By Getrude Chigerwe
When my friend, Julius, asked me to write a piece on the late, R.G Mugabe, I said, “I try to avoid writing about politics and it’s so hard to separate the two, Mugabe and Politics”.
For me the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of his name is Zimbabwe, Zanu Pf, presidency, coup and the likes hence the blurry line between him as a “just” Robert Mugabe and the politician. His name is linked with politics and we can’t dodge that. I fully and only know him to that length, but I will try to think of him away from Zanu Pf slogans and politics. I will look at him from a positive vantage point.
Just as Julius challenged , I will try to talk about what he stood for, with no regards to politics.
I am the nineties’ kid and all he publicly stood for since my birth seem to be black and white politics, and nothing else, so excuse my lack of his individualized profile. I never looked at the guy with any other lenses or angle besides the civilian to Zanu PF-presidency and Grace’s husband.
Can someone help me.
I just remembered, he once threw a shade on our boyfriends who spend more hours in gyms than in the hustling streets. I think he knew it was such a luxury for a man especially in Zimbabwe to subscribe for gym, just saying.
Oh yes, those boyfriends we fight with for the mirror. He was on point when he said African sisters will never choose a six pack over six cars. On behalf of all my African sisters and girlfriends, we do agree on that. I am not sure if he really said that but this meme suggests exactly the freedom of expression and speech the guy had and how provocative his speeches were.
Man, the guy had a way with words. He could turn a bitter cruelest truth into the joke of the year but at the same time striking the nerve. I bet, most of us, laughed about his speeches as a crowd, but when at home, alone, he absently and indirectly spoke to us forcing us to introspect and reflect.
Truth, he was such a good advisor to those who cared to listen and understand him.
Damn, it’s difficult to look at the man outside the political context and seat he is famously known for. He loved education, but can we separate it from his political influence. I think we can, mainly because he was an educator way before becoming a politician. He championed education on his personal capacity, teaching for several years in Southern Africa without being involved in politics.
He only started politics by joining the ANC while studying at an Eastern Cape university, Fort Hare in South Africa, which he described this as the turning point of his life and his political career. That’s the first time he was directly involved in politics but not proactively visible in that arena.
Upon his return after graduating with a BA, he became a teacher in Mvuma at Driefontein Mission, then later moved to Highfields government school, Harare, Mambo government school in Gweru and Ghana where he taught for two years before resigning to fully concentrate on his political career.
His love for education did not die in detention, he acquired degrees from well recognized universities while incarcerated.
After the independence, his government made education one of its top priorities. He encouraged equal education for all. A year after independence, the number of students enrolled doubled in primary and secondary schools. This resulted in a high demand of teachers.
His government brought teachers from Australia, England and Canada. The number of schools increased with 73% between 1979 and 1984 and UNICEF declared the country’s education system the most developed in the continent then. He declared primary and secondary education as a fundamental right which resulted in Zimbabwe becoming one of the most literate state with a staggering 86,4 percent in 2015, ranked ninth place in Africa.
The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Information Technology Report here ranks Zimbabwe fourth in Africa, in terms of the quality of maths and science education. The country is only ranked behind Ivory Coast (number 1), Mauritius (2), and Tunisia in the quality of maths and science education. The country has the highest text book availability ratio in Africa, according to the UNDP (2018). A legacy he left.
Currently Zimbabwe has 13 state universities and 7 private ones.
He had a passion to empower black people, giving them back the land. He spearheaded the 2000 controversial land reform program, dubbed Hondo Yeminda. I remember much about this one, I was a little older. Couple of my family friends were affected and a few benefited from it. Some call it a legacy he left and some still haven’t recovered from it. I wont touch on this one because it is almost impossible to talk about it without leaving politics racial discrimination, violation of human rights and other sensitive issues untouched.
I am done thinking,
Can you separate Mugabe from politics? Do you remember him outside the political arena? Please share your memories of him outside the political seat.