Portrait of Mugabe on a wall somewhere in Zimbabwe Credit: AP: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95 the sixth of September 2019.

After hearing this news, my instinctive reflex was to Google his name.

To my dismay, I found that his name is being associated with dictatorship and mainly that.

Some articles in European newspapers even compared him to Hitler.

To be honest, I did not expect less from them.

On social media, I have seen some journalists or fellow Africans sullying his memory or celebrating his death.

I could have been joining the celebration of Mugabe’s death, if I had not taken a different path that led me to question my biased views influenced by what the media wants me to think.

Some years ago, Mugabe was the reincarnation of the evil as the only portrait of him accessible to me was one of a racist dictator, killing his people.

They manipulated the public view through a well-orchestrated distortion of his image. For instance, we will see pictures of him in unfavorable moments:

Sleeping through important meetings, being in clownish poses or making sulfurous declarations.

They painted an image of Mugabe through a western lens as a dictator that lost his mind and we agreed to this illustration.

But do we know who Mugabe really is?

Mugabe of Africa with the clenged fist

Mugabe and Mandela Credit:John Parkin/AP

When I started reading the story of Mugabe, I was shocked to discover that he had a glorious past.

Mugabe fought for the rights of black people in Zimbabwe formerly Rhodesia.

During those years, in Rhodesia, the white minority ruling the country was ensuring the protection of their privileges, at the cost of the black majority.

Mugabe has been in prison several times for defending his people, the longest being for 11 years.

The dream of the white minority was to mimic the model of South Africa but they didn’t account for the fierce resistance of the Zimbabweans.

Their determination led to the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980.

Robert Mugabe played a great role in this achievement.

However, this glorious past is often unreported and unknown by many.

What is amplified and known is his last years of power that have been used and misformed to undermine his legacy.

Yes, the last years were not the most brilliant moments of Mugabe, I will readily concede that. But did he suddenly start “eating white people for breakfast for no reason? Did you know that he used to be the darling of British and was even was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen of 1994.

At that time, he was protecting the white minority land and were hunting the squatters out their property.

What caused the honeymoon to end?

The cause of the rejection of Mugabe by the west

Mugabe and queen Elizabeth Credit: Anwar Hussein—Getty Images 1

Mugabe inherited a country with blatant inequities due to the British colonization that was officially dedicated to helping the “primitive African societies” to develop into modern world states. (source But unofficially a legal way to expropriate the Africans from their properties.

The consequence of the colonization was, that the withe minority controlled the ressources of the entire country.

 In order to compensate this deficiency, Great Britain agreed to support the land reform in Zimbabwe, reform initiated by Mugabe after his election.”All was well, in the best of all worlds”

 In 1997, for unclear reasons, Tony Blair decided to stop supporting the process.The abrupt end of the contract, left president Mugabe in a delicate position and forced him to take” unpopular” decisions.

Here is what he (Mugabe) had to say about the back-pedaling of Tony Blair:

“We did not send away whites. We took away land in accordance with what the British and ourselves had agreed upon, Margaret Thatcher’s government. That commercial land reform programme, land shall be taken from the farmers and be given to the Zimbabweans. So, it was all constitutional.

“If Blair’s England was no longer willing to pay for the land, should we have just folded our hands and said, ‘Oh, Lord Almighty, I pray in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost’?

“Goodness me, no! Blair, Blair, who was he? Just the prime minister of Britain. I’m president of Zimbabwe. So that is why we say ‘OK, it’s your money, keep it. It’s our land, we will take it.’ Balance.”

So, between Toni Blair who broke the promise to solve the problems created by Great Britain, and Mugabe who noticed and reacted accordingly who is to blame?

The IMF has also contributed to asphyxiate the economy of Zimbabwe and the European Union under the cover of human rights, applied targeted sanctions with the hope of bringing Mugabe on his knees.

Why all those attacks? How was he supposed to react?

Make no mistake, he won his “dictator’s star” because instead of turning the other cheek, he opposed resistance.

At various occasions, he spoke up for the interests of Africans without hesitations.

When the France of Sarkozy attacked Lybia, a war that brought the country from the economic pride of Africa to the no-man land we know today, he was the only African president to openly defend Gadhafi.

