On the Demise of Robert Mugabe and Related Matters: Letter to DJ Fireman
I salute you, Fireman,
It has been a while since I last sent you that famous letter on Reggae music. And talking about Reggae music, and it’s revolutionary ethos, the one song that kept ringing in my mind since the recent demise of Zimbabwe’s founding President Robert Mugabe, is Bob Marley’s hit track, “Zimbabwe”.
Upon hearing news that Mugabe passed away, the sounds and lyrics of Bob Marley kept oozing into my consciousness:
Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny
And in this judgment there is no partiality
So arm in arms, with arms
We'll fight this little struggle
'Cause that's the only way
We can overcome our little trouble
Brother you're right, you're right,
You're right, you're right, you're so right...
Yes, Fireman, these were the words running down my mind as I recalled images of the old solider Mugabe. I met him on several occasions during summits of the African Union leadership while I served as Presidential Affairs Minister.
Mugabe would be walking hand in hand with the late Zambian President Michael Sata, who was a specialist in humourous jibes. Sata would tell me that Mugabe had pneumonia and he would not spare our former President Yahya Jammeh, saying Jammeh is from a peaceful country but he was always walking around with a weapon, his famous sword.
My good friend, Robert Mugabe is an African hero. Not a perfect one but so is the much touted Barack Obama not a Saint. Winston Churchill is not a Saint and even the legendary Mahatma Gandhi, has his own dark side.
Fireman, the problem with us Africans is that the West still controls our narrative, more than half a century after the end of colonialism. They still succeed in demonising our own heroes and liberators and we accept it while they whitewash the biographies of their Western heroes.
Indeed I am a fan of Thomas Jefferson, author of America’s famous declaration of Independence and so are many other African intellectuals, but seldom do you hear the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and there are other unpleasant aspects of his otherwise legendary life that remain muted to this day. Barack Obama is still a recipient of the Nobel peace prize even as the world knows quite well his record of civilian deaths by drone strikes and the wreck that Lydia is today partly because of his administration’s policies.
So sad that our own heroes get known only for their darker side. But I believe that people like you and I can change this trend by celebrating our liberators and heroes despite their shortcomings; for indeed there is no perfect human being or leader. There are many hilarious quotes attributed to the late Robert Mugabe but the latest that is trending is worth reading: “at least I left my people with land... Mandela left his people with poems, quotes and a statue.”
And speaking of Mandela, is it not horrendous that South Africans once again went on the rampage, wounding and killing our own African brothers and sisters and asking them to go home in their latest manifestation of what some call xenophobia? I don’t think this is xenophobia because of all the races in that country it is Africans who are being attacked; the very nationalities that supported the ending of apartheid in South Africa. What a world my friend! Didn’t they ever hear the words of Bob Marley from the song I referred to above?
To divide and rule could only tear us apart
In everyman chest, there beats a heart
So soon we'll find out who is the real revolutionary...
When shall we learn to unite and be one another‘s keeper as black people?