“The good men do is oft interred with their bones” were the words of Mark Antony from his emotional speech at Julius Caeser’s funeral. In translation, Mark Antony is saying that good deeds often go unheralded, or even when noticed, they fade away in people’s memories so that they die with them. It’s a means of observing that good people are many, but that the memory of what they have done for the world often vanishes, but those who have committed evil deeds tend to be remembered for them.
Such is an example to describe Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe who died last week in Singapore. His legacy has drawn lots of debates with contrasting narratives at any given time throughout his life and controversial 37 years in power. Often in life, they are rarely things that will capture people’s imaginations for very long, and one would need to be reminded of them over time to remember them.
While many of us were not alive during the World Wars we know of names like Hitler, Stalin because they did evil things. Their actions were sufficiently impactful to traumatise a generation, and have consequences for those that followed. This is how many Zimbabweans are remembering their former president who disenfranchised a whole citizenry because of his selfishness and grip on power. However, as the debate on Mugabe’s legacy rages on, his story and his legacy is not different from Okonkwo’s, a character in Chinua Achebe’s epic novel, “Things fall apart.’’
An analysis of Okonkwo’s character strikes some similarities with Mugabe, from their upbringing until their demise. Those who read Achebe’s classic would know of a strained father and son relationship in which Okonkwo grows up hating his father and consciously adopts opposite ideals. As for Mugabe his father abandoned the family when Robert was 10, leaving him to deal with a mercurial and emotionally scarred mother, according to Heidi Holland’s 2008 book: Dinner With Mugabe (2008). Mugabe had a strong resentment towards his father, whom at one point mockingly described him as a “polygamous” man who abandoned them and went to Bulawayo where he got “beautiful” women. Therefore this explains so much about their adult characters.
Consequently, Okonkwo is a man considered as a hero but ended up a villain who ends up destroying his village due to his ego and bigger than life character. His temper and violent behaviour made him mistreat his wives and others around him. Mugabe mistreated the whole citizenry, not just ruthlessly dealing with opponents and even those around him and the examples are many with people like Joice Mujuru, Edgar Tekere, Mnangwagwa just to mention but a few. He (Okonkwo) was single-minded in his image of manliness and abhorred pacifism, Mugabe’s penchant for violence is well documented such that at one point boasted that he had degrees in violence.
Here we bring you the special edition of the Zimbabwe Briefing focusing on Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe. To begin with, Tildah Mugoba plucks out one of the fascinating traits about Mugabe: His ability to master how to keep a long grip on power. Borrowing from Prof Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu, she argues that Robert Mugabe bequeathes a legacy of Mugabeism; a political culture that may see his politics transcending across political parties even in his death. Freeman Chari makes a clarion call, he writes; ‘’I would advocate that every piece of his estate be liquidated and the proceeds are used to assist the families of his numerous victims.’’ Yours truly’s Diary of a Student Leader is must read. The edition has two more bonus articles on Mugabe borrowed from other publications. Enjoy the read!!!