By Everjoice Win
My grandmother used to describe some folks as, uyu munhu akafa achifamba, the walking dead.
Today this phrase aptly describes you, my President. You are dead. Yet you are still walking.
I had wanted to write a proper obituary after you shuffled off your mortal coil. Today is the perfect day to write this, your political obituary. To be honest, I have written, discarded, rewritten this obit so many times in the last five years, I have even lost so many drafts on various gadgets. You have been dead for quite a while in my opinion. We just had not buried you properly.
Today, November 21st 2017, I can finally bid you a proper farewell. It is right and fitting to lay you to rest. Rest. This is what I have wished for you for a very long time. I watched you doddering on the world stage, holding onto railings, falling in public. I have held my intestines in my hands each time you tried to prove that you still had energy. That you could still walk unaided.
You tried to fool yourself, and all of us. Why this was necessary, only you know. Truth, you looked pathetic, undignified, a foolish old man, in denial about your own mortality, frailty, and political death. This pained me a great deal. Why did nobody in your family care? How come nobody loved you enough to protect you? I mused aloud to myself- also known as Tweeting.
I wanted to protect you from the world’s unkind gaze. I wanted to ask you to sit down, so I could bring you a pair of comfy bedroom slippers, a nice grandpa dressing gown, and put the television remote control in your hands, so you could channel surf to your heart’s content. I had these visions of you laughing your head off at Theresa May doddering on Brexit. I imagined you splitting your ribs watching That Orange Man from the United States’ buffoonery. I imagined you giving advice to Jacob Zuma from the comfort of your couch, or chastising a younger Uhuru Kenyatta.
But you insisted on making a fool of yourself, pretending to be in charge of Zimbabwe and the whole world. You clearly wanted to die on the world stage. Maybe in the UN General Assembly hall, brandishing your finger at one or other of your adversaries? Or was it at the African Union hall in Addis Ababa? You eschewed that comfy couch, preferring to crawl along in public, convincing yourself that you were the only one who could lead Zimbabwe and that you were in control.
Then, they killed you! Bha! Right in front of our very eyes.
On Sunday night, I watched you reading that speech. You had shrunk even in size. Your hair looked dishevelled. You skipped pages, you said. You talked to yourself, a seemingly helpful general lending a hand. Many expected you to pronounce your resignation in front of the Zimbabwe TV cameras. They clearly did not understand you, patriarchal power of the sort you wielded, nor the depth of your self-belief. To me, you actually resigned on Sunday night. I heard you loud and clear. I tweeted, ‘nyoka huru haizvirumi’, (modern translation: “No patriarch ever admits their errors, nor self corrects in public)”. I started preparing for your actual ‘funeral’.
I mourn for you my dear President. My leader.
I have mourned for you, your legacy for a long time now. It did not need to come to this. You did not need to go out in such a blaze of humiliation and outpouring of revulsion from your own people. Most painfully, those who have been around you, who made sure you heard no evil, saw no pothole, who egged you on, are now on the front lines of drawing and quartering you, publicly! One by one, in droves and dozens they have distanced themselves, blaming you, and only you for all the ills bedevilling our country. As if they were innocent victims, powerless doers of your bidding.
It did not need to come to this. Even others within the African continent who never ever attempted a tenth, a mere tenth of the social justice and redistributive agenda you led in Zimbabwe for so many years, now point to you as the by word for bad leadership. Some who would never ever hold up a candle to what you achieved are quick on the mark to call you all manner of names, some getting a lot of undeserved glory. Yet they did close to nothing to change their peoples’ lives.
It saddens me very deeply that some of the most racist, neo-liberal and outright white supremacist leaders and their kind, are today celebrating your “death”. Folks who have no care about my rights or my struggles as a black Zimbabwean woman except when it is convenient for their agenda will try to enjoin me into their messaging. They will try to co-opt my voice and my issues with you, for their own ends. If my television and social media feeds are anything to go by, they are doing very well.
You destroyed your own legacy. You built your legacy up, you stomped on it, one achievement at a time. You destroyed it all by your wonderful self.
The public education which some of us now brandish on the world stage opens doors for us. The public healthcare we so enjoyed. The beautiful affordable housing in our townships so many of our parents proudly called home. The thriving smallholder agriculture sector, yes, smallholder farming by poor black farmers on those horrible soils they were banished to by the colonial regime, but which fed us and sent many of us to school. I lived through all that. I enjoyed all that.
When I heard the national anthem, when I heard you speak in any public space, when you blasted neo-colonialism, and vociferously called out those who still see this continent as their property, my hair stood on end! I shared stories of your and other nationalists’ struggles. I tried to excite them with our liberation songs. But my president, you clearly did not want any of that. While I was trying to protect your legacy and share it, you did your best to bury it yourself. I gave up trying to speak to my children. I stopped making it my responsibility to defend you, because you clearly did not want to be defended.
I mourn for all the accolades I could have been paying you today, tomorrow, and the days to come. I mourn for your legacy that shall forever remain besmirched by your own hand. It pains me greatly that you are now being compared to Ian Smith.
Some will call me stupid. I will be called all manner of swear words on social media platforms in the days to come. Some in my civil society circles will wonder if I have lost my marbles. While the others will immediately say, I was always a member of the central intelligence. But this is not about me. This is about you. My president.
I refuse to talk about all the ‘extras’, (the other people who have surrounded you), in my love-hate-relationship with you. Those were your choices, which you now need to live with. As you shuffle off into oblivion. Reviled. Cast out even by your own party and comrades, I will hold a one woman wake. I will reflect on what you meant, what you could have meant, and what you have come to mean.
Rest now, my president. My leader. You are the proverbial hen that ate its own eggs. I am sad.
Everjoice Win is a Zimbabwean feminist and activist. This article was originally published by HuffPost South Africa.