“Life After Robert,”
21 May 2019
Spread the love
Latest public appearance of former President Robert Mugabe.

Opinion By Kwapi Vengesayi|One day, Zimbabwe moved on from Robert, and into the arms of his former best friend. And why wouldn’t she? He is the one that came to her rescue and pried her from Robert’s arms.

Many people were elated, excited that she had finally been yanked away from her abuser. They said, “Finally, she can be the happy and hopeful Zimbabwe we always knew she could be. With his help and support, she can live to her full potential.”

But many others were sceptical of the new lover. They say birds of a feather flock together, and many could not forget the fact that before the new lover was Robert’s enemy, he was his best friend and biggest defender. He helped enable and cover up Robert’s misdeeds and was complicit in his actions and mistreatment of Zimbabwe. At best, he turned a blind eye and pretended not to notice the abuse, and at worst, he helped instigate and facilitate it.

And so many asked themselves, was this new lover really that different? Had he turned over a new leaf and committed himself to being a better man than his former best friend was? Or was he just a different side of the same coin: not abusive in the same way Robert was, but still undesirable in other ways?


Zimbabwe did have other people who profess their love for her. One man in particular, Nelson, seemed to set himself apart from the rest. He was young and charismatic, but also handicapped by his naivete and hubris. With a little bit of maturity, humility, and tact, perhaps he could have been her man—perhaps with a little growth and experience, he could still be one day.

A Zebra Never Changes Its Stripes

I’ll be the first to admit. I was as excited as most Zimbabweans were when Mugabe was removed from power. It sparked hope and cautious optimism in me. I thought to myself, “Is this the moment we’ve all been clamouring for? Is this the moment Zimbabwe turns that dark corner and returns to her rightful place as the jewel of Africa?”

But my excitement was short-lived because, in spite of a few things changing, the things that matter most did not. The corrupt and inept continue to stay in power, freedom of expression is still treated like a constitutional suggestion and not an obligation, the military and law enforcement apparatus still resort to violence and intimidation to control or squash dissent, and the democratic process is still compromised.

But what did we expect? When Mugabe was gone and the dust had settled, the more observant spectator reached the same conclusion many sceptical media outlets had reached: this “new” government was simply “old wine in a new bottle.” The same people that removed him were the same people that ran and ruined the country alongside him.

The illusion of change can be addictive. Against our better judgement we follow—not blindly— but passively. And you cannot be mad at anyone that has embraced this passivity. When hope, opportunity, and the promise of a prosperous existence have been taken from you, passivity can become the path of least resistance when faced with the prospect of intimidation and violence should you choose to go against the grain.

I still have hope; hope that Zimbabwe will be a country in which people can thrive economically, can voice their opinions freely without fear of persecution, and have the opportunity to live happy, full, and fair lives in Zimbabwe. I’m just not sure if those in power will be the ones to deliver it.

I hope I’m wrong, but the evidence so far states otherwise.

Sincerely, Kwapi Vengesayi

This is an excerpt from Kwapi Vengesayi’s bestseller short read, Her Name Was Zimbabwe: Finding Hope, Strength, and Courage through the Struggle