In Defense Of Mugabe

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Who would fight for the rights of the immense African majority
of Southern Rhodesia? Who would resuscitate Zimbabwe? Robert Mugabe led the quest.

[Struggle For Zimbabwe: A Poem]


It touched Diego Velázquez
and he made it touch humanity
when he fixed forever in paint
the chivalrous and friendly gesture
of Spinola, the Spanish general
accepting with gentle smile the offered
keys of his vanquished adversary’s Breda,
beginning thus the conciliatory mood
that spared the further flow of blood.

With robust African force now toughly sinewed
and armed with tactics skillfully conceived
in the counseling shade of baobab trees,
Robert Mugabe led the quest
to right wrongs old and new;
for sacrilegious and foreign hands had undone
the divine works of Zimbabwe’s ancients
before the wild marauding bands
of Britishers fired up by Cecil Rhodes,
under whose eponymous weight
Zimbabwe virtually became extinct,
absorbed in a colony of settlers.

They killed native land owners as if clearing
of pesky pests the millions of hectares
they would steal and later bequeath
as legacy to Oxford, to Lords in the Upper House
and other progeny.
The British turned choice conquered lands
into exclusive settlements, sites for
exclusive schools, exclusive hospitals,
exclusive cricket clubs, all guaranteed
by exclusive security forces, exclusive elections
and finally an exclusive declaration of independence,
as if Britain would treat them as it did British Guiana,
as if Britain would not continue to protect them,
as if they were not “kith and kin,” as Harold Wilson said.

Who would fight for the rights
of the immense African majority
of Southern Rhodesia?
Who would resuscitate Zimbabwe?

Robert Mugabe led the quest.
His ZANU-PF was the best
and having won, to unite the nation
he brought the others to reconciliation.

In that spirit, chivalrous in the extreme,
the loser’s invitation to negotiate in their England
he did not spurn, even though
Toussaint L’Ouverture had warned him “don’t go,
look what those others have done to me.”

He went and received slow-killing doses
of false promises concerning lands
to be repossessed by the children
of the mass-murdered ones,
children now growing tired and old, with the
passing years becoming distractingly alarmed
at how the British, through MI6, the BBC,
the outlandish diplomatic pouch, in their zeal
to keep their Zimbabwean obligations unfulfilled,
to have the lands stay asleep,
settled in the laps of prepossessed settlers
as calmly as the Lords in their postprandial
slumber in the Upper House, intervene
ever more openly in the electoral process.

They would calumniate Mugabe for thinking
that Zimbabwe must remain the Zimbabwe
restored by bloody sacrifice, by his
lost ten years barred with British iron
from his fair quota of water, air, heat
or contact with the land,
but with the always excessive torture and forced labour.

He would distrust, with natural love, opposition
by compatriots far removed from the baobab
and happy in photos with Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown
framed in concrete and glass of globalized Harare,
in poses that seemingly make light of the history he knows.

And yet the edifying wisdom that emanated from Spinola,
that sense of a time for ferocity and one for gentleness
with which assembled baobab spirits are imbued,
the Zambesi now fearfully swift, now invitingly placid
that Mugabe showed to Wilson and to Joshua Nkomo,
shines still from the mind of the steadfast teacher,
beckoning to the embrace of  reconciliation
those who recognize his supreme victory,
the one that must not, will not be reversed;
those who realize that the bonds of unity
are made perforce of autochthonous material,
with strands resistant to intrusive fingers,
unmanageable especially to old rejected designers.

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