Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mugabe: Villain or Hero?

The documentary Mugabe: Villain or Hero? was shown recently as part of the African Odysseys strand at BFI London South Bank.

Mugabe: Villain or Hero? examines the current situation in Zimbabwe. If you have heard or read about Robert Mugabe in the Western media, you may be very surprised at what you learn from this film.

The film documents the history of Zimbabwe from independence to the present day. The making of the film is a story within the story.

The director, Ghanaian Roy Agyeman, travelled to Zimbabwe on the promise of being given access to Robert Mugabe within three months. It turned out to be more like three years.

Over the course of that time, Agyeman interviewed Zimbabweans and experienced life in the country during a period of economic instability and hyper-inflation caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the West. At one point, people could only withdraw 5 million per day from the bank, while a taxi journey cost twice that.

Robert Mugabe had been elected on the basis of his promise to redistribute Zimbabwe’s land. As with other former colonies, such as Kenya, white settlers occupy the best, most fertile land in Zimbabwe. Black people – the majority population – struggle to survive on a much smaller percentage of land.

The film also covered aspects of history of which I was not aware:

In 1979, Mugabe was pressured into signing the Lancaster Agreement, which required him to wait 10 years before redistributing the land. He was photographed with world leaders including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and with celebrities including Princess Diana. He was knighted by the Queen and was suggested as a possible recipient of a Nobel Prize.

Having waited 10 years, Mugabe was then prevailed upon by other African leaders to wait another five years, until after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison.

As part of the agreement, Britain agreed to provide funds to finance the redistribution of the land. But in 1997, the newly-elected New Labour government under Tony Blair reneged on the deal, claiming that as they were a new party, they had nothing to do with the agreement that had been signed.

Mugabe’s government started redistributing the land. The film states that some atrocities were committed. The white landowners whose land was repossessed were still each offered land amounting to100 times the size of Wembley Stadium.

Such was Mugabe’s distrust of Western journalists and news media that it took three years before he finally granted an interview with Agyeman, who had been following him around for much of the time, filming his activities from a distance.

The interview with Robert Mugabe was very refreshing. It was wonderful to hear him state that the redistribution of Zimbabwean land was “right”. At no point has he backed down from that position.

The discussion afterwards and Q & A with the director, Roy Agyeman, was ably led by Henry Bonsu of Colourful Radio. I interviewed Henry in my book Black SuccessStories.

What this film makes clear is that, as people of my generation are aware, the situation in Zimbabwe is about land. It is a land issue. Younger people may not realise this, though, because of the way Mugabe has been demonised by the press.

It was said that one winds up feeling like the lone voice, as if one were mad, if one’s view diverges from the portrait of Mugabe painted by the Western media, and this very much resonated with me.

As with other issues, the facts have often been distorted and misrepresented. As bloggers, we have a responsibility to uncover the truth and to share it.

As the film pointed out, much of the Western media and many Western governments and financial interests do not want to see Zimbabwe become prosperous. They will do anything they can to undermine Zimbabwe and smear Mugabe’s name. This is because land redistribution also needs to happen in other former colonies, such as Kenya and, of course, South Africa, and foreign powers fear losing their influence and their economic dominance.

With its mineral wealth, Zimbabwe can potentially become one of the strongest economies in Africa, and perhaps the world.

Mugabe: Villain or Hero? is an excellent film which sets the record straight, and you really need to see it. Everyone should see it.

For more about African history, see: Naij: A Film History of Nigeria.

For more about the way the media manipulate us by misrepresenting the facts, see this blog about the Niger Delta



jmsmith said...

Sorry, but I can't watch the film. I have heard too much about Robert Mugabe from his fellow countrymen to have any sympathy for him. I have no doubt Mugabe was fighting for the right cause in the beginning. But when his term in office ended decades ago, he should have retired like Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately, he turned into a tyrant. And I'm sick and tired of African leaders who kill their own people while blaming colonialism and white capitalism for everything wrong in Africa while they are just as bad. Maybe that's my prejudice, but here it is.

Zhana21 said...

Thanks very much for your comment, JeanetMarie.

I share your concerns, but I don't agree with your analysis. We have been fed a lot of misinformation about the situation in Zimbabwe, and about Mugabe.

It is our responsibility as bloggers to find out the truth, and share it.

One point that was raised, though, was that he needs to groom a successor because, even if he does not retire, he will eventually die, and what will happen to the country then? His death could result in chaos.

But he is still in power because the people of Zimbabwe keep electing him - that was made very clear in the discussion.

lento msu student said...

i am a development studies student at the midlands state university in zimbabwe.i would love to humbly correct you sir.mugabe wasnt elected by the people a fact which mugabe knows.in 2008 mugabe was beaten cleanly and i ges you know that but he inturn used violence and harrasment aganist the people he claims to love..as of the land reform ,that was a noble idea but implemented horribly wrong,dnt blame sanctions for the looting of state resorces by mugabe and his officials.mugabe inherited a country which was described by julius nyerere as the the jewel of africa ,but now look at its state.with all the diamonds,platinum,gold and other minerals in this country jus ask urself why this country is in this state.dont justify a wrong.lets call a spade ,a spade sir

Zhana21 said...

Thanks for your comment, but I think you have missed the point. Zimbabwe's problems began when the country was invaded and occupied by the British and continued afterwards. A lot of the problems that have occurred under the Mugabe regime were caused by Britain not honouring its obligations. Western powers then capitalised on the resulting crisis.

Anonymous said...

I am a level 2;2 development studies student at Midlands State University. I personally believe that a true definition of a leader and a real man amongst man is defined by their ability to take risks and stand for THAT which they truly believe in. Post Colonial era in Zimbabwe meant a new definition of Zimbabwe symbolic of black supremacy AND THIS WAS NOT GOING TO COME IN A SILVER PLATE IT NEEDED MEN AND WOMEN OF COURAGE TO TAKE SUCH A BOLD STEP of total liberation and independence from the colonial regime. One of these men is His excellency President Robert Mugabe .I salute him for his courage and boldness I believe things have to get tough before they can get easy .Road to the complete liberation and independence of Zimbabwe is still underway and these tough times are only temporary .Still a work in progress WATCH THE SPACE ....Mugabe a hero.