanels of the eldest liberation strongmen, most of whom were victimized daily in the corridors of power. While concluding that Grace Mugabe had become Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe, having tasted more sweetness than bitterness in the power trenches since her meteoric rise to the politburo – the highest decision making Body in the ZANU-PF power structures.
From the above, it is deducible that what in the first instance made his forced resignation seamless was that at a point in his administration, Mugabe became unmindful of the fact that he was being watched closely, that people were noting every move he made learning a great deal about him and what he really believed in as opposed to what he said. And none seemed to remind him that people’s support and their unwavering fate built on trust remained the greatest asset a leader enjoys from his followers.
From Mbizo Chirasa position, it will also not be hasty to conclude that the stage for President Mugabe’s downfall was set when he, against all known logic, totally consecrated himself, his government, and the soul of Zimbabwe to the ‘immaculate” hands of Grace Mugabe, his wife.
But in doing that, he failed as a student of history to harness the social responsibility postulations which strictly advised that every freedom must go with a responsibility. This political miscalculation of Mugabe as a person should act as a warning signal to current crops of leaders planning or acting in such manner.
In my view, this occurred because the late President Mugabe and his wife Grace were deceived by a barefaced illusion that made them feel more nationalistic than patriotic, viewed Zimbabwe as their personal property thereby affirming indispensability and superiority over other Zimbabweans. That to my mind was the missing link that landed Mugabe in this sorry state-a situation that should sound as a note of warning to our present crop of leaders.
Another factor that the ‘lion’ of Zimbabwe failed to remember as a president from which all should draw a lesson is that; knowing when, and when not to, is the victory. Yes, I appreciate his love of education cum knowledge. But in all fairness, I must say that the volume of knowledge acquired wasn’t best applied. If not, he ought to have departed the political stage when the ovation was loudest without waiting for the military to boot him out.
In the same vein, I am well aware that Baba Mugabe as a scholar must have come across the aphorism which says that ‘for one to know about the road ahead, he must ask those coming back’. But on this ideology, Mugabe, again, failed as he deliberately decided not to ask or learn from the likes of Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, or from Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and other African presidents via their biographies. Instead, he banked only on his certificates and on the ‘grace’ of Grace Mugabe. He brazenly allowed power to move from the corridor to the bedroom.
As a typical African, He overlooked the slim line that separates family-hood from leadership. Mugabe to my mind was a victim of ‘defocused leadership vision.
Still, on the negative side, going by the people’s opinions when the economy of Zimbabwe is peeped into, one will discover without labour that Robert was more of a burden than an asset. To buttress this point, it is on record that the Mugabe led administration made virtually all Zimbabweans millionaires but economically powerless occasioned by an uncontrollably galloping inflation. Yet, he did not border to carry out self-introspection to help unravel the great disservice he was doing to both the economy and the people.
Comparatively, while Mugabe is gone and we pray God to rest his soul, his life, leadership style and death has presented a very good learning platform for the current leaders in Africa. Yes, African leaders must learn from his mistakes.
BY JEROME -MARIO UTOMI