Whilst my letter received so much backlash from most Zimbabweans, the rest of Africa was deeply touched by my tribute to Robert Mugabe.
I totally understand why the majority of Zimbabweans feel so strongly about Mugabe. I can’t underestimate how they feel. But their feelings are no more important than mine.
I am one of those people who has never resonated with the majority of Zimbabweans. It doesn’t mean they are wrong, but it also doesn’t mean I am wrong either. The way they function as a society makes me not want to be Zimbabwean. I am like the black sheep of the country, literally.
When Robert Mugabe resigned as President after the shocking and dramatic events that captured the whole world’s attention over the last week, fascinating as it was, I didn’t really like how things were done. I sat down to write my tribute to Robert Mugabe, because I realized he was the only force in Zimbabwe that I reckoned with. He was that person that made me love Zimbabwe. I can never be able to fully explain it, but that is how I feel. I have learnt the hard way, that it is always safer to trust how you feel than to rely on other peoples feelings just to fit in.
I think I resonate more with my former president because I know what it means to be misunderstood. I know what it means to be appreciated more by a people who are not your people. I know what it means to be understood more by the people who are not your family.
I am hurt by the way Zimbabweans are mocking their former president. I am hurt by the way the media is portraying him.
I want to sit down and read a book about Robert Mugabe. A positive book about him. An inspiring book about him. A book about a remarkable man who was a freedom fighter. A Pan African Hero. A book that honors his legacy.
But it doesn’t look like such a book will come out of Zimbabwe any time soon. Right now, in this season it’s even a taboo to say anything positive about Mugabe. After I wrote my tribute to Mugabe, my Dad in Zimbabwe received countless phone calls from angry Zimbabweans who were telling him to ‘warn’ me about the dangers of praising Mugabe at such a time as this.
A great writer once said, ‘If you have a story you want to read, and it’s not been written, then you must write it’.
When I wrote my letter to Mugabe, I realized that this is a book I want to read. I had to remove so much from my letter to make it shorter, there was so much pouring out of me. I was bursting, like a pregnant woman who can not help but birth the baby. The book is in me, so I am going to write it.
I am not writing this book for Zimbabweans. For my former president, anointed as he is, is a prophet who is without honor in his own country. I am writing this book for the millions of people across Africa who see nothing but a hero in Mugabe. I am writing this book because I want to do my part in thanking Robert Mugabe for creating a Zimbabwe that made me the woman I am today.
I have such a burden for black people. It breaks my heart how we never write our own stories. How we always wait for others to validate us before we can feel worthy enough. I hate how our history is distorted. I hate how we are easily brainwashed. I hate how we don’t stand up for our own. This is what led me to create Black British Entertainment. My heart was so burdened by how broken we are as a people, so unappreciated, yet so talented.
I am hurt by how Mugabe’s own people are failing to appreciate him, especially in his latter days, even for the little he did for them.
For my own sanity, I am not able to sit and watch the documentaries which are going to be made about Robert Mugabe. I can not wait for others to tell the story of the man whom I was born and grew under his leadership, where I did nothing but flourish.
I want to play my part. Robert Mugabe is part of my history. He is part of black history. I can’t sit and wait for others to define this history for me. I can’t wait and let others tell the whole world how everyone ought to feel about Robert Mugabe.
I am writing this tribute book to my former president because it has to be written. Black people love to honor people when they are dead. In Zimbabwe they say, afa anaka, meaning; the moment someone dies they will be remembered only for the good they did. I will not honor my former president in his death, I will honor him whilst he is still alive.
I am writing this book not just for me, but for millions of Africans who have nothing but honor and admiration for Robert Mugabe.
Yesterday, I was pleased when President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke highly of Robert Mugabe at his inauguration. He said Mugabe is the father of Zimbabwe, and his legacy should always be honored. That made me warm up towards Mnangagwa. His speech was rather refreshing to listen to I have to say. For now, I just wish Mnangagwa the best and I hope he revives the country to its former glory.
Yesterday I did an interview for a radio station in Dakar, Senegal, and the journalist asked me one question which really got me, ‘If you were to meet Robert Mugabe today, what would you say to him?’
I told him I would not have much to say, but just thank you. I would say thank you for teaching me to always stand up for what I believe in.
