Among the eventful occurrences of early-twentieth-century Africa, at a time when both white people and their official policies in the United States hardly thought black bodies might be(come) human beings worthy of respect, justice, and fairness, a child was born in Africa’s Matibiri village at Kutama Mission village, in Jesuit Zvimba Districtin of Southern Rhodesia. February 21, 1924–the date of the birth–was only a decade before Adolf Hitler would become Germany’s Führer. That child was named Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
But it was also four months after British Colonial rule began in Rhodesia.
Born into a momentous era when Great Britain unleashed Christian conquistadors on the continent of Africa, Mugabe grew up as a witness to the terrors of imperialism, the perils of triangular missionization, and the politics of texts–no pun intended.
As a boy would have seen firsthand what brute power felt like. Indeed, Robert had been born to fathom some interesting dynamics in the robberies of racism.
Like several African American boys and young men in the United States, Robert was raised without a father. Mugabe Matibirie, a carpenter, had left for for Rhodesia in search of job; he worked for the Jesuits. That departure marked the last time his family would set eyes on him. He mysteriously disappeared into thin air, never to return.
At age 10 Robert witnessed the death of his elder brother Michael, who had taken water from an insecticide container; he died of poisoning. The Jesuits whose mission space the Mugabe family had resided decided to expel the poor family. Dejected by the death of her son, Robert’s mother, Mona, went into depression.
Returning as an adult to Southern Rhodesia as a teacher, having being away studying in Ghana, making connections with pan-Africanism and Africanists such as Kwame Nkruma, Robert was deeply saddened when he saw the appalling and suffering conditions of his people. Well, since he had determined from Ghana that he was going to be a politician his moment was gradually arriving.
Mugabe led the formation of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (NANU-PF) to resist British colonial rule, defeat imperial rule, and when needed take up arms and defend Zimbabweans. He was arrested and jailed for over ten years by Ian Smith, who had unilaterally declared independence of Rhodesia from Britain. While in prison Mugabe’s only child died, but the government-against-the-people would not allow him travel for the burial.
Mugabe had no fewer than seven academic degrees to his credit— Bachelor of Arts (History and English), University of Fort Hare (1951); Bachelor of Administration (B. Admin), University of South Africa (Unisa); Bachelor of Education (B. Ed), University of South Africa (Unisa); Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) Economics, University of London (External Programme); Bachelor of Law (LLB), University of London (External Programme); Master of Laws (LL. M, University of London (External Programme); and Master of Science (M. Sc.) Economics, University of London (External Programme).
The last two were earned from prison between 1964 and 1975.
In addition, Mugabe held honorary degrees including the following:
Honorary LLD degree from Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria); Honorary LLD degree from Morehouse College (Atlanta, Georgia); Honorary LLD degree from University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe); Honorary LLD degree from St. Augustine’s University (Tanzania); Honorary LLD degree from Lomonosov Moscow State University (Russia); Honorary LLD degree from Solusi University (Zimbabwe); and Honorary D.Litt. degree from Africa University (Zimbabwe).
As a man who cannot but read Mugabe became the darling of western and African institutions. Some showed their administration by the award of honorary degrees. But some institutions that had previously awarded him an honorary degree withdrew them. some of those withdrawn degrees are the following:
Honorary D. Civil Laws degree from University of Mauritius (Mauritius); Honorary D.Com. degree from For Hare University (South Africa); Honorary D. Tech. degree from National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe); Honorary D. Phil (African Heritage and Philosophy) degree from Great Zimbabwe University (Zimbabwe); Honorary LLD degree from University of Edinburgh (1994), which was however revoked in June of 2007; Honorary LLD degree from University of Massachusetts (1986), which was also revoked in June of 2008; Honorary LLD degree from Michigan State University (1990), and was revoked September 12, 2008.
Such were the pains of Mugabe that years later, after he assumed power through massive electoral victory, aspects of his rule and life were totally disappointing. Although he knew what it meant to suffer at the hands of an oppressor, Mugabe allowed himself to drift along with the maddening crave for power sought for power sake. Disguised in the name of protecting the heritage of Afrocentricity and tied to a thwarted liberation doctrine, Mugabe himself lulled himself in the ranks and the statistics of men and women who employ evil to justify additional evil. As Aislinn Laing and Peta Thornycroft termed their phrase, Robert Mugabe emerged from being a “freedom fighter to aged tyrant.”
Dying at 95 Mugabe left the Zimbabwean dream of a better place hanging further than it was before British incursions rained terror on Great Zimbabwe.
Aislinn Laing and Peta Thornycroft, telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/zimbabwe/8336943/Robert-Mugabe-from-freedom-fighter-to-aged-tyrant.html (accessed September 6, 2019).