Former Mugabe confidante Wilf Mbanga sends a bitter, mournful birthday greeting from exile:
Do you remember when you visited me in my humble home at Beatrice Cottages? We listened to Jim Reeves and Elvis and Pat Boone and sang along and laughed together.
You revealed your soul to me, your dreams, your hopes – and I wrote your first biography, introducing you to the world through the syndication of the Argus Group. I introduced you to the ITN reporter Mike Nicholson who first captured you on film for the international media. I was so proud of you. I wanted the whole world to know about you, hear you speak.
Later, you became their darling. I was so proud.
Do you remember when I interviewed you on the eve of the announcement of the independence election results in March 1980? You told me you intended to form a government of national unity – to include everyone. Once again, we made world headlines. Your vision, my story.
And then on the day of the announcement itself. How we laughed together for joy, and you told me your heart had gone “boom, boom” when the registrar-general had announced your landslide victory. How we rejoiced. Independence at last! The birth of Zimbabwe.
Do you remember when I sat in the front row of the press conference you held in 2000 to launch your election campaign? By then you had come to regard me as your enemy, because of my role in launching the Daily News, which was critical of your administration. You would not look at me. I remember the feelings of betrayal, disappointment and sadness that almost choked me.
We did not see each other again after that.
Today, 21 February 2007, is your birthday, Mukoma. When we met thirty-four years ago, I wished you long life, health and happiness. It should not have turned out like this. Zimbabwe was and is worthy of so much more.
It is not too late, Mukoma. You can still do the right thing. The people for whom you were once prepared to suffer so much are still there. They still need freedom. You once loved them enough to give your life to set them free. Can you not find it in your heart one more time to set them free?
More on the autocratic Zimbabwean President’s lavish 83rd birthday celebration (despite his nation’s current state of overwhelming poverty and economic instability) from Michael Wines of the NY Times (via Hilzoy).