When Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe resigned, the African Union Commission said he would be remembered as he would be “remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation”. Mugabe was a bold leader who openly defied colonial powers on high stages with little fear for repercussions but even then, he used a decidedly British accent and impeccable grammar. In spite of speaking out against the West, particularly the British, Mugabe is said to have loved many things British.
Mugabe’s Secret Love for All Things Colonial
A Deep Love for the British
To people like the late journalist Heidi Holland who got to meet him in his home, Mugabe had a deep love for the British. After meeting him, Holland admitted, “And it’s such an irony because beneath this publicly expressed hatred of the British, is a deep love for the British.” Mugabe even admitted his love for the royal family to her.
It was naturally so seeing this is the same man who told ministers who had worn Maoist collars and Hawaiian shirts and camouflage to a cabinet meeting in 1980 that, “If you want to be cabinet ministers, please dress like cabinet ministers.” This meant: dress like the British. Pan-African icons like Jomo Kenyatta, however, switched between suits and leopard skin shoulder wraps and even carried around a flywhisk as Kamuzu Banda of Malawi did. Mandela went as far as wearing casual, Asiatic Batik influenced shirts even on formal occasions.
“I Am Very British”
However, there is no need to take Holland at her word, even Mugabe himself publicly declared his “Britishness” at his sister’s funeral where he said, “I am very British you know, that is why I even measure distance in miles.
Mugabe also had a tendency of maintaining British pageantry in official ceremonies like opening of Parliamentary sessions.
In 2014, in spite of a new Constitution which did not require any of the colonial fanfare, Mugabe stuck to the “traditional rituals” which entailed him arriving at Parliament in a Rolls Royce once used by Lord Soames, the last governor of Rhodesia, “accompanied by 200 soldiers and escorted by 32 mounted policemen dressed in the 1890-style uniform of the British South Africa Police, complete with helmets”.
It was a ridiculously embarrassing show of “Anglophilia” which was at odds with the anti-colonial rhetoric on world stages.
However, in his own defense, Mugabe said the British had, in 1980, claimed he thought like them to which he said, “Goodness me! How can I think like them? I would be a rotten thinker to think like them.”