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The untold side of Robert Mugabe

12 Sep 2019 at 09:19hrs | Views
"We all die....
The goal isn't to live forever,
The goal is to create something that will"

Robert Gabriel Mugabe
The man and legend,
The myth and mystery,
Truly a man of Destiny

My Interactions with the Man, Robert Mugabe Who I had the Pleasure and Honour of Knowing By Hon. Temba P. Mliswa (MP)

My first encounter with President Robert Gabriel Mugabe was in 2011 at the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) Graduation Ceremony,where he had been invited to attend an event there as the Guest of Honour. It was at this same event that I was also invited to attend by the then Vice Chancellor, Professor David Jambgwa Simbi after I had donated 25 heifers and a bull to the institution towards the establishment of a herd to set up a livestock department at the university.

At the time I was the ZANU-PF Secretary for Lands for Mashonaland West Province a position I held from 2008 to 2011. After the event, President Mugabe proceeded to the administration block where I had patiently waited for the opportunity to meet with him. Much to the displeasure of his security details, who tried to stop me, I swiftly took the opportunity to reach out to the President. Fortunately for me, as we had already made eye contact, Mugabe instructed his security details not to stop me. I must also add that his Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Kajese also inadvertently assisted in my endeavour by restraining the security personnel to allow me to talk to him. So as fate would have it we talked for few minutes. Our brief conversation centred on various ills bedevilling land reform in Mashwest Province. I had previously conducted a land reform fact finding visit to each of the six administrative districts in Mashwest and therefore was well versed with with the challenges thereof.

At this point I give credit to the late Cde. John Mafa the then ZANU-PF Mashwest Chairperson for allowing me to carry out such exercise much to the dismay of some of his senior Politburo members.

The chief culprit who was exposed in this land reform exercise was Mugabe's blue eyed boy, Ignatius Chombo who was the then Deputy Secretary of Lands and Resettlement in the Politburo.

I mentioned this fact to Mugabe during our chat and his immediate reaction before getting back into his vehicle to leave, was to call Chombo and in full earshot of those around, he admonished Chombo for his actions declaring that he should stop protecting white farmers and cease the unsavoury practice of allowing multiple farm ownership. Upon his angry tirade, Mugabe entered his famous Zim 1 car and was driven off.

After this encounter with President Mugabe there were mixed emotions from people, one school of thought came from those who congratulated my bravery and stance of people representation by telling the truth so fearlessly whilst others feared for the obvious enemy my actions would make me to Chombo.

In no time however Mugabe appointed Chombo as the substantive Secretary for Lands in the Politburo. The appointment of Chombo to this position compelled people to seek my opinion on the move as it would appear that despite his admonishment of Chombo, exposing him in such a manner had been inconsequential to the President. However as I later realised and as I began to understand the wisdom of the late Mugabe, such moves put the appointees in a position of compromise and indebtedness where whilst one's weaknesses or transgressions were known, one was given more responsibility, a strategy akin to giving one a rope to hang oneself by.

Verily however, Mugabe liked and trusted Chombo and wanted him to succeed him.

President Mugabe was so fiercely passionate about land reform that he ensured the relevant department fell under his office in the custody of his most trusted ally, Didymus Mutasa. So confident was Mugabe of his abilities, that Mutasa was appointed head of two portfolios namely the Minister for Lands as well as that of State Security. Unfortunately however his friendship with his trusted ally sadly came to an end as did the collapse of ZANU-PF as we knew it.

To me it is safe to say that Mugabe lost his dear friend and confidante and as well as a strategic part of him.

Much to the confusion of many, Mugabe was firm in retaining Dr. Joseph Made as the Minister of Agriculture because of his firm stance on land reform which resonated so deeply with Mugabe's own.

Ultimately, Chombo who had never forgotten nor forgiven my exposure of him to the President construed a falsehood against myself and John Mafa which subsequently led to our suspension from the ZANU-PF Mashonaland West Provincial structures.

In another incident, I approached Mugabe to intervene in the Kingsdale saga, a farm given to ZANU-PF beneficiaries. Once again Chombo had meddled in the affairs and created problems. Mugabe instructed that the land be returned to the people so that they would not have to pay for the land. It was their benefit and what he had promised them through Chris Mutsvangwa's 2013 election campaign which became a huge decider. Hence my background in Norton began and how I am privy to the details behind its establishment. Mugabe's intervention in the matter demonstrated to me his passion and love for the people and people empowerment.