And that is what I am doing today, just saying a simple thank you. I am writing this book from my own perspective. I am writing about the Zimbabwe I grew up in. I feel like I have just gone back to my childhood. When I was a little girl, when I started school, I had never had books at home, I don’t think I had read books prior to school. So when I started school, and I was introduced to this glorious place called the library, it looked like heaven to me. I wanted to just live in the library and read all the books. So I used to steal books from school, hide them in my jumper, and walk home slowly so I could read as much as I could.
That is the Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe created for me, I don’t want to give too much away because I want this book to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the negativity. I will write a lot about the education system, the good health care and just about everything that made Zimbabwe glorious when Robert Mugabe was president. Of course, it will be written from my own eyes, as a child who was born in a thriving Zimbabwe.
I have never been so excited about writing a book. I feel like I was born for such a time as this.
My pen is already uncapped, and I am not able to stop…
Popular Zimbabwean artist Jah Prayah’s hit song Mdhara Vachauya is the song of the moment, the song means The King Returns, The Big Man has come back to rule or it can be compared to the classic Lion King, The Lion returns. This song is being dedicated to President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the King who has returned to claim his throne. Maybe he is…
But Robert Mugabe is the true Lion of Africa. His roar is heard throughout Africa. The world may try so hard to wipe off his legacy, but Mugabe’s roar can never be silenced, his legacy can never be overshadowed.
I have a feeling, 2018 is going to be a beautiful year.
I leave you my readers with a few of the touching and heartfelt comments and messages I received after my tribute to Mugabe.
“Hey Jean, we are basically sailing in the same boat..I can’t get myself to hate Mugabe after all has been said and done..the respect I have for him will not be surpassed..I’m grateful to God each day because Zimbabweans are desirable in all nations because of what Mugabe made us to be..
I will not forget all the things he did for the nation..
As for where the country is going only God knows,all we can do is be optimistic and pray harder because the horrible stories I’ve also heard about Munangagwa scare me ..If it happened then I guess the Lord allowed it to.
If they ever want to write a book about him I recommend they give you the honor first before anyone else ..
You write so well…”
“This note was well written… my prays for African that we need more Roberts in our state house … He will surely be missed not by only his country but African as a whole… cadre , your legacy will life on for generations to come … I Penn this from the mother of Africa (Liberia)”
“This sister understands; She knows what is at stake. Our world (society) is full of hypocrisy, pretense and deceit. For us as African people we know our friends especially the allies of African people, comrade RG Mugabe was not a saint, nor a Puritan but I honor him as a revolutionary patriot. I now agree with the South African singer sister Miriam Makeba when she wrote “ One man hero is another man terrorist, another terrorist is another man’s hero”. My advice to Zimbabweans is to be careful with that crocodile for it lives both in water and on land (double standards).
“Go well comrade president you have reached the twilight of your life; you fought your own struggle and history will absorb you.
“As a white American woman, far removed from Africa or her politics, I just wanted to write a note thanking you for your eloquence. You ARE a beautiful writer who is able to articulate another side of the story. Unfortunately “reporters” these days, on both sides of the pond, sensationalize their particular narrative of an issue and do very little reporting. I enjoyed your perspective. There are always 2 (or 4 or 12) sides of a story. You do your former President a great service by at least giving credit where credit is due. The education you received is being wonderfully utilized to reach a broad audience, even a world away! God bless you and your country as you both move forward.”
“Jean, You said it all. ” The evil that men do lives after them. But the good is often en-tired to their bones.” He was my President. I am a Liberian.”
“Am not a Zimbabwean but I know Robert Mugabe is the best president Africa ever got, the people of Zimbabwe may not know it but very soon they’ll realise they made a very big mistake Zimbabwe will never be the same. Jean thank you so very much for this wonderful write up.”
“You, Sister is the product of the legacy of that great man.May you follow the legacy and become part of the new generation of leaders of Zimbabwe.”
“People’s of Zimbabwe you are jubilating about the man who saved you from oppression. Hmm l will not be Surprise to hear tomorrow that the people of Zimbabwe have legalize same sex marriage, gay and lesbianism,street prostitution and free abortion and the white will use you as the days of old please stop humiliating the only Pan African hero. Pray that your country will not be like Libya.”