De cri de coeur van een priester

Het stoffelijk overschot van oud-president Robert Mugabe van Zimbabwe wordt woensdag overgebracht van Singapore naar de hoofdstad Harare. Zondag volgt dan de begrafenis, die waarschijnlijk zal plaatsvinden op de erebegraafplaats.
Mugabe kwam in 1980 aan de macht als de vrijheidsstrijder, die het blanke minderheidsregime van het toenmalige Rhodesië ten val had gebracht. Gaandeweg zijn regeerperiode ontpopte Mugabe zich als een dictator en een despoot. In 2017 werd hij afgezet. Mugabe werd 95 jaar.

Ik heb een aantal reacties gelezen. De meningen in Zimbabwe zijn nogal verdeeld. Zimbabwe anno 2019 is een zeer arm en verdeeld land. In de plaatselijk krant Newsday wordt hij omschreven als ‘de held die een schurk werd’.

Onderstaande preek ontving ik van Ernst Schade te Lissabon met het commentaar:
‘’What an indictment from a fellow Catholic’’.

Het is geschreven door Father William Guru, een R.K.-priester, die in Zimbabwe werd geboren en daar opgroeide. Tegenwoordig woont hij in Maryland USA. Hij maakte Mugabe vele jaren mee en heeft -eufemistisch uitgedrukt- niet zo veel waardering voor de oud-president. Hier komt zijn cri de coeur die eindigt in een welgemeend AMEN.



When I heard about the death of Robert Gabriel Mugabe today, I did not feel anything. I didn’t feel numb, but I didn’t feel the usual sadness and grief that I usually feel when I hear of a death.

Whether it is a family member or a friend, or it is someone I only know in the media, the death of a human being has always moved me. Yet, the death of the man who was my country’s leader for 37 years of my life has neither moved me nor saddened me.

When Ian Smith, the notorious Rhodesian Prime Minister who declared that there would be no Black rule for at least a thousand years, died, I was saddened and I grieved. Even when Pik Botha, the last foreign minister of Apartheid Pretoria, died last year, I grieved.

That I didn’t grieve Mugabe’s death did not matter to me all day today. It wasn’t even the numbing of feeling that usually comes immediately after a bereavement. It was, rather a total absence of sadness and grief. I was not happy either. I was just not sad and I did not feel guilty at all. It was total apathy.

After thinking and meditating on my total lack grief and guilt, I got some insight into why I felt and reacted the way I did.

What triggered the reflection was when I came to the place where the name of a deceased person is mentioned in the Eucharistic celebration. I hesitated, then I mentioned the name of Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

“[In Masses for the Dead:
Remember your servant N., whom you have called (today) from this world to yourself. Grant that he (she) who was united with your Son in a death like his, may also be one with him in his Resurrection.]”

The bottom line to me is that Robert Gabriel Mugabe died a long time ago. I have emoted and grieved his death already. This final death comes as no surprise to me because I had already mourned and buried Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

Mugabe died to me in 1980 when he mounted the brutal terror campaign that led him to electoral victory. In my neighborhood, ZAPU had been the political party of liberation all through the war years. But our local leaders were forced to switch to Zanu overnight for fear of brutal appraisals, and to save the people.

Mugabe died to me in the early 80s when he started the intrigue and scheming, to sideline Joshua Nkomo, and ZAPU, out of national politics and leadership. When he masterminded and surgically executed the genocide of the people of Matebeleland and Midlands.

Mugabe died to me when he consolidated power into his own hands by alienating and eliminating anyone who opposed his ways. When he made himself the executive president and tried to make the country a one-party State.

Mugabe died to me when he dragged our army into the DRC war, where many of our fighters came back home in plastic bags, which we were not even allowed to open for body viewing. When he allowed individuals among his cronies to enrich themselves through the looting of mineral wealth and the rape of the women of the DRC.

Mugabe died to me, when in order to keep his hold on power, he disbursed un-budgeted payments of gratuities to war veterans, impoverishing the country, benefitting again his cronies, and hoodwinking the majority of the veterans.

Mugabe died to me when, again, to hold on to power,  and to appease the war veterans whose gratuities where being looted by his cronies, he allowed the infamous land redistribution scheme. Again, he allowed his cronies to benefit, while thousands of landless peasants and farm workers were left with nothing to languish in poverty. He oversaw the reduction of the bread basket of Africa, to a begging bowl of the world.

Mugabe died to me when he cracked down on the labour movement that began to agitate for workers rights. He frustrated the best efforts of the labour movement and forced the reluctant Morgan Tsvangirai to leave Zanu PF to form the MDC as an alternative. Mugabe was brutally cruel at any opposition within and outside his party.

Mugabe died on me as, throughout his long reign, he stifled press freedom and the freedom of expression. He mounted a ruthless and unrelenting onslaught on journalists, media houses and individuals who dared express themselves.

Mugabe died on me when he totally disregarded the will of the people who voted overwhelmingly in 2000 to prevent him from changing the constitution to suit his agenda. He went ahead and did the very things that people had resoundingly voted against.

