Rarely-seen archive fuels debate on years of Mugabe misrule
Monday 13 June 2011
A new documentary film drawing on rarely-seen archive footage from Zimbabwe, has rekindled a debate about President Robert Mugabe's 30-year descent into misrule.
Simon Bright's 80-minute film, Whatever Happened to Robert Mugabe, premiered in South Africa as his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) used a regional summit in Johannesburg yesterday to disavow unity government Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and push for elections as soon as possible.
Opposition leader Mr Tsvangirai, 59, became Prime Minister in 2009 under an agreement brokered by the South African Development Community to end a deadlock caused by Zanu-PF's dissatisfaction at its poor showing in the 2008 election. Zanu-PF told yesterday's summit that the agreement – which envisaged a range of constitutional and electoral reforms in the run up to free elections – was only for two years and has now expired. Some observers say Mr Mugabe, 87, is ailing and Zanu-PF want him well enough to campaign ahead of the next election.
Mr Bright said his film charts the fatherless, Jesuit-educated Mugabe's journey towards becoming Prime Minister of newly-independent Zimbabwe in 1980. It then looks at how a man who was feted by world leaders, including the Queen, ended up being written off as a pariah.
"I come from an activist family,'' said Mr Bright. "I refused to fight in the Rhodesian army and went to England. So when Mugabe came to power, he was a great hero to me, not least because I was able to return to my country. I joined the Agriculture ministry and later made films which were effectively Zanu propaganda.''
Bright's film includes rarely-seen Zanu-PF election broadcasts, including one that shows a car crashing into another as a warning of how badly things can go wrong if you don't vote for Mugabe's party.
Another memorable scene – presented as Africa taking Britain on a merry dance to majority rule – shows Zambia's music-loving President Kenneth Kaunda waltzing with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the end of the 1979 Commonwealth summit in Lusaka. Mugabe is shown in younger days with his popular first wife, Ghanaian Sally Hayfron, who is considered by many to have been a benign influence until her death in 1992.
Mr Bright said: "The first 15 years [of Mr Mugabe's rule] were a series of magnificent achievements, then towards the end of the 1990s things began to change because Mugabe basically decided to stay in power."
Among those featured in Bright's documentary are Zanu founder Edgar Tekere who died last Tuesday. In his last interview, Mr Tekere said Mr Mugabe was strongly influenced by Sally and that, in her absence, he did not have the strength of character to stand up to liberation war veterans' demands for higher pensions. Their agitation for compensation in 1997 directly led to the occupation of hundreds of commercial farms and the departure of thousands of white Zimbabweans.
But another Mugabe critic, former guerilla leader, Wilfred Mhanda, insisted Mr Mugabe was always determined to hold on to power. Mr Mhanda insists the changing world order and Mr Mugabe's consequent creeping obsolescence in the eyes of the West was the biggest determining factor. "He did not change. Circumstances changed. The world no longer would tolerate his excesses," Mr Mhanda said.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...