It may come as a surprise to some that there was a time in Zimbabwe's history when Robert Mugabe was considered quite the heroic figure in continental Africa, after rising to prominence in the 1960s as a Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) leader in guerrilla warfare against white-minority rule in then Rhodesia. For his actions, he spent more than a decade in prison in the 1960s and '70s.
But in recent times, some have questioned the iron-fisted octogenarian's sanity, as he's ruled a government that could effectively be defined as a kleptocracy, ridden with violence against opponents, deadly disease, sky-high rates of unemployment and inflation, as many in the country have found themselves on the brink of starvation, while Mugabe's wife makes insensitive comments like, "I have very narrow feet, so I wear only Ferragamo."
All that said, many let out a quiet cheer when Mugabe sought to rewrite the country's constitution to allow his government to confiscate white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers without compensation, expropriating thousands of white-owned farms.
The act was of course denounced as racism against Zimbabwe's white minority. But Mugabe and his supporters saw it as a retaliation against white European imperialism, calling his white critics "born again colonialists;" and, again, some of us cheered. It wasn't in support of Mugabe's overall record, but rather support for the rights of the nation's indigenous people to ownership of what is essentially their property.
Thousands of white farmers were told to leave their farmlands, with those refusing to comply, facing consequences, as Mugabe continued to insist that this "land redistribution" would continue, calling for the few remaining white farmers who failed to heed the previous call, to vacate their properties.
It was inevitable that Mugabe's story would become fodder for films fiction and non-fiction, and we've covered a few of them over the years.
Here's one that we haven't written about yet. Titled Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, here's its description:
British filmmaker Roy Agyemang was in Zimbabwe attempting to make a documentary on President Robert Mugabe at a time when all western media was banned. What intended to be a three-month mission, turned into three life-changing years. Roy and his UK based Zimbabwean fixer, Garikayi, worked their way through the corridors of power, probing the cultural, economical and historical factors at the heart of the "Zimbabwean crisis". In their quest to interview Mugabe, Roy and Garikayi were mistaken for the British Secret Service. Roy narrates this personal epic journey; as they gain unprecedented access to Robert Mugabe, find themselves on Colonel Gaddafi's private jet, and around a host of prominent African leaders.
The film gives audiences a much closer look at Mugabe, more than we see on TV news, and read in the papers, the extent of the country's support for him, and also the state of the country itself.
It'll screen at the Maysles Cinemas in New York City on May 6 at 7pm.
For more information, visit the website at: www.mugabevillainorhero.com
Watch the trailer below: