THE crowd of over 100,000 that packed the Rufaro Stadium, Harare, on 18 April 1980, was full of expectations for the new country. When Bob Marley hit the song, Zimbabwe, tears rolled, the drums pelted to new rhythms, the guitars strummed, and the crowd went into frenzy. The lyrics could have been lost on everyone.
President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari donated $15 million to Zimbabwe. Part of the money was used in training Zimbabwean students in Nigerian universities, their government workers in the Administrative Staff College Of Nigeria in Badagry, and their soldiers in the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna.
The expectations evaporated quickly. Edgar Zivanai ‘Two Boy’ Tekere, the ZANU-PF Secretary General, largely seen as a major challenger to President Robert Mugabe, invited Bob Marley to that performance. Marley’s music inspired the guerrilla fighters during the battles to liberate Zimbabwe. Tekere, a founding member of ZANU PF, was a colleague of Mugabe’s in the guerrilla war that they organised from Mozambique.
His disagreement with Mugabe was early and he lost his position as Minister. Another Mugabe ally Lt-Gen Lookout Masuku, commander of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, died mysteriously in 1986, four years after he was accused of planning to overthrow Mugabe.
“Who is Mugabe to declare Tekere a hero? No-one in the current party’s (ruling) politburo qualifies to deliberate on the heroism of the late, great nationalist Tekere,” Enos Nkala, a co-ZANU founder, asked at Tekere’s funeral which Mugabe did not attend.
Other modern fathers of Zimbabwe like Joshua Nkomo, Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Canaan Banana have long fallen out with Mugabe.
Zimbabwe’s 13 million people wallow in the scourge of Mugabe, who at 89 has won a seventh tenure. Age may be the only thing that would stop him from beating the 42-year record of Gabon’s Albert Omar Bongo, who only death, at 71, separated from power.
About 85 per cent of its population, 11.05 million, is under 64 years old. Mugabe is the only president that more than 90 per cent of the population knows.
Zimbabweans would be under worse pressure to find leaders when Mugabe expires. Cote d’Ivoire is still in turmoil, 21 years after Felix Houphouët-Boigny, its first president who ruled for 33 years. Mugabe is running Zimbabwe into a futile future that would unveil when he is gone.
It is up to Zimbabweans to decide their destiny, just as Bob Marley sang 33 years ago, and everyone danced in exhilaration