Mugabe made sure that his home area of Zvimba district was in control as well as Chikomba from where the First Lady hails.

Mugabe had a phenomenal memory, was a brilliant politician who appreciated hearing the truth and acted on all information that was proffered to him; a consistent, true man of and for the people.

On one occasion when I was at Mugabe's Munhumatapa offices, his Presidential Spokesperson, George Charamba commented that to his recollection I was the only ZANU-PF Provincial Chairperson who met with the President as the norm would be to find Cabinet Ministers waiting outside who even then often waited in vain being asked to return the next day. How they took that? I do not know because back then, I was a nobody - but that was the man Mugabe.

Two people I must mention who were pivotal to me understanding the President were Gilbert Mudimbu (Provincial Intelligence Officer) and Douglas Nyakutsikwa (then MashWest Police Commissioner in charge of Intelligence). They always gave me sound advice. Gilbert was a long time colleague from Lord Malvern who although my senior, we met many a time on the wrong side of our then Headmaster, Mr. Dry. The two were always avidly interested in my discussions with Mugabe. I further recall approaching the President with a request to invite Julius Malema to be the guest of honour at my 2013 election win celebrations; he agreed. However it would appear that Intelligence countered my proposal and advised Mugabe against the idea. Mugabe subsequently had the courtesy to call me to explain the change of heart. This is when I learnt that oversupply of information can be costly.

To me the final nail in the coffin of his downfall, was when President Mugabe tasked the youth to attack the leadership of his party, the so called perceived "Gammatox". This was a great travesty and marked the beginning of a dark period for the revered man as the senior leadership had been selflessly loyal to him. Among those targeted where; former Vice President Joice Mujuru, Comrades Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, SK Moyo and Sydney Sekeramai. The attacks went on to further include nine out of the ten ZANU-PF Provincial Chairpersons of whom I was one and in fact, the first to receive such fate.

At the time I was expelled from ZANU-PF, I recall approaching my Sekuru Didymus Mutasa questioning my expulsion and his silence thereof. He did not answer. Three months later I asked again and he responded that in all honesty it was a move that had surprised not only him but many due to the soft spot everyone knew he had for me. Mugabe later disclosed that he doubted MashWest would find someone as hardworking to replace me. My expulsion did not go down well with Mai Madzongwe either who was agonised by my leaving. Such was the effort I had exerted into protecting the interests of Mugabe. It was what motivated me to win Hurungwe West Constituency from the clutches of MDC just to ensure that Mugabe had ultimate control. It ceased to be fighting for the Party but became more fighting for Mugabe; he was loved and revered. He indoctrinated is in a manner that made him more superior. The slogan was "Pamberi ne vaMugabe, vaMugabe Chete, Chete!"

At no point did anyone want to remove Mugabe, if anything, though getting on in years, he was still the center of power.

In 2004, at the Harare International Conference Centre during the ZANU-PF elective Congress, Mugabe played the gender card and in a move that surprised many, elevated Mujuru ahead of the expected current President, É. D. Mnangagwa. No-one argued with Mugabe then as was the norm. Politically, the firing of senior leadership and unexpected appointing of a Vice President brought about his demise although arguably old age by then had taken its toll and played a role in such poor decision making.

President E. D. Mnangagwa was a student of Mugabe in many ways hence despite what happened he remained respectful of him and respected him up to his death and must be commended for such a principled, moral stance of goodwill.

President Mugabe was kind and human attributes I found extremely admirable. These attributes I witnessed during the times when Comrades Shamuyarira and Chivende were ill and subsequently hospitalised. Whilst they were in hospital, he ensured their comfort and would be driven to the hospitals to spend hours visiting them; this to me illustrated a man with a kind hearted soul. I recall the time when I recall the time when Hon. Kindness Paradza who was the then Secretary for Administration for ZANU-PF Mashonaland West, was asked at my behest, to make a hospital visit to West End Clinic to accompany President Mugabe; the visit lasted for over two hours.

Today I remember and honour the Mugabe that I had the pleasure of knowing. The man who gave me the courage to stand up to the whites in sport where racism still existed as I knew I would have his support. He stood fiercely to protect Zimbabweans from the Western world.

