My hatred for the Western media is a global secret. I have personally boycotted them for over two decades. I would have maintained my blissful presumption that their flagship cable television has long gone extinct, if it were not for a recent event that had to do with your person.
You may not know but I discovered ‘’fake news’’. I discerned the West’s practice of fact-bending journalism and outed them long before the internet emerged and popularized ‘’fake news’’. This is the real reason they portray me as a buffoon, the humanoid baboon that reduced Zimbabwe from a food basket to a banana republic.
Notwithstanding my aversion for the Western press, some of my aides insisted, even at the risk of their jobs, that I permit them to monitor the enemy channels so they can serve me more useful briefing papers. I demurred at first, but later indulged them: I reckoned them well-meaning, naïve youths who would have to grow up to appreciate that ‘’world news’’ are essentially the neocolonialists’ propaganda.
In hindsight, I think my staffers were right to suggest that good things can come from Western newswires sometimes. Few days ago, those diligent aides highlighted a paragraph in my briefing papers in bright green. Not because my vision has dimmed. But because they said they wanted me to pay particular attention to some information in the colour-shaded part that was certain to interest me.
They were right. I had them read the paragraph to me. And I found it very important. The paragraph summarized a CNN story of your aesthetic pageant in your state. You erected a 6-feet high, life-sized statue of Jacob Zuma, invited him to witness an elaborate ceremony for the unveiling and bestowed on him a chieftaincy title.
I am compelled to advise you that I should have been gifted the statue. I am Jacob’s elder, in age and in power. I am 93 and in my 30th year in office as president. Jacob is only 75 and in his 8th year in office. You shouldn’t have passed me over to immortalize him with a statue.
In Africa, we allocate things according to the abundance of gray hairs. We prioritize the child when sharing trivial things like pieces of meat in the common soup. But in matters as weighty and lasting as erecting statues in the heart of the city, the elder comes first.
You must not construe my concern as a complaint motivated by jealousy. I am actually actuated by a sense of sagely responsibility. I am the most renowned elder statesman in Africa. It is my sacred duty to point out your inadvertent breach of cultural protocol and counsel you to take urgent steps to remedy it.
Part of the exclusive privilege of my ripe age is that I occasionally hear fragments of the discussions of our fathers in the spiritworld. I regret to inform you that those patron saints feel offended that you passed me by in favour of Jacob. They take it personally because I am just a mournful rite away from joining their society.
But I am willing to bend over backwards to accept the honour of a runner up. My intimates compliment me on my uncommon humility. They often wish aloud that the rest of the world had the chance to encounter me in person. They swear that the meekness at the core of my being will move those pilgrims to tears.
So, don’t be amazed, my dear Rochas, that I propose to stoop to accept the honour of a statue after Jacob has had the first taste of the glory.
The honour will cause my shy and self-effacing self a lot of embarrassment. The Western press will give me wall-to-wall caricature coverage for, at least, one whole week. But I am prepared to make the sacrifice of absorbing the scorn. I am eager to fly over seven seas and seven forests to see my modest statue for the sake of redeeming the African elder’s right of first refusal in matters of monuments and memorials.
A part of me believes that you know about the preeminence of the elder in African culture and probably desired to give me my due. But I suspect that you may have been discouraged by the presumed protocol nightmare that my trip and ‘working visit’ would cause you.
Let me quickly relieve you of that treacherous fear: my senility and frailty are exaggerated. I am stronger than the Western press can ever admit.
I still walk unaided. And for caution, I travel with a personal assistant who carries my portable, special wheelchair. My virtuous wife, Grace (the most solicitous first lady on the continent) is always by my side. She will be available to push the wheelchair in case gravity pulls my legs.
I am told that some of your countrymen and South Africans insinuated that you built the statue for Jacob in acknowledgement of his fabled record as the African president with the longest list of corruption charges.
If capacity for corruption informed your choice of Jacob, I am a more deserving candidate for the honour of a statue. Jacob’s corruption cannot hold a candle to mine. I am associated with uncountable corruption charges compared to his 783 charges.
I have tarried in power for so long that my formidable aura, on its own, destroyed all the public institutions that would have investigated or kept count of my acts of corruption. I am a modest man. So, I will not exalt myself unduly by asking you to imagine how much corruption I have possibly packed in the 30 years of my one-man rulership of Zimbabwe if Jacob managed to cram his short 8 years tenure with 783 misdeeds.
My aides told me one state governor built a 20-feet statue for one of your country’s greatest leaders. But the followers of the late legend disavowed the figure and said the sculpture was an excrescence shaped by mistaken identity. The generous governor was rewarded with censure instead of praise.
I guarantee that my ever-loyal ZANU-PF supporters would not speak ill of the statue you shall make for me. They will not reward your benevolence with bitter criticism.
Whether you build me the statue of a seated Mugabe, a squatting Mugabe, or a prostrate Mugabe, I shall love it. Whether it bears the closest resemblance to my features or the farthest similitude to my evolutionary forebears, I shall celebrate it. Whether the statue is gold, silver or bronze, I shall delight myself in its sight for it shall validate my significance. The honour from a distant land will establish that I am a prophet of Biblical stature.
I am also told that Jacob’s xenophobic profile may have endeared him to you. I boast a more sterling record. I am a humane xenophobe. While his people kill Nigerians, I evicted only whites from my country.
I am a true African. I am guided by the spirit of black brotherhood. I am hospitable to my fellow black brethren.
I am glad that you told the taxpayers in your state that you cannot descend to apologize to them for building Jacob a statue at their expense. I am sure you will give them the same reply if they chide you for building an idol after my image and likeness.
Written by Comrade Robert Mugabe
President of the Republic of Zimbabwe