By Maynard Manyowa
Mandela and Mugabe: Heroes with blemished records
AFRICA has been endowed with celebrated thinkers, philosophers and revolutionaries. Since the turn of the 19th century, Africa has hogged the protagonist birthing bosom. The likes of Samora Machel, Julius Njerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Col Gaddafi et al… the list is endless. Some famous for Pan African ideologies, and some for ‘kissing white bum / promoting peace of equality’, literally.
For discussion purposes, I will evaluate the two global giants of the South, Madiba and Bob, I resonate with them better, having been resident in both countries, and having experienced first-hand, the tyranny and brilliance of the leaders.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe is an African hero, a Pan African’s epitome of true leadership. For decades he has fought imperialists, colonialists, with bravado, enthusiasm, and the tenacity of a fierce lion. He is a veteran of a two decade struggle against ‘evil western mechanisms’ that are repressive, and racist.
To some degree, he has done well. In no other country is sovereignty so imprinted in the psyche of the citizens as in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. In no other place do black people enjoy the level of independence, enterprise, and destiny self-determination like Gushungo’s nation.
Volatile motor mouth student leaders like Mnqobi Dlamini (Suspended Wits University SRC President) adore Mugabe unapologetically, they revere him, and they almost worship him. To them, he is what Mandela should have been.
The ‘white imperialist community’ (not limited to) that despise him secretly carry embarrassing admiration of his person, and they respect him. The man is after all a genius, an attractive, determined, certain, able, and eloquent convinced character. Even I like him too.
Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela is an equal, but parallel figure, yet an unquestionable African hero none the less. He is a man of peace, a Nobel Prize winner, a unifying and iconic character that has held together a violent, disorderly and hateful concoction of ever conflicting races for just over two decades now.
Respected political enthusiasts (Mmusi Maimane & co) cling on to his legacy for value, and all around the world his brand is venerated. Some of this adoration is warranted. Mandela successfully avoided South Africa descending into full blown civil war in the early 90’s. He led the country briefly, and steadily.
Despite whirling in systematic abject paucity perpetuated by the unchanged institutions Mandela established, impoverished black South Africans hold him dear, while white people respect him.
Robert Mugabe traversed the line of hero to pantomime villain several years ago. Under his watch Zimbabwe was transformed from the horn of Africa, into a banana republic, a failed state. The civil war of the late 80’s, pre-election violence and intimidation in 2002, 2005, 2008, abductions, kidnappings, harassment, state sponsored crack downs on civil society, and the elephant in the room; corruption.
Nelson Mandela did have the privilege of dying an ‘unblemished’ hero, because of a conscious concerted effort by ‘western imperialists’, whose interests he served, to preserve his heritage. Even so, with recent revelations that, under his watch, and probably with his consent, South Africa suborned FIFA officials about USD $10,000,000 (Ten Million) to win the rights to host Africa’s first international soccer showpiece; The 2010 World Cup.
And then there are revelations that the order to open fire on unarmed Zulu demonstrators outside ANC Headquaters in Johannesburg was given by Mandela; the stiff legacy of corruption whose effects are becoming more real than apparent, with Eskom drowning, public service delivery at a standstill, and the ANC in never-ending corruption exposes.
South Africans are in total despair. But How? But Why? Mandela was meant to be a saint, by all accounts, a man who does not even fart! Ironically, he did fart, he was corrupt, and he was no champion leader. Look, Mandela was a great guy. He is still a hero, but a hero with a blemished record.
Zimbabweans are not so much in despair. They have accepted their leader’s short comings. Mugabe is a worthy academic, he is the world’s most educated president, and his policies mirror the sharp mind that he is.
But, it is under his watch that Zimbabwe has descended into paralysis, creating immigrant crisis in all of the country’s neighbouring countries, more than two thirds of the country living in abject poverty, to mention just a few. His fellow comrades have milked the country dry, they reap the benefits of Mugabe’ populist rhetoric ‘empowerment, indigenisation, agrarian reform’, all of which make his rich cadres richer, and the poor masses, poorer!
Oh well, Mugabe is not an angel, and neither was Nelson Mandela. Their policies are dissimilar, and probably contrasting, yet their legacies almost bear the same offspring; corruption, Poverty, and Racism.
That is the sad reality of African politics, and African icons, Heroes with blemished records.
Maynard Manyowa is a political analyst, opinion writer. He can be reached for feedback through hi personal website www.maynardmanyowa.com, or on email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. You can alternatively him on @iAmKudaMaynard or follow his Facebook page