In the book of Luke in the New Testament, Jesus recounts a story of a rich man who had everything and dressed in purple and at his door was a poor beggar by the name Lazarus. Jesus ends the story with the death of both with the rich man finding himself in hell and Lazarus in Paradise.
When Robert Gabriel Mugabe died on September 6, 2019, the story recounted by Christ came to my mind and its striking parallels. What is remarkable about Robert Mugabe was his total lack of concern at the impoverishment he had caused during his rule over Zimbabwe. He sacrificed everything that Zimbabwe had in his unbridled lust for power. All that mattered was his own Presidentship, everything else was dispensable. When Zimbabwe attained independence it had the best of everything. The white minority rule while it did oppress the people but provided for the people. The only sin committed by Ian Smith was keeping the locals out of the power structure and higher echelons of government. The thinking was “we know what is best for you”.
But Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party wanted independence from the white minority rule, which led to freedom struggle and imprisonment for Mugabe, but independence was later achieved and Mugabe became the Prime Minister. When a country achieves independence from a foreign power one thing needs to be kept in mind—it should lead to better times, but in the case of Zimbabwe it led to worse times with millions of Zimbabweans losing purchasing power due to hyperinflation, rampant shortages of all essential commodities. Apart from God-given air to breathe and a beating heart Zimbabweans had nothing, all this while Robert Mugabe lived in the lap of luxury with delicacies on his table and luxury shopping and European holidays for himself and his family. Like the rich man in the Bible, Robert Mugabe chose to shut his eyes to the sufferings of his people. A whole generation of Zimbabweans grew up with nothing but the desire to flee the country, and even that was a problem because of long queues at the passport office. It is hard to imagine what the people must have gone through to survive an ordeal of an existential dilemma.
A different story unfolded in a different part of the country. In 1997, Britain ceded control of the territory of Hong Kong to mainland China, and the sagacious Chinese decided to continue with Hong Kong what the British had left them with. It went on smoothly until the recent unrest but even that has been handled very well with the Chinese Government backing off and giving in to the desire of the people. If Robert Mugabe had done what the Chinese had done, Zimbabwe would have had a different ending and Robert Mugabe would have gone down in history as a hero, not as a villain. One does not need to look too far back in history for inspiration because Nelson Mandela lived in Mugabe’s lifetime and was as much an African as he was, and stood for almost the same ideals that Mugabe had once espoused for, but the ending was starkly different, while Mandela gracefully exited the stage, Mugabe hung on until he was unceremoniously kicked out.
Like a man tires of monotony so do the people with a leader. Change is the only constant in this world and if only the likes of Mugabe understood that, things would not have come to such a pass!