Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland could be the story of any post independence African President and most of its political leaders.
A war hero whose dreams for his country went up in smoke and here is why…
The best thing that can explain this, an excerpt from the book where the author interviews a former Cabinet Minister who has this to say about Mugabe’s rise in the independence movement….
….he comes home on holiday;a man bringing his future wife to meet his family and intending to return to Ghana as a teacher to teach.He wants to settle in Ghana,where he has a well paid job,which he hasn’t resigned from .And then the Rhodesian nationalist movement ,which is going through turbulence including leadership deficiency ,hears of him,this articulate man called Robert Mugabe.Word goes around that he trains teachers so he is more articulate than the teachers ,who are the most respected people in the country at that time.And of all exciting places,he lives and works in Ghana,where Nkrumah is leading the way to African Liberation.He has Fort Hare qualifications.His wife is impressive.So he is approached ,persuaded to join the liberation movement ,and he agrees to give it a try.
Nowhere in his record prior to becoming the leader of Zanu do you see Robert Mugabe driven by political passion or a vision of a better future for Zimbabweans.He has not left his well paid job in Ghana to join the nationalist movement at home.No,not at all.He has simply taken leave on a visit to Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe).Nowhere is there any logical progression ….
Mugabe just happened to be well read,at the right place at the perfect time and with the help of fate and overzealous,hopeful Zimbabweans he got the plum job he holds today.
Does it not read like a script picked from any of the countries on the continent?
Countires which today are going through periods of upheaval be they political or economic?
Bright,well read minds carrying the hopes,dreams and aspirations of their people until something went horribly wrong.
They got comfortable,they lost focus of why they waged war against their colonisers,they became drunk with power.
Right now.more than half a century after most of the African countries gained independence, all bar South Africa and Rwanda are being led by leaders who share a story similar to Mugabe’s.
They came to power riding on the high expectations and hopes their people had of them ,that they could change the way things were.
But sadly this hopes were dashed when these same leaders surrounded themselves with selfish cronies and advisers.
The elected leaders became beholden to the people who had put them in power.They turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of their friends and cronies,after all they owed the power they enjoyed to these same people.
These cronies and advisers turned into neo colonialist who wanted to amass wealth for themselves while neglecting the suffering and needs of their people.
As another writer Michela Wrong put it in her book…it was now their turn to eat.
But one thing the book does very well is show Mugabe the man who is not infallible,with his weaknesses,his shortcomings and not the enigmatic persona he is so frequently potrayed as.
Reading the book you almost feel sorry for the man ,growing up without a father and with a mother who thought her son was nothing less than Gods chosen,Mugabe had to live up to unrealistic expectations.
Candidly the book tells the story of a man who is grossly misunderstood but whose life offers useful insight into the many problems most of the countries on the continent are struggling with today.