Monday, March 04, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Empowerment: President Mugabe’s legacy

Empowerment: President Mugabe’s legacy
Sunday, 03 March 2013 00:00
Kurai Masenyama

A few years ago, I attended the funeral of South African liberation icon Cde Walter Sisulu at a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto. As part of the proceedings, past and present African leaders were introduced to the crowd on arrival. Nelson Mandela was there, so was Kenneth Kaunda, Sam Nujoma, Robert Mugabe, Ketumile Masire, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, among others. All the above-mentioned leaders triggered loud cheers of appreciation during introductions.

However, the huge crowd gave a deafening cheer when President Mugabe arrived and was introduced to the masses! For about five or so minutes, the entire stadium erupted, as thousands of men and women stood up, united in salutation, chanting “Mugabe! Mugabe! Mugabe!” As Cde Mugabe stood with First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe beside him, acknowledging the crowd with his famous clenched fist salute.

South Africans momentarily forgot about the others, as the “Mugabe magic” swept across the packed stadium.

This scenario raises a number of questions that I seek to interrogate as I join millions of Zimbabweans and indeed multitudes of other Africans in celebrating President Mugabe’s 89th birthday.

Firstly, what makes President Mugabe distinctive as a leader in Africa and throughout Africa? Secondly, what message from President Mugabe resonates with the masses around the African continent?

And, finally, what makes President Mugabe so revered, celebrated and loved across Africa and by blacks around the world?

The answer lies in the fact that President Mugabe is the de facto empowerment leader of black people and has for decades been at the forefront of the fight against racism, imperialism, neocolonialism, global financial apartheid, and generally the oppression of the developing world by the West.

I proceed to dissect President Mugabe’s empowerment legacy that can be roughly divided into political liberation, mass education and literacy, land reclamation and redistribution and economic empowerment.

Since his emergence on Zimbabwe’s political terrain, which he has largely dominated for over 40 years, President Mugabe has been a true revolutionary, consistent and articulate cadre of the liberation movement.

These attributes earned him key positions in the NDP, Zapu and eventually Zanu on its formation in 1963.

His elevation to the Zanu presidency in 1977 was a popular decision that resonated with the forces on the fighting front-line, masses back in Zimbabwe and other countries that supported Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence.

In return, President Mugabe distinguished himself from other leaders, providing fearless, uncompromising and people-driven leadership that propelled the fighting forces to victory over the Rhodesian regime.

Where the likes of Ndabaningi Sithole dithered, while James Chikerema backtracked and when Abel Muzorewa sold out, Mugabe remained resolute and unshaken by the ferocity of enemy weapons, imprisonment, torture, restriction, etc.

Zimbabwean masses went on to endorse his leadership with a resounding majority election victory, leading to his ascendance to the highest office in the land in April 1980.

President Mugabe’s pursuit of African political independence did not end with Zimbabwe’s liberation as he went on to be instrumental in the formation of SADCC and the Frontline States, organisations that confronted the apartheid regime, contributing significantly to the downfall of the racist regime, resulting in the independence of Namibia and South Africa.

After independence, President Mugabe led the Government on a massive education drive that resulted in Zimbabwe’s literacy rate rising to 88 percent.

In addition to facilitating free education for millions of students in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has initiated scholarships through which hundreds of Zimbabwean students have received university education in South Africa, Malaysia and Cuba, among other countries.

His education legacy is widely acknowledged throughout the world with esteemed positions that require academic ability being held by Zimbabweans.

The third key component of his empowerment legacy is the land reclamation and redistribution programme through which thousands of indigenous Zimbabweans acquired land previously possessed by white settlers.

In fulfilment of one of the key demands of the armed struggle, thousands of Zimbabweans were given an opportunity to enhance their livelihoods through ownership of land coupled with the necessary support in acquisition of implements, inputs and financial resources.

This historic decision that put Zimbabwe on a collision course with former coloniser Britain, leading to the imposition of illegal sanctions, has been vindicated through the excellent output of current indigenous farmers who have raised the flag, feeding the nation for the past decade and exporting a tobacco crop that had astounded the world.

Another milestone and the final component on the empowerment legacy of President Mugabe is the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Programme currently being implemented by the Government.

Through this project, Zimbabweans are going to secure majority ownership of the country’s mines, key industries and service provision.

If the foot soldiers leading the initiative on the ground play their cards right by being genuine and decisive in taking on white capital, then the aspirations of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe’s wealth and natural resources will be transferred to the majority of our people.

This is the noble intention of the President, thus sealing the final stamp of approval on his empowerment legacy.

President Mugabe has never shied away from defending this legacy and ensuring its sustainability in spite of sustained attacks from Britain, America and their allies.

Where other African leaders, and other aspiring leaders have sold their souls and bowed to the dictates of the West, he has remained unyielding in championing the cause of the African people.

To borrow a cliché from former Namibian president Nujoma’s biography, “where others wavered”, President Mugabe remained the last man standing, demanding complete political and economic emancipation of the African people.

Today, we celebrate the President’s birthday under the theme “Youth for Indigenisation Empowerment, Development and Creation of Employment”, signalling Cde Mugabe’s commitment to the empowerment programme.

As Zimbabweans, especially the youth, let us shift into the next gear and accelerate the total implementation of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment programme.

I salute President Mugabe’s empowerment legacy by saying, “Happy Birthday to the Empowerment Guru”.

About the writer: Kurai Prosper Masenyama is the Director of the Zanu-PF Department of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment

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