I remember once asking him for his phone number. He was taken aback by my request and questioned the reason for my asking. My response was the as the ZANU-PF Provincial Chairperson of his home province, Mashonaland West, it was only proper that I have his number for convenience sake to be able to communicate with him efficiently and not have to go through his foot soldiers who may be reluctant to pass on certain information inherently negative about them. My zeal and boldness was an uncommon and unstoppable trait and I was rewarded by having my request granted. I would subsequently ring him when the occasion arose and likewise I was privileged to similarly receive calls from him.

Often there were times I would go to his office and his secretary would ask whether I had an appointment with the President to which I would respond that I had personally received a call from him and been accordingly summoned to his office. During these visits, we would spend hours discussing various topics.  There were times during these conversations where he would close his eyes and appear to be sleeping, however from the questions he subsequently asked, I realised that this was not the case; What a man indeed. In the eleven months that I was the MashWest Provincial Chair I visited Mugabe no less than eleven times at a minimum of two hours per visit.

He was very proud and commended the manner in which I won the ZANU-PF MashWest without using money as influence and would often repeat his well known saying of "Good Show, Good show" to express his delight in my election. In fact, I was the only MashWest Chair to be voted in.

During our interactions I saw a man with a witty sense of humour, an introvert and the teacher in him. A man that was a stickler for protocol who would never attend a Provincial function without according the relevant Provincial Chairperson their due respect and sit next to him. In fact he was adamant that all Provincial Chairpersons be the centre of power in their respective provinces.

I can never forget the strategic role played by Leo Mugabe and Patrick Zhuwawo who facilitated my visit to the Presidential rural home in Zvimba after the likes of Chidakwa had literally blocked my request by referring me to Chombo who I was not in a position to approach because of the previously mentioned incident. During this visit, I had the pleasure of sitting around the dinner table with Grace, Bona his daughter and Gabriel his brother's son who was much loved by Mugabe. It was an unforgettable evening that galvanised our relationship as Robert Mugabe became more of a father figure to me. I treasure the encounter and the wise words of wisdom that he shared with me that night as well as the gift of mangoes and rice that I received from Mugabe upon my leaving the next day. He further went on to encourage me to help Zhuwawo retain his lost seat in the elections, such was his confidence in me.

When one was in close proximity to him you would pick up on the humanness behind the foreboding countenance. Being in his presence was awe striking.

He character belay a somehow contradictory individual, one being so British in his mannerisms, articulate diction, eloquent oration and impeccable western styled dressing and yet so African to the bone. He was so well versed in African culture that his speeches were often interjected with symbolic African proverbs.

President Mugabe essentially lived a simple life where he would go to work on weekdays and would be driven to his village home in Zvimba during the weekends, such was his love for his rural homestead.

The Mugabe I knew was not corrupt, he was an academic who sadly became so intoxicated by power that he neglected to pass on the leadership baton, that being his biggest weakness. But don't we all have our strengths and weaknesses? Whilst being a man of the people his populist decisions were not necessarily economically sound and hence the economic mire we find ourselves in today. However freedom of a country and its people is of prime importance; as this he achieved.

Mugabe had the ability to protect the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and even when the tide was against him, he stood firm. He cannot solely be blamed for the ills in the country, we were all involved, we all accepted his rule. He is a legend and debate around him will continue.

This was the man I had the privilege of knowing.

A great tree has fallen indeed. Fare thee well as you are reunited with Sally and Nyikadzino. Once again you will meet with the likes of Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara,Nikita Mangena, Herbert and Victoria Chitepo, Lookout Masuku and all. And as we usually say "afa anaka", what a show, good show Mr. President!

My sincerest condolences go out to Mai Mugabe, Bona and her husband Chikowore, Robert Jr, Chatungu, Mukoma Leo, Patrick, the Gushungo and Soko clans and the entire Family on the passing of a great legend; Gone but never forgotten, May he rest in well deserved peace, until we meet again.

"Good show, good show" and so it was with your life, RIP Gushungo.

Hon. Temba P. Mliswa (MP)
Former ZANU-PF DCC Chairperson for Hurungwe, Secretary for Lands, Mashonaland West Provincial Chairman & Central Committe Member

Source - Temba Mliswa
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