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Beyond Mugabe: Liberation, Violence and the Belittling of Humans

Beyond Mugabe: Liberation, Violence and the Belittling of Humans

Wednesday, 11 September, 2019 - 11:00

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former president, has succumbed to several deaths: He died biologically days ago at the age of 95. He died politically in late 2017, following a coup that prevented his wife, Grace Marufu, from inheriting the rule. But his moral metastases began after the independence, when he took power in 1980. His moral death was completed with the rise of Nelson Mandela as the face of Africa's revolt against racism.

The first period of independence marked economic and educational achievements and pointed to ethnic breakthroughs. It soon became clear that the goal was to expand the power base. In 1983, and for four consecutive years, thousands of Ndebele tribes aligned behind their son Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe’s political rival, were killed. North Korean trainers participated in the massacre. Since then, Mugabe has been portrayed in an image that is contrary to that of the struggler, who was imprisoned by Rhodesian racists for 10 years.

Some media saw in his experience “paradox” and “contradiction.” The young Marxist, who led his country to the liberation from the racism, established a 37-year-old system of despotism and violence, which resulted in many deaths, pain, and hunger of the overwhelming majority of the population.

The first noble act freed 6 million black people from the rule of 270,000 white people, who monopolized power and land. The second terrible act prompted those who could flee the liberated country to run away.

But do we call it “paradox” and “contradiction”, when it is repeated dozens of times in many countries?

Undoubtedly, the achievement of independence and the elimination of racism is a great historical work. It is a human, political, and moral right that every people deserves. What happened with Mugabe and similar leaders of the “national liberation” is that they did not care about death and pain that marked the path of the right political goal. Victory was all that mattered. Out of this perspective, a disaster was born.

On the Arab level, we know this equation well. We know it in the bragging description of the “million revolution martyrs”. We know it in our slogans: “Millions of martyrs…”; in our poems: “There is a door for red freedom…”.

We know in our disdain for independence that was achieved without blood and death. In Lebanon in particular, we know it in Hezbollah’s “divine victory.”

This cultural system prevents the sight of violence and makes it impossible to control it. It is not a tool to be curtailed after the victory, or after the dissolution of opponents of the new regime. It is a stand-alone system, which is consolidated after the victory and the liquidation of opponents.

It also prevents seeing something that is more dangerous: separating politics from the human cost; in other words, belittling humans on the road to victory.

Humans become unnecessary surplus. Death, which begins as an exception during the struggle, is transformed into a rule and is repeated as a method or perhaps as a habit.

This is how we find ourselves in front of a scenario that often recurs: Underground agents rule in secret, and as they become the closed power elite, they get the right to do what they want. The others are nothing but human beings! To carry out the task, it is easy to accuse them of “treason” and “betrayal”.

In Mugabe’s “secret” experience, everything turned to the opposite of what was initially described: he wrecked the monopoly of the white minority, and this in itself was an achievement, but he did so arbitrarily. The state, not the black farmers, has become the land monopolist. The result was the destruction of the country’s economy and the consolidation of counter-racism.

The liberation has been replaced by a moral paternalism that teaches people how to eat and drink, how to have sex... In small and big decisions, the principle of “do, do not” was adopted, and the directions were nothing but a chest of mistakes and outdated ideas.

The celebrated “scientific” approach has become a fertile ground for a conspiratorial interpretation of the world. Socialism has made Mugabe the richest of Zimbabwe’s rich (he is said to have awarded himself a Lotto prize).

The late president insisted on holding elections, but he used militias, some of them members of the War of Independence, to modify the results he did not like. He was also committed to power-sharing, but how? In 1987, when the massacre of the Ndebele clans stopped, Joshua Nkomo was named vice president.

Nkomo, the trade union leader, was the “father of the Zimbabwe National Movement”. His acceptance of this formal position and the incorporation of his Zapu Party into the ruling Zanu Party were conditions to stop the killing. Nkomo died in 1999 surrounded with an honorable farewell!

Morgan Tsvangirai, another trade unionist, started as an activist in the Mugabe party, then separated from it and founded the Movement for Democratic Change. He faced many assassination attempts, and his wife was killed. But this has not deterred him from running against Mugabe in the elections. In 2008 he almost won, but militia violence forced him to withdraw before the second round.

Mugabe appointed him as prime minister and theoretically gave him powers, but in practice, he prevented him from exercising them.

He kept him in office until 2013, when he held elections that gave him a wide mandate. Thus, he abolished the post of prime minister altogether.

Is there a “paradox” or “contradiction” between Mugabe's two phases or faces? Probably not. All access to power by force and violence is transformed into an exercise of power by force and violence!

The lesson to be drawn from his experience, and from the experiences of many leaders like him, is that the Cause, no matter how big it was, should always come in the second place.

The priority is to avoid violence and death. A person who dies will not return to life; while independence can be postponed to another day and other circumstances, where it can be achieved without violence and without the belittling of human beings. This is Mandela’s lesson.

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