By Jean Gasho
Yesterday I sat with my 13-year-old daughter Nakai after she came back from school telling me that the whole school, even the teachers were talking about Mugabe. We talked a lot about Zimbabwe, and what type of a president you were. I told her my thoughts, and she looked at me and said, ‘Write about it mum. Write about what you have told me about Mugabe on your blog.’
Well today I took my daughter’s advice, she was born on 18 April 2004, Zimbabwe’s Independence Day, and we always celebrated her as an Independence baby. So maybe that is why she is behind this letter.
Today there is only one side of the story being told about you. Well, every story has two sides, and I don’t think it’s fair for the world to only tell about one side of you, my former President.
If I will be the only person in this world who celebrates you today, then let me be. If there is anything I learnt when I was growing up in Zimbabwe, I learnt never to follow crowds, so I always sat alone and thought, especially those moments when everyone was caught up in some frenzy. I grew up in a very abusive culture and environment, but in that abusive culture, was a beautiful Zimbabwe that made me intelligent and gave me vital tools that would help build my future.
Today I am the woman I am, because of that beautiful Zimbabwe that I know you, Robert Mugabe created. Writing saved my life. Writing changed my destiny. If I wasn’t a writer, I would not be the Jean I am today.
People often ask me, how did you learn to write so eloquently? How do you write so beautifully? The best honest answer I can ever give is; because I was educated in Zimbabwe, which had one of the best education systems in the entire African continent. My writing is far from perfect, but when people read what I write, they are able to feel my emotion.
It was in Zimbabwe, that I learnt to write the way I do.
There is a shona saying which goes, kusatenda huroyi, meaning to be ungrateful is witchcraft. I remember going to school with students from Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda and other African countries. They all came to Zimbabwe to get the best education Africa could offer. Today Zimbabwe is still credited as the most educated country in Africa, and all I know is that credit belongs only to you, Robert Mugabe.
Some Zimbabweans give credit to Ian Smith for Zimbabwe’s best education system, but I know it was you, Robert Mugabe who made education a basic human right for every black Zimbabwean child, not Ian Smith.
So forgive me for shedding a little tear for you my former President. Forgive me for feeling very emotional today. Maybe for the rest of Zimbabwe, what you did wasn’t much, but to me it was, because it saved my life. You gave me the greatest gift that money can never buy. When you said you wanted education to be a basic human right for every child in Zimbabwe, maybe that was just for me. The rest of Zimbabwe may forget today, but I won’t.
I’m literally crying, because the only time I ever felt alive in Zimbabwe, among all the pain I was going through, was when I entered a Shona, English, French or Art lesson. These were the only subjects that brought life out of me because there were the only subjects that allowed me to freely express myself. I was taught by the best language teachers, I was also taught by the best art teachers.
If there is one positive thing I took from Zimbabwe, it was my education.
When I came to the UK 18 years ago, I remember English people asking me spellings at work. I remember one white woman asking me to write her resignation letter when she was quitting her job because she had seen how well I wrote my reports. But most importantly, I didn’t know that one day I would use the skills I was taught in school to write my way out of abuse. I didn’t know that one day I will remember what my English teacher Mr Sharp taught me about creative writing. He taught me how to use the skill of expression in writing.
4 years ago, I was in a women refugee, homeless and forsaken. I had reached a dead end, but I remember saying to myself, ‘I will write myself out of all this; if there is one thing left in me, its the power to write’. And I did, and here I am today.
So when I am talking about matters of the heart, there is no way I can celebrate today and not thank you. There is no way I can join the world to call you a tyrant.
It wasn’t just the best education that you gave me, I was born after Zimbabwe Independence. You fought hard to liberate Zimbabwe from oppression. You were jailed and tortured for Zimbabwe to be free, the rest of Zimbabwe may forget, but I won’t. You are the only African leader, who was ever brave enough to stand up to white supremacy and rule. Maybe to the world, or to the West, you are that tyrant, because you tried to give land back to black Zimbabweans.
