AS the internecine factional squabbles continue to tear the revolutionary Zanu PF party into smithereens, with the police ironically turning their button sticks and water cannons from opposition activists to war veterans, I am desperate to glance at my political rear view mirror to ruminate how we got into this political quagmire.
Hate it or love it, Zanu PF and its parent party Zapu played a central and determinant role in the liberation struggle and the subsequent birth of a new nation they proudly renamed Zimbabwe. What is intriguingly astounding however is how a national project to liberate a nation has deteriorated into a selfish fight to establish a political dynasty devoid of any semblance to the nationalist ideals of the founding fathers like Joshua Nkomo, Hebert Chitepo, Magamba Tongogara, Ndabaningi Sithole and others?
How did the struggle for Zimbabwe deteriorate into a narcissist scuffle to create a Mugabe hegemony? It is my contention in this piece that the writing has always been on the wall that the revolution would culminate into nothing but a personal project.
The divided Patriots.
In 1980, after executing what is perhaps the most successful liberation struggle in Southern Africa, Zanu and Zapu, decided to go into the first one-man one-vote plebiscite as separate parties, dangerously divided on tribal fault lines. Tellingly, both parties claimed to be a Patriotic Front as revealed by their desperate clinging on to the PF prefix but the ideals of how to build a patriotic nationhood were at that early stage already sacrificed to a perilous political game of power and control.
The first majority vote became a winner-take-all lottery and the winner was quick to claim his spoils and vanquish the losers, and with that, the project to build a successful nation together got lost to political ambition and greed. Salisbury became Harare and Harare became ‘’bambazonke’’, take all or take everything.
Bulawayo, then an industrial hub, slowly crumbled from a City of Kings to a thirsty ghost town. Today, every main street in every city and town is now a Robert Mugabe way, epitomizing how a project to build a nation has been reduced to a selfish and narcissist endeavor that is aptly encapsulated in the slogan ‘VaMugabe Chete!’ Advertisement
From Rhodesia to Mugabeland
Zimbabwe was once named as if it belongs to an individual. Today Zimbabwe is run as if it belongs to a single family. Rhodesia, was Cecil John Rhodes’s personal Island in the sun that President Julius Nyerere famously called the “Jewel of Africa’’. Indeed, Rhodes did as he pleased with his Island.
Fortunately for his kith and kin, Rhodes did not plunder his Island into destitution but he built it and developed into the foremost economy in Africa, the jewel of Africa- where by 1980, its currency, the Rhodesian Pound was one and half times stronger than the mighty USD. All this development happened in spite of the UDI triggered sanctions and fittingly every year, Rhodes’ kith and kin celebrated his legacy on Founders Day, with bountiful meals and happy jubilees.
In 1980, we shed off the Rhodes burden and renamed our new nation Zimbabwe. However, we did not exorcise the curse of subjecting our nation to control by an individual. Instead of creating a Constitution on ideals of nationhood, we created a Constitution that concentrated power on an individual, one Robert Mugabe. Every amendment done to the Zimbabwe Constitution did not seek to empower citizens and build a successful nation, but sought to entrench Mugabe’s power, the power that has held strong for 36 years and still counting; the power that he is surreptitiously transferring to his wife Grace Mugabe.
Jabulani Sibanda opined that political power cannot be sexually transmitted but Mugabe’s power is so fully blown that it is increasingly becoming transmittable to his family. Like Rhodes’s kith and kin, we celebrate 21st February like our Founders Day, yet it is an individual citizen’s date of birth. Except our celebrations are on empty stomachs! Zimbabwe today is an adulterated sovereignty, a begging basket case, with no currency of its own and no economy to sustain it. The only constant holding strong is Mugabe’s absolute power. And power corrupts absolutely ‘’until God says come!!’’
Mugabe’s Political Blueprint.
But Zimbabweans should have seen this political tsunami coming. In 1980 when Mugabe invited North Korean architects and engineers to build that grandiose obelisk we now call the Heroes Acre, it was not just an expression of his admiration of North Korean ingenuity, but an open admiration for North Korean politics. The Heroes Acre is Mugabe’s political pyramidion, straight out of Pyongyang, a phallic symbol of his power and dominance. Today our brave sons and daughters of the liberation struggle, the founding fathers and mothers of our struggle lie embalmed and encased in North Korean grandeur.
To further demonstrate his affinity to everything North Korean, when he faced his first political waterloo – the dissidents, in his early years as Prime Minister, Mugabe again turned to the North Koreans for political advice and direction. He unleashed the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade on Matebeleland and the Midlands leading to his ‘’moment of madness’’ we now know as the Gukurahundi genocide.
Yours truly, the writer of this article was an early primary school pupil at George Silundika Primary School in the early 80s, then called J.Z. Moyo School, located at Mbongolo Farm in Nyamandlovu. My kindergarten memory is awash with nightmarish images and silhouettes of many bodies of dead people that could be seen strewn about and putrefying for many days between Nyamandlovu and Mbongolo Farm on the road to Tsholotsho.