By refusing to bend backwards, he has signed his death warrant.

Overnight, he has left the category of political genius to join the club of dictators. An online campaign to reshape people’s perception was cleverly constructed.

The truth is, if we based the opinion of a person on a segment of history, we will be surprised that even Jesus could be labeled as violent, if we refer strictly to the episode of the cleansing of the temple.

In order to form an accurate opinion, one should consider the entire story and actions of an individual.

Why we, Africans,should celebrate Mugabe

That the westerners demonize Mugabe is understandable but that Africans follow their path without adding some perspective is unfortunate.

Bob Marley sang:“How long shall they kill our prophets, While we stand aside and look?” Killing does not necessarily mean physical elimination; like in the case of Thomas Sankara or Patrice Lumumba. Tarnish a reputation can also cause many damages.

As long as we base our opinions on the classifications of the western (made in their interests) of who is a dictator or not, who is approachable or not, we will participate in the lynching of our leaders and the celebration of theirs.

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”

 Valery Giscard d’Estaing the former French president who had his presidency punctuated by various scandals, the Diamonds Affair of Bokassa being one them, is still celebrated in Africa. Cote d’Ivoire has a boulevard named after him.

We can still find schools in Africa with names of people we barely know about but who were considered heroes by the settlers.

In the Oxford dictionary, they define a hero as: “A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”. In my eyes, Mugabe certainly met those requirements.

He was a hero, with dark sides for sure nevertheless, he remains an African hero who has spoken up for our rights and fought racial oppression.

We need to emancipate ourselves from “mental slavery” and tell our story.

Rest in power Mugabe.

The reign of buttocks on social networks: like an air of Sara Bartman

Do you know the story of Sara Baartman?

That young South African girl who was displayed in Europe like an animal?

Captured or freely brought to Europe?

The versions differ, but they converge on one essential matter, the life of this woman, has been a succession of gradual sufferings that made her the symbol of scientific racism.

Even in death, which is supposed to be the ultimate deliverance, her misery could not end.

Who was Sara Baartman? How did she get to Europe?

Sara Bartman was a young Khoi- san woman (a mixture of nomadic Khoikhoi herders and San hunters). She was born in 1789 in South Africa, where she spent her life in the service of her masters.

Although her life in South Africa was far from being quiet or peaceful, things took a dramatic turn when Alexander Dunlop, her employer’s friend Hendrik Cesar, saw in her a potential that could be exploited in Europe, and convinced the latter to take her with him to London.

 At the time, the freak shows were a growing attraction in Europe, and Dunlop saw her as the ideal candidate.

In fact, the explorers had already spread, through their writings and stories, a fascination around the “extraordinary” physical attributes of the women of her tribe:

Developed buttock (steatopygia) and hypertrophy of the labia minora (elongated labia).

So much so, that they had gone from myth to obsession.

The two friends made her sign a contract, selling her a life of a star.

In 1810, when Sara boarded that boat for London, she had no idea that she would become the object of so many voyeuristic fascinations.

She didn’t know that her uniqueness would be scrutinized, analyzed, dissected.

Saraatje didn’t know that the notoriety she was promised would be at her expense.

Sara Baartman, a “Venus Hottentot” in London

Once in London, she performed in various shows, in which she was presented as a circus freak.

She was not naked during her performances, but dressed in light and suggestive ways, leaving little room for the imagination. The advertising posters representing her, highlighted her generous forms and her “hottentots” origins, the derogatory name given to the khoi Khoi by the Dutch settlers. She was called “the Venus of the hottentot” on stage, to accentuate the mockery.

Sara’s performances were popular in England. Was she forced to perform? Was she paid under the terms of the contract? Difficult to say even if it is easy to doubt.

A small glimmer of hope arose when her working conditions were noticed by the African association, which sued her masters/impresarios for exploitation.

While we can be impressed by England’s avant-garde approach to human rights, given that this trial was held in 1810, it must be said that Sara was given two choices:

Either return to her home country and be a slave or stay in England to do her shows and be at the mercy of her managers.

She probably thought she was choosing the lesser of two evils.

On the stand Sara admitted to consent. According to her, her conditions were fine except for the lack of warm clothes. So she then remained in Europe.

