A Consistent Man – The life and times of Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe turned 88 on February 21, 2012, and if there is one thing that has characterised this long life, it is consistency.
The revolutionary icon has spent the better part of his life – more than half-a-century – fighting for the just cause of his people.
This life, which meant incarceration and exile in several instances, has meant that he has not enjoyed, in the everyday sense, life as others know it, even in his old age when his peers are no more or are out of the picture.
But at 88, Robert Mugabe is still a fighter and it surely seems he has fire in his belly to remain such.
In an interview on the eve of his birthday, he expressed his belief that all a man has are his principles.
He touched on the main themes of his struggle and Zimbabwe’s struggle over the decades.
President Mugabe emphasised that Zimbabwe and its resources ‑ including land and minerals ‑ belong to Zimbabweans, saying: “…no one from outside has the right, you know, to acquire a piece of land or any national resource without their (the people of Zimbabwe's) permission.
“In other words, the outsiders must be entertained by us, accommodated by us, must be permitted by us to live here and to make homes here, to enjoy themselves, to marry our beautiful girls and also to eat our beef; to kill our deer, antelope, go to Kariba and fish, catch our fish; in other words, to do things that we can do. Yes!
“We accommodate people from outside, just as our people can be accommodated in other countries as well.
“But no, they should never, never, never attempt to impose their power over us.”
He was referring to the usual suspects like Britain, which itself has rejected anybody’s overlordship.
He added that African culture and values should be sovereign.
As is his stated position over the years, he rejected homosexuality.
He said, “They (foreigners) should never try to impose their culture on us and hence our abhorrence or feeling of abhorrence.
“The feeling that if we are to get aid from Britain we must first accept that man can marry man and woman can marry woman.
“That’s what (UK Prime Minister) David Cameron said.
“You don’t say those things to other nations…”
President Mugabe, who was among the founders of the decolonisation pioneers that spearheaded formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, is ever-ready to defend his country and continent.
He decried that some leaders of today are being cowardly and unprincipled.
To all accounts, he has been and remains the exact opposite; never pulling his punches and making clear that he believes Africa is for Africans.
He said, “Not only have they (some African leaders) become cowards, but have become sell-outs of our own people.
“Betraying, betraying the nations of Africa. That’s the AU (African Union) thing.
“They just think of money, money, money. Material things!”
Some African leaders are afraid that they might lose Western support should they serve the interests of their people.
They have good cause to be afraid to.
After Zimbabwe embarked on a fast-track land reform programme that rattled Britain, the country has been hit with sanctions and attempts have been made to institute military confrontation through the United Nations Security Council.
Such opposition has never deterred President Mugabe, who remains resolute in fighting Western imperialism at every international forum that presents such an opportunity, while championing the cause of his people.
President Mugabe this past week said he was prepared to face the court of public opinion over his principles and policies.
“We want elections,” he said, “we wanted them yesterday, we want them today, we want them any day…”
He added, “…the party is always ready. This means we are always ready to fight.”
President Mugabe is buoyed by his policies on agriculture, mining and manufacturing, and believes these are the issues that are at the heart of the people as they deal with real development.
Being a fighter does not mean being violent or being inhospitable.
The ZANU-PF leader extended an olive branch to the Rhodesians at independence in 1980.
This was despite spending no less than a decade in Rhodesian jails as he led the independence struggle.
Thereafter, President Mugabe joined hands with his main political rival, Dr Joshua Nkomo, to form the unified government that came into being in 1987.
And today President Mugabe is working with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe.
After an expected period of mutual distrust, President Mugabe said he and Tsvangirai now worked well together, despite them having different ideologies and policy positions.
He said, dispelling talk of incessant fights carried in some sections of the media, “We were very suspicious of each other at the beginning but as time went on, we got to know each other.
“Now Tsvangirai can drink a cup of tea I make and I have no objections drinking a cup of tea which he makes.”
This sounds pretty much like turning swords into ploughshares.
And Robert Mugabe is good in preaching that gospel of unity among Zimbabweans of different persuasions.
It is one of his key principles.
For him, the most important thing is that Zimbabweans must come first.
It is one of the hallmarks of one of the world's most consistent statesmen.