Tue | Jun 19, 2018

Why focus on Mugabe?

Published:Sunday | September 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Orville Taylor, Contributor

One reason you shouldn't use too much hair dye is that it might seep into your skull and obscure the brain. After all, if we can catch cold through our mole, then president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's, brain is slowly dyeing. Since his apparent early onset dementia when he inexplicably turned on his citizens and destroyed his cricket team, I have stopped taking him seriously.

During my Afrocentric teens, I wanted to visit the southern part of the continent. More so, as young black ex-slaves, it was a fantasy of many of us to go to help liberate the 'downpressed' in the motherland suffering under the white racists. However, since the end of apartheid and the election of a black government, my plans were shelved based on the erratic behaviour of this African 'monarch', whose 32-year grasp on power has been stronger than his hold on good sense.

To the great consternation of Africophile Jamaicans, Mugabe, mixing his easier native Shona with hard dictionary English, reportedly said, "In Jamaica, they have freedom to smoke mbanje (ganja), varume vanogara vakadhakwa (men are always drunk) and universities are full of women."

Unrelenting, this vibrant octogenarian, who bows to none, stands up to any man or woman and uses his tongue as he pleases, continued, "The men want to sing and do not go to colleges vamwe vanobva vamonwa musoro (some are dreadlocked). Let us not go there." Well, he did go there and told the audience at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare that Jamaicans' locks are muddy and infested with moths (duppy bats).


As troublesome as he has been to the White West, he has no antecedents of anti-Jamaican conduct. He was inducted into the Order of Jamaica in 1996 and benefited from civil and government support from the 1970s to 1980s. The transformation of Mugabe into Mr Hyde is particularly painful because he is a hero. Like so many of our true freedom fighters, he knows the inside of prison cells. Joining the company of Mandela and the 'World Boss' - Garvey - he spent a decade locked up by the racist Rhodesian regime between 1964 and 1974.

As president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), he fought alongside the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), headed by Joshua Nkomo. Nonetheless, he was only one of the heroes, because, Nkomo also suffered, Abel Muzorewa was persecuted, and Ndabaningi Sithole did 10 years in prison. In fact, some feel that in terms of his contribution, a Mugabe is smaller than a Sithole.

After elections in 1979, a coup and ouster of the white minority government, Zimbabwe's independence was celebrated in April 1980. The suddenly free nation had a national anthem that was too new to be learned by the average citizen. Thus, an iconic song - written and sung by the 'natty head' Rasta from Trench Town, who smoked copious doses of ganja, never went to university, and who was always behind women - was chanted instead. Zimbabwe, by Bob Marley, is still believed by some to be the national song of Mugabe's country.

No Angel

Mugabe has done many questionable things, including the betrayal of Nkomo, botched land reform, marginalisation of his allies, and alleged cheating in several elections, including the last in 2008. Stories abound about his human-rights violations, but most come from foreign sources. Mugabe is no angel. However, he is a Catholic with a Jesuit education, like his 'skin-sake' Dwight Nelson, Bruce Golding, Ronnie Thwaites, Trevor Munroe, and an annoying Gleaner columnist. This, doubtless, influences his teetotalling habits and patriarchy, since Catholicism still believes that men must lead.

What is wrong with Mugabe's sexist Catholic notion? Indeed, I cannot find even one biblical foundation for female church leadership. I Corinthians 14:34 states, "Let your women keep silence in the churches ... ." Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2:12 reinforces, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

Despite centuries of female leadership, from first capture to the current prime minister, a sizeable number of Jamaicans don't like the idea of lingerie government. And for all the empirical evidence and feminist activism, true gender equality is not something that Jamaican women have consensus on.

In any event, the data prove Mugabe justified. An Indian-Jamaican neighbour and friend often lamented the lack of direction of Jamaican Karpar (black) youth. Worried that his own boys, who were Karpar-Hindustani, would only want to sit around, mine for palm gold, and 'tun wutliss', he would constantly speak of making and saving money and going to school.

Twenty-five years later, his nightmare has come true, because the proportion of males to females who are enrolled in tertiary education in Jamaica is alarming. In 1981, when my first lesson in sociology began at the flagship University of the West Indies the ratio of men in the Faculty of Arts and General Studies (FAGS) was around 1:3, but the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) was male-dominated. Now the absence of males make FSS look more like FAGS. Mugabe 'nah lie'.

Dreadlock love Affair?

At least he is honest, because he speaks his mind and doesn't mind his speech. It is only recently that it stopped being fashionable for the average Jamaican to make disparaging comments about the 'nasty head Rasta' or 'dutty (head) dread'. For Jamaicans today, the aesthetic appeal of dreadlocks has improved simply because it is now a hairstyle, unlike the early 'Ras dem' (please never pluralise Ras in English). Nowadays, there is careful grooming, frequent washing with Babylon products and thousands of 'dreads' use animal-derived fragrances and cosmetics to 'mantain' the locks.

Many of the early wearers of dreadlocks shunned such products. And an evolving sense of ital, using ackee skin and other bush, elicited comments like, "Di man smell like dem tie him wid ram goat rope." Nonetheless, despite the 'cleaned-up' image of the pretty dread, a large number of Jamaicans baulk at the notion of their daughter dating a Rastaman, even if he is Damian Marley, Sizzla, King Shango or my friend, Tony Rebel, were he single.

Notwithstanding the optimism of my brother Garveyite, Ras Miguel Lorne, and the petulance of Ras Astor Black, who has contested more elections than Mugabe has bought dye, Jamaicans don't respect Rastafari to the 'fullment'.

Yet, if we can jump on Mugabe, why do we celebrate South African President Jacob Zuma, who admitted having unprotected consensual sex with an HIV-positive girl, who was his daughter's friend? Furthermore, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan came to our Parliament and disrespected it by wearing his pimp crown like a 1970s American hood.

Zimbabwe vs Jamaica

Feel insulted if we must, but Mugabe's lame gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was US$400 in 2009 but was $500 last year. His economy grew by 5.8 per cent in 2009, 8.1 per cent in 2010 and 9.3 per cent last year. True, Zimbabwe's unemployment is 94 per cent, but unemployment for youth 15 to 24 years is 24 per cent. Ours is 27 per cent.

Indeed, our stronger economy has a GDP per capita of US$9,200, and our debt-to-GDP ratio is 140 per cent, compared to Zimbabwe's 220 per cent. But we have no economic sanctions and blockade. There is no time to focus on Mugabe; his little pot is increasing in size while our mid-size Dutchie is shrinking.

By the way, before linking with the International Monetary Fund in 1990, the Zimbabwean economy was growing constantly and GDP per capita was more than twice what it is now. Ignore Mugabe; watch the government.

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.