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By Justin Mahlahla

 

I got to learn about him from primary school. He was perhaps the most popular character in the history of Zimbabwe. And he still is. We loved to hear him speak because his discourse of both Shona and English was so eloquent and commanding that word went around the President could deliver a whole speech without mentioning ‘is’. And we grew to admire him for his numerous achievements in Zimbabwe, regionally and internationally.

Sometimes I think that, had the notion of a United States of Africa come up at that time, President Mugabe would no doubt have landed the Presidential post. Such a feat is presently a challenge what with the demonisation by the West and infiltration of other regional revolutionary parties by western machinists. But all the same, the man has done for Zimbabwe what he could have done for the continent.

 

It is therefore no surprise that in Zimbabwe a movement was set up in 1986 to inculcate the wholesome leadership qualities of President Mugabe among Zimbabwe’s young people. Code-named The 21st February Movement, its major aim is to teach Zimbabwean children to emulate the selfless life of the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe.

 

The event has since become an important event in the annals of the country’s history.

 

After having looked at Cde Mugabe’s selfless nature, simplicity, love, humility and sacrifice, the movement recognised that it was necessary to create a vehicle that would continue with the legacy linked to the revolutionary icon.

 

With the major aim being to ensure that President Mugabe’s legacy is perpetuated throughout history among Zimbabwe’s children, the movement’s Secretary for Youth in Zanu-PF, Cde Absolom Sikhosana, says it is important to understand that the 21st February Movement is apolitical as President Mugabe is the leader of all Zimbabweans and a father of all Zimbabwean children.

 

He explained that the movement is a vehicle established to unite the youths of the country and to get them to appreciate the illustrious life of President Mugabe as well as perpetuate his legacy.

 

President Mugabe’s legacy is one decorated by visible, tangible and practical achievements in almost every sphere of life. He has, since independence, worked tirelessly to ensure that every Zimbabwean gets an education. The country now boasts of more than ten universities from just one at independence. Several high schools and primary schools were built by President Mugabe’s government since 1980. He has even earned himself several accolades in recognition of his achievements.

 

The President has always believed in affordable education for the youths of the country.

Presently, he is working on a computerisation campaign where schools, especially in the rural areas, are receiving computers through his initiative.

 

Under President Mugabe, the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, considered one of the worst in the world, was almost cut in half from 1997 to 2007, when it went from 29 percent of the population to 16 percent. The rate currently stands at a record 14.26%. The Head of State and Government is on record as castigating immoral sexual behavior that includes rape, polygamy and other forms of abuse.

 

In 2000, Zanu PF under President Mugabe embarked on a land reclamation exercise that sought to address land imbalances emanating from a colonial racist system that gave a mere 4 000 whites more than 70% of the arable land, depriving the black majority of land in their own country.

 

Today, thousands of indigenous families have been resettled on fertile lands, marking the return of Zimbabwe to its former glory days when it was the bread basket of Africa. Such visionary leadership has been crucial in restoring the dignity of black people in the country and as evidenced by the ever-rising agricultural standards on reclaimed farms, Zimbabwe is once again rising to be a shining star regionally and abroad.

 

While the issue of empowerment has brought insults upon the Zimbabwean leader from almost all corners, President Mugabe has remained determined to see his people reclaiming their heritage and place in their country. He has always believed that Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and that they should not be second-class citizens in their own land.

 

It is through such teachings that Zimbabweans, especially youths, have risen up to claim leadership posts in big organisations locally, regionally and internationally, with the latest feat being the eclipsing of Tunisia by Zimbabwe to become the number one literate nation on the continent.

 

Incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, known more for his robotics knowledge than politics, is a product of President Mugabe’s education campaigns and assistance since independence in 1980. Many business people, including the late Peter Pamire, flamboyant Philip Chiyangwa, Mighty Movies boss Supa Mandiwanzira, Mutumwa Mawere and a host of other known and unknown entrepreneurs are a product of the President’s call for the empowerment of the black man.

 

It is only appropriate that this year’s 21st February Celebrations are running under the theme, ‘Youths for Indigenisation and Empowerment.’ Youths have suddenly woken up to the realisation that they cannot wait any longer to be socially, economically and educationally empowered. They have penetrated the mining sector. They are found in agriculture. Youths are running projects – becoming CEOs in fields that were formerly ‘reserved’ for whites.

 

I remember a meeting I had with the Chairman of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board, Cde David Chapfika, regarding the empowerment drive. “We are seeking to reverse the complexes created by the whites that made blacks to believe that they were not humans,” he said.

 

He added, “I am happy that President Mugabe assigned me to lead this Board because I have that passion to see blacks becoming their own masters.”

 

Indeed, blacks in Zimbabwe have succeeded in setting a precedence for self rule and empowerment that, if followed across the continent, could turn around what decades of mental, political and economic suppression had created. Today, we believe in ourselves because our President has told us to. The jinx has been broken. What we could not previously do because we did not have enough guts and because the oppressive system of colonialism inhibited us, today we can do to perfection because we now know we can be whoever we want to be.

 

Zimbabweans have become so bold as to venture into business partnerships with whites from all over the world. They have created multi-national businesses in areas of specialisation that were formerly white-dominated – hotels, tourism, transport, information communication technology, farming, business consultancy, construction, packaging, manufacturing and the lists goes on and on.

 

President Robert Mugabe is indeed a pan-Africanist par excellence. He has stood the test of time. He has successfully fought a war no-one ever dreamt he would win against a repressive system that sought to keep blacks as eternal servants of the white man.

 

The President has successfully managed to instill in youths that crucial sense of self-rule and self-reliance; the youths are more than ever ready to fight on and complete the economic struggle facing the country.

 

His Excellency has unequivocally called for the West to remove its debilitating sanctions on Zimbabwe, offering no apologies in his popular addresses at international gatherings of the United Nations and also SADC summits. He has not gone back on calling a spade a spade, not seeking to hide behind the veil of civilisation and false friendship while his people perish in poverty.

 

Equally encouraging is the fact that many young black men and women of Zimbabwe have been speaking in unison with the President in calling for the evil embargoes to be lifted. It is like a great awakening of the masses who have suddenly realised that sanctions are not as ‘targeted’ as other parties may want to imply.

 

The baton has been passed on to the next generation and although more still needs to be done to ensure every youth is involved in the national cause, President Mugabe can rest assured he has reproduced himself in so many a youth who are equal to the task of black empowerment and economic independence.

 

May God grant him more years of strength and wisdom. May He protect him and grant him good health. May his strength equal his days.

 

I want to believe that as we celebrate the 87th birthday of our dearest President, we also celebrate his ability to shape the destiny of the country and to influence the youths into becoming what God designed for them to be. No success is better than that.

 

Happy 87th birthday President Mugabe! Long live Gushungo!