AFRICANGLOBE – As Zimbabweans and their loving neighbors in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region celebrated President Mugabe’s 91st birthday on Feb. 21, it was in fact, every African’s cause for celebration. For those Africans who, from a micro-nationalist point of view, may wrongly feel that day was for Zimbabweans and Zimbabweans alone, we have no problem referring them to the May 2007 edition of the New African magazine with President Mugabe on the cover and a quote that reads, “Our cause is Africa’s cause.”
President Mugabe’s pan-Africanist and internationalist vision makes him connect with Africans at home and abroad.
For Africans and other freedom-loving people to grasp how special it is that President Mugabe last year officially joined the illustrious 90s club, let us momentarily reflect on the comrades lost in their 30s, like Dr. King, Malcolm X, Maurice Bishop, Thomas Sankara and even Alexander Pushkin, the African literary genius, unanimously recognized as the father of Russian literature.
Since President Mugabe has spent a lifetime fighting for the empowerment of the African woman, let us not forget that our sister Lorraine Hansberry was only 34 when she died of cancer in January of 1965.
We then can turn attention to an iconic figure in our history like the literary giant Sterling Brown, who transitioned to the ancestors, just before he could reach this numerical plateau. Mr. Brown passed away at 88.
When Mr. Brown published his first book, “Southern Road,” in 1932, President Mugabe was only 8 years old.
However, while many of his contemporaries focused on the Harlem Renaissance and our lives in the urban centers in the North, Mr. Brown defiantly wrote about our people still residing in the South, still dealing with the political aftershock of chattel slavery.
One of President Mugabe’s best attributes is his loyalty to the poor and dispossessed in not only Zimbabwe but among Africans everywhere.
We remember when the U.S.-E.U. alliance implied the president might have a Swiss bank account, his humble response was, whatever they find, give it to our people in the ghettos of Harlem and elsewhere in the U.S.
There are two quotes on Mr. Brown that would remind Zimbabweans of President Mugabe.
The first is “Propaganda, however legitimate, can speak no louder than the truth”; and, in the 1931 poem, “Strong Men”: “One thing they cannot prohibit / The strong men … coming on / The strong men gittin’ stronger. / Strong men … / Stronger …”
It is now time to turn our attention to this impressive club of Africans who lived into their 90s that President Mugabe belongs to.
We can begin with the immortal Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, who, just like President Mugabe, experienced U.S. imperialism going beyond the call of duty to stop him from traveling the world.
At the age of 83, Dr. DuBois’ passport was confiscated by the U.S. government because of his leadership of the Peace Information Centre and direct ties to the governments in the Soviet Union and China.
One can only imagine the delight of watching President Mugabe and Dr. DuBois exchange notes on why our former colonial and slave masters felt obligated to regulate and control their ability to move around the planet.
Throughout history, one common trend is how influential figures on the world stage are compared to and remembered by their contemporaries.
When President Mugabe is mentioned in the same sentence with Madiba Nelson Mandela, who passed at the age of 95, and Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda, who is also 91, there are two important aspects of Southern African history that should never be ignored.
The first is President Mugabe never responded to political attacks and antagonistic overtures by Madiba in his later years. In 2007, Madiba publicly said President Mugabe should step down “with residual respect and a modicum of dignity.”
In 2008 after the presidential elections, Madiba said, “There was a tragic absence of leadership in Zimbabwe.” Madiba also hobnobbed with the Elders Group, which was financed by the head of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson, who attempted to force their way into Zimbabwe under the guise of a fact finding mission.
On Zimbabwe’s 25th independence anniversary in 2005, Dr. Kaunda received the Royal Order of the Munhumutapa, Zimbabwe’s highest honor, for Zambia’s assistance and solidarity during the Second Chimurenga (revolution). This showed President Mugabe harbors no ill will towards Dr. Kaunda for the bogus imprisonment of Gen. Tongogara and other Zanla Guerrillas, who were falsely accused of assassinating National Chairman of Zanu comrade Herbert Chitepo at the height of the armed struggle.
Because the U.S.-E.U. alliance has always tried to use organized labor as an instrument to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe, Africans would have been delighted to hear A. Phillip Randolph, who lived to be 90 years old, engage President Mugabe concerning the AFL-CIO’s International Labor Solidarity Center becoming a tool of the CIA.
When Mr. Randolph became the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, President Mugabe was a year old.
Mr. Randolph and President Mugabe could have also discussed how the U.S. and Britain gave the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unionists the seed money to start the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) party in the first place.
When President Mugabe returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a few weeks ago, where he assumed leadership of the African Union, the world watched in utter disbelief as the reactionary media outlets in Zimbabwe openly rejoiced after the president tripped on the carpet.
It is a known fact that President Mugabe not only moves extremely gracefully for his age but maintains an extremely rigorous work schedule.
The agility and energy that President Mugabe displays on a regular basis would certainly catch the eye of the pan-Africanist cultural icon Katherine Dunham, who went to join the ancestors at 96 years old.
In the same manner that President Mugabe has fought to defend the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and for the unification and liberation of Africa, Mama Dunham through dance and political expression reminded Africans about their obligation to fight for the self-determination of Haiti.
At the age of 83, Mama Dunham waged a 47-day hunger strike protesting U.S. policy on Haiti.
It was none other than the former president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who begged Mama Dunham to end the strike.
During the Lancaster House negotiations, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was openly impressed with President Mugabe’s intellectual prowess. This makes Africans think of two special historians: Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, who is still alive at 96, and Dr. Chancellor Williams, who made his way to the ancestors at 98.
In 1945, Dr. Ben became the chair of the African Studies Committee and has authored 49 books. He takes a back seat to no scholar on earth concerning the impact of the Nile civilization on world history.
The book written by Dr. Williams, entitled “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race: Between 4500 BC and 2000 AD,” serves as the intellectual blueprint for studying Africa in its antiquity.
Another one of President Mugabe’s unique characteristics is how he effortlessly incurs the wrath of white liberals like Tony Blair, John Kerry and Joe Biden.
When Dr. King and SCLC were at their peak as a powerhouse in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s adviser was Jack Odell, who is still living at 92 years old.
The Kennedys insisted Dr. King disassociate himself from Comrade Odell due to his socialist convictions. Odell was also Rev. Jackson’s adviser on foreign policy during his runs at the U.S. presidency.
As we celebrate President Mugabe’s 91st birthday, we will not overlook this illustrious club of African freedom fighters that he now belongs to.
By: Obi Egbuna Jr.