Mugabe died on me each time he used the state machinery and coffers to rig elections and ensure that every plebiscite under his watch retained him.

Mugabe died on me each time after an election that he would have lost but managed to rig, he would cruelly crack down on those who had voted against him. The post election violence that claimed lives and left many maimed for life.

Mugabe died on me when he allowed starving villagers, victims of drought and floods, to be denied food assistance from the state and humanitarian organizations, on the basis that they were members of the opposition who voted against him.

Mugabe died to me in 2005 when, in the dead middle of a blistering severe winter, he allowed the dreadful operation Murambatsvina. The loss of lives and livelihoods and well-being caused by this evil progrom still haunts many in Zimbabwe today.

Mugabe died to me each time he declared at the annual Zanu PF congress that there was no vacancy in the presidium, and that succession was not on the agenda.

Mugabe died to me when he allowed the plunder of diamonds in Marange. The brutality of the army and the suffering and death of civilians in Marange was phenomenal and continues to diminish lives today.

Mugabe died on me when he allowed the health and education systems of the country to collapse during his watch. He allowed the expatriation of money to foreign countries to pay for healthcare and education for the elite, while the majority of our people languished in mediocre institutions at home.

Mugabe died on me when he allowed the industrial sector to decay because of his poor economic policies. He allowed all economic activities to be centralized and concentrated in the capital while other towns experienced total neglect and gradual economic decay.

Mugabe died on me when he allowed conspicuous consumption to flourish among the elite and his cronies, right in the face of a populace that was rapidly becoming more and more impoverished and  disadvantaged.

Mugabe died on me when he indoctrinated his supporters to believe that the county’s problems were caused by the economic sanctions imposed on his regime by the West. He paid a blind eye to his poor economic policies, poor leadership and management, poor human rights record, and the corruption that made his patronization and cronyism possible, and was a byproduct of the same system.

Mugabe died on me when he allowed his wife to go berserk and meddle with party and national politics and wreck havoc in the lives of people. Those hour-long rants of Dr. Amai, at rallies all over the country were totally unnecessary and should never have been allowed.

Mugabe died on me more times, in the 37 years that I have known him, than I can recount.

For me to eulogize Robert Gabriel Mugabe would be an act of great betrayal to the many people who died and whose lives have been damaged for life by his long rule.

To eulogize Mugabe for me is to capitulate and give up the struggle for human rights and social justice. It will be to celebrate the triumph of the evil over the good, the false over the true, the darkness over the light, the irrational over the rational, the inhuman over the human.

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a Pan-Africanist, when he destroyed an African country, Zimbabwe, and the lives of the people of that country?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a liberator, when he enslaved to poverty and indignity, the people over who he ruled tyrannically for the best part of four decades?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be an iconic leader, when he failed dismally to groom and prepare his own successor to preserve and continue his legacy? Look at the calibre of the leader we got after Mugabe.

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a revolutionary, when he was so resistant and impervious to change? His fear of regime change was clinically pathological.

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a founding father of the nation, when he hounded Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, out of national politics and leadership into the ditches of irrelevant oblivion?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a Great Zimbabwean, when he frustrated and drove into exile thousands of of Great Zimbabweans?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a son of the soil, when he necessitated and facilitated the alienation and banishment of millions of daughters and sons of the soil, from the soil of their birth, where their umbilical cods and the bones of their ancestors are buried?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe have a legacy, when he lived long enough to see the jewel that he inherited from the Rhodesians become a basket case, a s**t hole, a banana republic, a pariah State, a failed state, the laughingstock of nations?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a Zimbabwean, when he died in a foreign country because he did not have faith in the “fire of the hearth” of the place that is supposed to be his home. Mugabe died not curled beside an African fire in a mud and thatch hut in Zvimba, or anywhere in Zimbabwe.

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a national hero, when he declared that he does not want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre Shrine, where he pontificated and presided over the burial of our national heroes, for the best part of four decades?

How can Robert Gabriel Mugabe be a national hero, when he refuses to lie next to Sarah Heyfron at Heroes Acre, a Ghanaian foreigner, who like the biblical Ruth, out of love for her man and his country, abandoned everything to follow him to Zimbabwe?

After thinking long and hard about Robert Gabriel Mugabe, I came to the following conclusion:
- it is alright to feel no sadness and grief
- it is alright not to mourn
- it is alright not to feel guilty for not feeling sad and for not mourning
- it is perfectly alright to feel like this
- it is normal and it is human
- this is a perfectly normal way to feel

Robert Gabriel Mugabe died today. To me he died many times between 1980 and 2019. There are times when I thought that his death would make a difference to my life and that of my country. But his death today, for me, is a non event. So I am not morning and I am not sad and I am not guilty about it.

Rest In Peace Robert Gabriel Mugabe. That is the Christian thing to do. That is the human thing to do.  Much as he disregarded Christian values,  and much as he debased humanity or ubuntu, I shall not allow him to diminish my Christianity and my humanity/ubuntu. So I commend the soul of Robert Gabriel Mugabe to the love and mercy of God. My God gather him into the bossom of our father Abraham.

Fr. William Guri, C.Ss.R., Ph.D.