Speaker, in 1988, when the hon Malema whose hero the late Robert Mugabe is, was but six years old, I travelled to Harare to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at a concert featuring many international luminaries. Little did I know, at that very time, that Mugabe's Fifth Brigade henchmen were busy indiscriminately massacring 20,O00 of his Matabele compatriots.
The Fifth Brigade was different from all other Zimbabwean army units; it was directly subordinate to the Prime Minister's office, and not integrated into the army command structures or normal structures. They conducted
public executions in Matabeleland. Victims were often forced to dig their own graves in front of family and fellow villagers. I had no idea that this man who fought an illegitimate racist regime, and laid solid foundations in the nation's education was also laying the basis of a corrupt and venal state.
The fame reference by Tacitus to Rome's enemies is apposite here, he said:
These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by their devastations, are rifling the ocean stimulated by avarice to ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
But, peace it is not. Under the jackboot of oppression; under the guise of anticolonialism; under the figleaf that covered theft, and fostered undeserving elites, all courtesy of Mugabe's whim and fiat spanning some 39 uninterrupted years, Zimbabweans now live in fear. This is the textbook definition of tyranny, and as Aeschylus said, whose words Mugabe would have recognized being a
scholar of some significance: "a tyrants trust dishonours those who earn it." And yes, the worst kind of tyrant is often the one who once was the victim.
Mugabe suffered, he fought, and he helped deliver freedom to the people of Rhodesia. But to his opponents he was a tyrant who imposed a National Socialist regime, governed by a central committee and a politburo that brooked no dissent. To his supporters, he was a revolutionary, an anti- imperialist hero. He was an embodiment of 20th century African nationalism, but the cold lens of history shows he ruled over Zimbabwe for nearly four decades and left a legacy dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.
He provides the textbook example of the perils many national liberation movements have visited on people hungry for dignity and a shared humanity, that binds instead of destroying, that builds instead of sowing the seeds of discord and deprivation. This is no time for mealy-mouthed condolences.
If Mugabe's death is to be remembered, let it be a beacon that warns against the path he trod, and that others appear destined to follow, the madness of rampant status control, the fostering of rank seeking elites, the dispossession of private property, the perils of profligacy, tit for tat racism, and the impoverishment of nation, a desert in the making that some have the temerity to call peace.
The only peace that exists in Mugabe's legacy is propped up by fear, and fed by hunger. The descent into the morass of failure was relentless for a country that used to be the jewel in Africa, to be carefully preserved as former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, architect of another parched landscape, advised Mugabe. With a prosperous agricultural sector and a manufacturing industry contributing 25% to GDP, Zimbabwe inherited a relatively modern economy which, despite being rooted in the supremacy of the white settlers, was among the most advanced in the region.
Almost 40 years later, the only jewels left are those made from the country's rich diamonds fields, and traded
in Antwerp via undisclosed deals at the expense of Zimbabweans. Ordinary Zimbabweans subsist on informal activities such as petty trade and artisanal mining, on shrinking incomes and acute cash crisis shaking the banking sector, with millions facing food and nutrition insecurity, a veritable desert. This is the shameful legacy of Robert Gabriel Mugabe. At his inauguration he said: "Tomorrow we shall cease to be men and women of the past and become men and women of the future". The events that have prevailed in Zimbabwe since then have made a complete mockery of his speech.
Today, the messiahs have turned into persecutors, outdoing the colonial regimes they ousted. So, as we consider the life of Mugabe, let's heed the warnings his life has provided. It's time to say, thus far and no further. Why? Because some appear to be cut from the same cloth as their erstwhile hero, and it is incumbent therefore on us to ring out the warnings from the Latin phrase, latet anguis in herba, beware, there are snakes in the grass. I thank you. [Applause.]