I remember vividly one early morning in 1982, at the break of dawn when the fearsome red barrettes surrounded our school, frog-marching every student, teacher and grounds staff to the school assembly for interrogation. There were beatings, kicks and public floggings. We were forced to sing praises to Robert Mugabe and Zanu in shona yet our political affiliation was Zapu, our political leader was exclusively Joshua Nkomo whom we loved dearly and we spoke Ndebele.
Our Headmaster, a Mr. Mtobi was thoroughly beaten in the presence of his pupils. He was beaten until his shirt was torn to shreds and the red berets gave him a pick and shovel, and dragged him into the thick Mopani forest that surrounded the school. They said he was going to dig his own grave and bury himself! I thought we would never see him again but luckily he came back after a few weeks walking with a visible limp, looking frail, drained and emaciated- a pale shadow of himself.
Our school was not a military camp; we were not soldiers but refugees who came exclusively from Zapu Refugee Camps in Zambia. The only military thing present at the school were murals of graffiti depicting Zipra combatants that covered the outside and inside walls of our school library. Yes, we supported Zapu and revered Joshua Nkomo as our leader but we were not soldiers. Zapu had bought Mbongolo Farm to start a school for the returning refugees and ex-combatants who were still young enough to attend school. We built the school with our own hands.
Inspired by the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production (ZIMFEP), we attended classes in some old Farm buildings, some classes were attended in the open under Mopani tree shades, until we built our own school blocks. We planted our own food to supplement various donations we received from UNESCO and generous Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden. We raised our own chickens, pigs and cattle. We were not soldiers; just pupils thirsty for education not war.
But despite all the evidence to the contrary, the North Korean trained 5th Brigade did not spare us, frequently visiting at night, at the break of dawn and even disrupting our school assemblies. Military helicopters supported by mean and ugly looking camouflaged ground soldiers painted with black ash on their faces, clutching AK47s and Light Machine Guns (LMGs) tipped with sharp bayonet swords, and donning their distinctive red berets were frequent uninvited visitors.
Interrogations, beatings, intimidations and the constant threat of death became daily routines. After that many of our senior students and teachers started to disappear, some escaped to South Africa, others were probably killed. I even lost my best friend, one Makheyi Nyathi, who left school in 1983 never to be seen again. But I digress, only to illustrate Mugabe’s political orientation towards North Korea style politics.
Let it be done in Zimbabwe as it is done in North Korea
Today receding images from my political rear view mirror reveal striking parallels between Zimbabwe and North Korea that point to a predictable future. In 1980 Mugabe stated his desire that Zimbabwe, just like North Korea, must be a one-party state. While other nationalists like Joshua Nkomo and Edgar Tekere, opposed him on this issue, one party state remained Mugabe’s desired political ambition. Perhaps his only unfulfilled North Korean dream. Just like in his beloved North Korea, there is no doubt that Mugabe desired to make the country a one-party state.
The similarities go further to include the dubious flirtation with Marxism and Communism, the numerous disappearances of citizens who are deemed opposed to the political authority, rampant mass starvation and famine due to the double jeopardy of mismanagement and sanctions and the heavy militarization of state organs.
What is more telling however is the striking similarities in the killing, assassination or mysterious deaths of senior Army Generals in Zimbabwe under Mugabe and in North Korea under Kim Jong Un. Josiah Magamba Tongogara, Captain Nleya, Brigadier General Paul Gunda, Moven Mahachi, Chris Ushehokunze, Sydney Malunga, Border Gezi, Elliot Manyika and recently the respected 5 star General Mujuru are part of a long list of senior Army and Party leaders that have been eliminated North Korea style.
These deaths are similar to North Korea’s assassination of senior Army Generals like General Pyong In Jon, General Hyon Yong Chol and General Ri Yong Gil who was recently reported to have been literally blown to mince-pieces by a Surface to Air missile.
It is not rocket science to analyze that Mugabe has been taking lessons on how to eliminate, control and dominate his political foes from North Korea. Just like the Heroes Acre and the 5th Brigade, Mugabe’s current political stratagem is a direct import from North Korea. Now wobbling in his political twilight and facing a vicious factional fault line in the Zanu PF party, Mugabe has again turned to North Korea to find inspiration and guidance on who should succeed him. He obviously admired how political power has crystalized in the Kim Dynasty from the patriarchal pedestal of Kim II Sung to his son Kim Jong Il and now to the controversial grand-son Kim Jung Un. Political power has stayed in the family.
With Grace Mugabe inexplicably rising to the top of the Zanu PF hierarchy such that she now leads the Women’s League, directs the Politburo and controls the Presidency, I am tempted to imagine Mugabe salivating at the prospects of a Mugabe dynasty that will rule Zimbabwe till the donkeys grow horns. Just like the Kim Jong Un rule in North Korea, history instructs Zimbabweans to get ready for H.E CDE Chatunga Mugabe. That is Mugabe’s succession blue print, as it is done in his beloved North Korea, so shall it be in Mugabeland!
Boyd Madikila writes from East London, South Africa. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org