When I heard the news that Robert Gabriel Mugabe had died, I had no emotion, no sense of loss or hate, no anger, no satisfaction, just an acceptance that the inevitable had happened. I didn’t rejoice because I have never wished for him to die. All I had cared for Mugabe was for him to leave office and let Zimbabweans determine their own path. There was a part of me that felt some pity for him as he seemingly died unrepentant for what he had done and what he presided over during his 38 years in power.
At his death, in the midst of all the conflicted discussions around whether Mugabe was a hero or a villain, one particular question caught my attention and had me thinking. Did Mugabe really have a full life or just a long life full of things?
Mugabe the Hero
There is no doubt that the early part of Mugabe’s political life he was considered a hero and was loved. Songs were composed about him as the saviour. He came out of prison and led his country to independence after a bloody war. With a wife loved by all, he was the poster boy of post-colonial states. He dined and was knighted by the queen. He was an eloquent storyteller who travelled the world. He was revered by fellow Afrikans for this Pan Africanist ideals. His attitude towards education led to some of the highest literacy rates in Africa and lastly standing up to the West and taking the land.
Mugabe the Villian
The latter part, however, he became extremely unpopular as his heart hardened towards the people he led. Any descending voices were met with violence, abductions, torture even death. Through his policies, he destroyed peoples marriages as families were scattered abroad and livelihoods as the economy shrunk and jobs were lost. His tolerance of corruption by his cronies ensured that a once self-sustaining country was looted to the point of being a beggar in the region.
This downward spiral in popularity ended by a fall of grace, when he was betrayed by his loyal lieutenants. This last act may have hurt him more than his physical ailments which had him literally take up residence in Singapore getting treatment. His death two years after losing power will have not had much effect on citizens emotionally, then had it happened while in power. But even then I still don’t think people would have run out on the streets in celebration. He may have stripped us of our dignity but not of our humanity.
Mugabe was blessed to have lived to 95, a life filled with many diverse experiences. The summation of all these experiences could be considered a full life. I have a different perspective on what constitutes a full life.
What is a full life
A full life must have its fruit to show. A full life is not so much defined by the quantity of experiences but the quality of those experiences. And as a leader of a nation, how these experiences impact your soul and also of all those that he leads. A full life is not about perfection.
A full life is one that is first and foremost inspired by love! Love is the foundation, the source of the motivate of all the actions throughout a person’s life. Without love, it is not possible for one to live a full life.
A full life is one where a person strives for peace and is at peace with himself, contentment. A life that brings peace to others too. One can live a long life but not have a full one.
A father cannot claim to have lived a full life if he never took care of his children, they were raised by someone else’s home while he was out minding his own business.
A full life must have its fruit to show, what are the fruits of Mugabe’s full life? So he travelled the world what did he bring back for us that could inspire us for the better? 95 years on this earth, what wisdom from his old age benefitted the people of Zimbabwe? What wise counsel did he impart in his old age? As a leader for such a long time, what example of leadership did he leave behind? Did he wisely nurture a leader to take up after him?
The wealth that he accumulated and constantly claimed that the country had, how did that add to the prosperity of the country?
For all is entertaining eloquent speeches about sovereignty and Pan Africanism what did he have to show about the values of Pan Africanism, was his lifestyle a testament of those ideals?
Did Mugabe’s treatment of the people he led exhibit a person whose heart was at peace, a person who cared and had compassion? Mugabe spent his life basically on the run for his life, “the wicked flee when no-one is chasing them”.
He was clearly bitter about how the British had treated him and would get back at them at any opportunity at whatever cost. That bitterness was compounded by the betrayal by his trusted colleagues.
In all this, there is no record of Mugabe ever asking for forgiveness from the people he tortured and tormented throughout his tenure. The was no compassion in his actions. Mugabe was insecure and tolerated no-one making jokes about him, any form of artistic expression which questioned his rule was shut down.
After all has been said Mugabe’s life can be summed up as one of selfish ambition with all his deeds pointing to self-interest and self-preservation. What comes out of our mouths– whether good or bad reflects what is in our hearts. Does what came out of Mugabe’s mouth reflect a heart that was at peace or a tormented heart filled with bitterness?
All these points painted a final picture which we can look at and judge for ourselves whether that was a full life or just a long one full of things. One that you would aspire to emulate or you would wish for your children?‘To whom much is given, much will be required’ With all the grace that was afforded to him through the blessings of a long life, wealth, knowledge and exposure through travel, he had a responsibility as the leader of a nation to ensure it all benefits the people he led.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.