Unashamedly, I feel saddened and, yes, elated every time I remember my meeting with Africa’s Che Guevara, one Captain Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso.
The slim, tallish and dark-skinned soldier looked less than an ordinary who had just gotten off a chicken bus, fancying his chances for the long walk home in a remote rural area.
But, here he was, with a pistol on his hip, Sankara was in fatigues and was among world leaders in three-piece suits at the then glittery Harare Sheraton (now renamed Rainbow Towers Hotel) who were gathered for the Non-Aligned Movement held in Zimbabwe in September 1986.
Sankara looked ordinary but, except for Muammar Gaddafi who had just survived a US bombing, courtesy of US President Ronald Reagan, he attracted more attention from the media than Yasser Arafat.
Sankara’s charisma lay in his genuine ordinariness; for him, there was glory in simplicity.
But Sankara was not an ordinary man; he was full of extra-ordinary ideas and attracted international attention.
But on 15 October 1987, Sankara’s friend, Blaise Compaor├®, staged a coup d’├®tat and killed his former colleague, riddling his body with more than a dozen shots.
The brutality of military coups is known worldwide…from the Americas, to Asia, to Europe and Africa.
We have, over the years, witnessed unnecessary executions of presidents and heads of state during military take-overs. Those who were murdered in this manner, like Thomas Sankara was, would be buried in unidentified, shallow graves to, maybe, discourage creating a focal point of possible resistance.
It remains unclear why Compaor├® allegedly had to have Sankara’s bullet-riddled body dismembered. But the sadistic killing of an overthrown president or Head of State remains an all too familiar aftermath of a military coup.
“I never thought him whom I had nurtured and brought into government and whose life I worked so hard in prison to save as he was threatened with hanging that one day he would be the man who would turn against me,” said Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, about now president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Former colleagues turning on each other has happened many many times before. In most of those cases, the incumbent is killed on the spot just as happens to the unsuccessful coup leader. It is not a game of either sentimentality nor apologies but one of precision, little trust and speed.
A country can be stolen just as easily as a wallet and we can testify as to what muggers do when they find no money on you.
Some leaders are given plenty of time and resources to improve the lives of the citizens who singled them out to lead them, accomplishing little with a lot at their disposal.
Some leaders are given very few resources and very little time but accomplish a lot for their nations and even get killed for their efforts to improve the lives of their people.
Robert Mugabe was given plenty of time to do a lot with enough resources yet did nothing. It still baffles me why he hated his own people as much as he did.
For us, his legacy consists of misery, the killings, the missing millions, vindictiveness, repression, disappearances, oppression, greed, corruption, starving innocent people…
Yes, Robert Mugabe abused his gift of a long life and ill-treated the people who had put their faith in him. God blessed him with good health that could be controlled when it chooses to go astray. He had the stage all to himself and failed to perform.
He had a large following at home and outside our borders, but he took people for morons and abused them. He took the country as his own personal property and ruined it so badly that it will take a long time to recover.
The people cheered when the army rolled their tanks into the capital and took over the country. People were glad to be rid of him; that was quite clear.
But the Zimbabwean soldiers played a new game in the world of coups d’├®tat by practically staging a coup with the help of the very person they were overthrowing.
Almost five months after he was kicked out of office, Mugabe chose to tell the world that he was overthrown and demanded a return to constitutionality, this after he had shown a willingness to support a new political party sympathetic to him.
He expressed shock that “a young boy” (Mnangagwa) he alleges to have saved from the hangman replaced him as president but outside the dictates of the constitution.
What struck me about Mr. Mugabe’s press conference is his arrogance and his belief that he still has something to offer the nation and the people of Zimbabwe.
Supporting a political party of his choice is his right although he denied it to millions of Zimbabweans. He can participate in politics of any kind, if he so wishes, but for him to think or believe that he is still relevant to the country and has anything to offer the people he abused for more than 37 years is wishful thinking.
Mr. Mugabe should tout his service to the nation, for better or worse, and take his rest to enjoy the extravagant pension meted out to him to reduce the din of resistance against the coup.
But all in all, Mr. Mugabe should be thankful to the people of Zimbabwe. He should show contrition to them for having put up with him for this long. He should thank the Almighty for gifting him with a long life, the later part of which he spent terrorizing God’s people.
There are times that Mr. Mugabe has to sober up and be thankful for all that happened and all that did not happen to him.
He could start by thanking Mnangagwa and the military for sparing his life, for we know how coup plotters always aim at killing the person they are overthrowing.
He could thank those who overthrew him for letting him keep everything he acquired but, if a lifestyle audit could be taken, whose origin cannot be explained.
Yes, Mr. Mugabe, there are times to be thankful and, for you, that time is now. The people of Zimbabwe are waiting to hear you expressing your thanks to them, not demanding your pension in cash; not demanding a return to constitutionality (we know what you mean by that); not to continue dreaming about coming back to power, if that’s what you meant by saying: “We must undo this disgrace, which we have imposed on ourselves. We don’t deserve it.”
And, I see that you still refer to yourself as “we”.
Some things never change, even after a coup d’├®tat.