The documentary Mugabe: Villain or Hero? was shown recently as part of the African Odysseys strand at BFI London South Bank.
Mugabe: Villain or Hero? examines the current situation in Zimbabwe. If you have heard or read about Robert Mugabe in the Western media, you may be very surprised at what you learn from this film.
The film documents the history of Zimbabwe from independence to the present day. The making of the film is a story within the story.
The director, Ghanaian Roy Agyeman, travelled to Zimbabwe on the promise of being given access to Robert Mugabe within three months. It turned out to be more like three years.
Over the course of that time, Agyeman interviewed Zimbabweans and experienced life in the country during a period of economic instability and hyper-inflation caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the West. At one point, people could only withdraw 5 million per day from the bank, while a taxi journey cost twice that.
Robert Mugabe had been elected on the basis of his promise to redistribute Zimbabwe’s land. As with other former colonies, such as Kenya, white settlers occupy the best, most fertile land in Zimbabwe. Black people – the majority population – struggle to survive on a much smaller percentage of land.
The film also covered aspects of history of which I was not aware:
In 1979, Mugabe was pressured into signing the Lancaster Agreement, which required him to wait 10 years before redistributing the land. He was photographed with world leaders including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and with celebrities including Princess Diana. He was knighted by the Queen and was suggested as a possible recipient of a Nobel Prize.
Having waited 10 years, Mugabe was then prevailed upon by other African leaders to wait another five years, until after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison.
As part of the agreement, Britain agreed to provide funds to finance the redistribution of the land. But in 1997, the newly-elected New Labour government under Tony Blair reneged on the deal, claiming that as they were a new party, they had nothing to do with the agreement that had been signed.
Mugabe’s government started redistributing the land. The film states that some atrocities were committed. The white landowners whose land was repossessed were still each offered land amounting to100 times the size of Wembley Stadium.
Such was Mugabe’s distrust of Western journalists and news media that it took three years before he finally granted an interview with Agyeman, who had been following him around for much of the time, filming his activities from a distance.
The interview with Robert Mugabe was very refreshing. It was wonderful to hear him state that the redistribution of Zimbabwean land was “right”. At no point has he backed down from that position.
The discussion afterwards and Q & A with the director, Roy Agyeman, was ably led by Henry Bonsu of Colourful Radio. I interviewed Henry in my book Black SuccessStories.
What this film makes clear is that, as people of my generation are aware, the situation in Zimbabwe is about land. It is a land issue. Younger people may not realise this, though, because of the way Mugabe has been demonised by the press.
It was said that one winds up feeling like the lone voice, as if one were mad, if one’s view diverges from the portrait of Mugabe painted by the Western media, and this very much resonated with me.
As with other issues, the facts have often been distorted and misrepresented. As bloggers, we have a responsibility to uncover the truth and to share it.
As the film pointed out, much of the Western media and many Western governments and financial interests do not want to see Zimbabwe become prosperous. They will do anything they can to undermine Zimbabwe and smear Mugabe’s name. This is because land redistribution also needs to happen in other former colonies, such as Kenya and, of course, South Africa, and foreign powers fear losing their influence and their economic dominance.
With its mineral wealth, Zimbabwe can potentially become one of the strongest economies in Africa, and perhaps the world.
Mugabe: Villain or Hero? is an excellent film which sets the record straight, and you really need to see it. Everyone should see it.
For more about African history, see: Naij: A Film History of Nigeria.
For more about the way the media manipulate us by misrepresenting the facts, see this blog about the Niger Delta.