I don’t know any tyranny or dictatorship, or evil that is worse than what Zimbabwe was in the hands of minority white rule. I don’t know any more evil than black people being treated worse than dogs in their own country. The world may forget, but I won’t.
I remember as a little girl, my mum always used to say, ‘If there is one thing our President has done for Zimbabwe, he has given women their rights.’ There was a time when if women lost their husbands, they lost their houses and furniture too, but you, Mr Mugabe changed that. As a women rights activist, the rest of Zimbabwe may forget, but I won’t.
The millions of Zimbabweans scattered across the world today blatantly lied that their lives were at risk to get asylum status in whatever counties they reside in today, but as soon as they got that asylum, they would sneak back to Zimbabwe because their lives where never a danger in the first place.
I can never underestimate the suffering and plight of Zimbabwean people, but I don’t believe you are solely responsible for the way Zimbabwe is today, not forgetting the sanctions placed on Zimbabwe that triggered the economic meltdown. Also as you grew older and vulnerable, people around you used you for their own gain. I know there was a time you had the people of Zimbabwe in your heart, especially when you were married to your virtuous wife Amai Sally Mugabe. You did more for Zimbabwe than any African leader has ever done. Yes, I have said it. I believe a lot of people around you contributed hugely to destroying Zimbabwe, and today they have made you a scapegoat whilst they want to emerge as heroes.
I fear what Zimbabwe will become if Emmerson Mnangagwa is to become the President. They don’t call him The Crocodile for no reason. He made an innocent man, Godfrey Majonga, paralyzed. It was that chilling horror story I grew up hearing. Mnangagwa made Majonga jump several stories out of a window for sleeping with a woman who was not even his wife. If that is not the definition of evil I don’t know what is. He was also responsible for rigging the 2008 elections. He is the man behind the Gukurahundi massacre. If you were ever the evil that the world is calling you today, then Emmerson Mnangagwa should be the face of it.
How Zimbabweans can call Mnangagwa a hero and liberator today whilst calling you a dictator is beyond me. I can’t even get my head around how last weekend every Zimbabwean became ZanuPF overnight, yet all these years ZanuPF was supposed to be the most evil party on the face of the earth. If there is one thing I can’t stand, its hypocrisy.
I think its a good thing that you have resigned, I wish you had done it years ago. What a sad way to go Mr President. You deserved honor for everything you did for Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa, but the overstaying you did has robbed you of that honor. I hope for the sake of integrity, Zimbabwe and Africa will honor your legacy as a true liberator. The man who made Zimbabwe the most educated African country.
I am yet to see a perfect leader. I don’t know if Zimbabwe will ever get one. Of course, everyone is happy for the change, it was long overdue, but I don’t think Zimbabwe’s problems will go anytime soon. Something tells me, maybe not now, but Zimbabwe will miss you greatly, in years to come.
God has blessed you with long life and good health. I pray you enjoy the rest of your retirement.
As Black British Entertainment Awards take off, one day I will stand in front of the whole world and honor you. Yes, if no one will, I will tell of what made me the resilient woman I am today, it was the education that you, Robert Mugabe gave me.
So forgive me for not dancing with the world in calling you a tyrant.
To me you were not a tyrant. To me you were not a dictator. Just because the whole world is calling you that, it doesn’t mean that is what has to define you, but the truth. To me, you are simply the man who taught my hands to war. You gave me my pen, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I choose to celebrate the good you brought out in me, which is what defines my future.
So long live my former President. Let a New Zimbabwe Arise.
Daughter of the soil, who now belongs to Ghana.
PS; You remain the most educated leader Africa has ever had, the world may forget, but I won’t. And for what it’s worth, I suffered the most horrendous abuse and cruelty which almost took my life, not in your hands, but in the hands of church going Zimbabweans who today are calling you evil.