British playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked that “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”, and this is aptly captured in the latest efforts to have a public holiday declared in honour of President Robert Mugabe’s birthday.
Such sycophantic methods of honouring leaders in power have been suggested before across the world and instead of bringing loyalty and respect, they have brought about scorn and contempt.
What this will only serve is to portray Mugabe as an eccentric strongman in the mould of oddball leaders such as the late leader of Turkmenistan.
The late Turkmenistan leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, established a personality cult that Mugabe’s supporters clearly now want to foist on the Zimbabwean leader.
The Turkmenistan leader renamed months and days in the calendar after himself and his family, while his statues were erected throughout the country, with schools, cities an airport and a meteorite all given his name.
We are not saying Mugabe and his supporters will go this far, but after the setting down of a public holiday in his honour, what is there to stop them from naming other landmarks and facets of Zimbabwean life after the President?
In his seminal publication, Animal Farm, George Orwell could as well have been writing about Zimbabwe, particularly where he points out that a “gun would be fired every year on Napoleon’s birthday”.
As with that symbolic sycophantic gesture, Zimbabwe could be treading a treacherous road, where the leader’s birthday is elevated into a public holiday, just so the campaigners for this day could curry favour with the President.
Any discerning Zimbabwean should be quick to notice the latest moves to have February 21 declared a national holiday are not sincere, but are being used in a crass point-scoring game in Zanu PF’s succession matrix.
The clear idea is that the most fawning of the lot would be nearer to the President and hopefully a step nearer to succeeding him.
However, as alluded to, Zimbabwean history, which the leaders never seem to learn from, is replete with incidents where people bent over backwards to bootlick Mugabe, only to be spat out of the party.
Only recently, former Information minister Webster Shamu, who said Mugabe was like Cremora, a coffee creamer, was kicked out of Zanu PF and fawning has not helped him in any way.
This should serve as a warning to the likes of Zanu PF youth boss Pupurai Togarepi and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo that shouting at the top of their voices seeking to earn Mugabe’s favour will not always bring the desired results.
If there is such a desperate need to honour Mugabe, then like all other founding fathers of the struggle and nationalists, there is no need to hurry, as it can be done once he has left power.
This will open a fair and dispassionate debate on how Zimbabwe honours its leaders, rather than the present scenario where showmanship and sycophancy are the order of the day.