Mugabe is big news. He sells. And some of us have made a living writing about him. Thirty-four years is no joke. But sometimes, I wonder how we, journalists, think.
Why do we expect a 90-year-old to be in perfect health even if he claims to be? How many 90-year-olds did you see in your neighbourhood today going to work, or maybe tendering their garden, or simply just lazing around?
For a moment, forget that we are talking about Robert Mugabe, who has been at the helm of the country for 34 years and has seen it decline from the pride of Africa to a pariah state. Just look at him as your 90-year-old father, or grandfather, uncle or neighbour.
How would you feel seeing your 90-year-old grandfather making a coherent 90-minute speech, or running up the stairs of an airplane without any help? How would you feel if your 90-year-old uncle could fly from Singapore to Harare and then rest for a few hours before jumping off again to Johannesburg to attend a state event?
It is something that everyone ought to be proud of but that does not mean that the grand-old man is in perfect health. And it is surprising that the world expects this. After all even if we went back to Mugabe, he too is only human.
We should not be surprised at all that he is going to have a cataract, or cancer, operation. We should be surprised that at 90 he can still see. We should not be surprised that he is now walking with a wobble. We should be surprised that he can walk, unaided, at all.
But what should worry us all is that at 90, he is still going to work. He should be resting at home, with his wife. Of course grand-children have been late in coming, but they will soon be there. But more importantly, Mugabe is among the last crop of nationalist leaders still alive, who should be writing the country’s history as they saw it.
He promised to write his memoirs almost 20 years ago, but I still haven’t read the book if he finished it. Zimbabwe’s history continues to be written by outsiders, very few of whom had personal experience of what it was to live in Rhodesia, what it was to be detained, who killed Samuel Parirenyatwa, how did Leopold Takawira die, how did Herbert Chitepo die, what really happened to Edson Sithole, and Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, Alfred Nikita Mangena, what really sparked Gukurahundi, was there an alternative to the land jambanja.
Mugabe has been actively involved in Zimbabwean nationalist politics for the past 54 years and has seen it all. He is a granary of information because he was at very senior level first as information and publicity secretary, then as secretary general and finally as party leader.
Yes, he might tell us a one-sided story, his side, but that is better than nothing. It can provoke others to write their own sides. But who will do it when one-by-one they are dying. Enos Nkala promised to write his version of history. If he did, please let me know so that I can buy the book.
At least Joshua Nkomo wrote his version. Edgar Tekere wrote his version. Ndabaningi Sithole wrote something years back but not after the trouble in ZANU-PF which saw him deposed. I could be wrong, if he did, let me know. His brother Masipula was a prolific writer but he too is gone.
Maybe Aenias Chigwedere can do something, but nothing would beat something coming from Mugabe himself. But time is running out, and whether we like it or not, his memory could also be fading. What a waste it would be if he were to go without writing his memoirs!