What if she wanted to stay in England and have a revisited contract? Or build a life as a free woman? Sadly she didn’t have these options.

Sara Bartman’s resistance against scientists

Her shows in England grew unpopular as time went by, so she found herself in France, where she fell into the nets of Reaux, an animal trainer. Once again, she was exhibited for her anatomy, again under even harsher conditions than in England.

To make matters worse, she crossed paths with scientists Georges Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-. Hilaire, as they were in search of guinea pigs to support their racist theories.

For them, this woman “hottentot” was a scientific manna, which they were eager to take advantage of. They were hoping to see this famous “hottentot apron”, the name given by Europeans to Khoi san women’s genitals, because of the lengthening of their labias.  When they thought they could have access to her body and use it as they pleased, Sara refused to give-in to their unhealthy curiosity. She categorically refused their request to reveal her private parts. They even tried to convince her, by offering her money, but nothing worked, she remained firm on her decision. Which left them wanting more.

Sara’s remains stained with scientific racism at the hands of Georges Cuvier

Torn apart by her living conditions, unfortunate cocktail of spirit, prostitution, abuse, and broken dreams, Sara’s star faded away in Paris in 1815.

For every human being, the journey to the afterlife means the end of suffering on earth, but for Sara this was not the case.

Her death was a godsend for the scientist Cuvier, who now had the freedom to continue his research without having to undergo her protests.

After dissecting her body, the father of comparative anatomy wrote her a eulogy, which earned its rightful place in the records of scientific racism.

This report entitled « Extract of observations made on the body of a woman known in Paris and London as Venus Hottentot. » although despicable as it was, it is only a reflection of that era.

Dehumanizing the other even if it means using shortcuts, arbitrary and confusing classifications.

Contrary to what is read everywhere, Cuvier did not describe Saraatje as a missing link since he was not an evolutionist, but he did no better. He finds in her similarities with primates.

In his report( )the reading of which has left me with a heavy heart, the young woman is described in a simian way.  « Her movements had something sudden and erratic that were reminiscent of those of a monkey. »

 Her physical features did not escape the subjective judgment of the scientist « The most repugnant thing about our Bushman was her physiognomy.. (…) I have never seen a human head more like apes than hers …. »

The scientific prosecutor Cuvier pronounces his sentences :« they were no exception to this cruel law which seems to have condemned these races with depressed and compressed skulls to a never ending inferiority. »

After a perilous exercise supported by craniometry, he took the opportunity to say that blacks could not be at the origin of Egyptian civilization (supreme blasphemy!) as the Scottish explorer James Bruce stated « What is already clear is that neither these Gallas nor these Bushmen, nor any race of Negroes, gave birth to the famous people who established civilization in ancient Egypt, and from which one can say that the whole world has inherited the principles of law, science, and perhaps even religion… »

Even if he recognizes her intelligence. She spoke three languages and had a good visual memory.

The renowned professor will remain faithful to the racist dogmas conveyed

The danger is that these words from scientists were considered as gospel words and distilled in public opinion.

They were even taken up in later years by other researchers brought up on scientific racism and written in textbooks.

This passage was not Sara’s last suffering. Her remains were exhibited as a war trophy at the Musée de l’homme in Paris. until 2002, when she was finally returned to her native land.

Sara Baartman in the age of social media

Nowadays steatopygia still fascinates, it is no longer the distinctive trait of the “bushmen” but extends to all regions, all cultures around the world.

It even generates income, so the less fortunate do not hesitate to resort to surgical interventions or miraculous creams.

Freaks shows have moved from the real world to the virtual world.

In this world, it is difficult to distinguish the real from the fake,the free from the oppressed, as the illusion and the pretending is the norm.

If Sara Baartman had been on social media, we would have been there with our gravely comments, shared her photos, participated in her public dissection, as we do today for many women, who believe they are free but who are in fact prisoners of their buttocks and the role we want them to play. A role they think they can capitalize on, but one that goes far beyond them.

What if we were cautious not to be accomplices of the Cuvier, Reaux, Dunlop and many others lurking in the shadows?

Rest in Peace Sara Baartman and may the world learn from the sufferings that were inflicted on you.