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The Mugabe in most of us


Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. PHOTO: AFP

This week I have had to deepen my understanding of why Master Jesus had to be angry with (religious)hypocrites of his time. Jesus is introduced to us in the scriptures as a calm, cool and collected teacher, preacher and healer until he encounters hypocrisy and speaks angrily about hypocrites. In the account in Matthew 23, Jesus who for the first time shows that he can lose his cool too, pronounces a series of woes on the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees.

He condemns the Pharisees’ lack of spiritual values, as shown by the arbitrary distinctions they make. For example, they say: “If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is under obligation.” They thus show their moral blindness, for they put more emphasis on the gold of the temple than on the spiritual value of Jehovah’s place of worship. And thus, they “have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice, mercy and faithfulness.”​(v-16-23).
In the same vein, Jesus calls the Pharisees “blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!” (v-24). They strain a gnat from their wine because that insect is ceremonially unclean. Yet, the way they disregard weightier matters of the Law is like swallowing a camel, also a ceremonially unclean animal, only far larger (Leviticus 11:4; 21-24).

It is understood here that Jesus who has discerned the danger of hypocrisy in building a business, a ministry or society has had to speak to the hypocrites as pollutants. In other words, we cannot build broken societies with hypocrites in the mix.


The man with divine authority, Jesus thus pronounces seven woes on hypocrites who are teachers of the law and the Pharisees who could stand in his way of nation and ministry building: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
“You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

“Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’  So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.  Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? That shows how he shuts up his hypocritical opposers, in the circumstances.

This ancient paradigm has again deepened my understanding about the dangers of habouring hypocrites in organizations and indeed nations. I now understand why a former political prisoner and development economist in Singapore, who was imprisoned for 23 years without charge for alleged pro-communist activities, ThypePoh Chia, also notes in a journal on hypocrisy that, “a hypocrite is more dangerous than a dishonest man. A dishonest man deceives and cheats, and a hypocrite betrays and swindles”. No wonder William Shakespeare too sounds spiritual about the monster called hypocrisy when he says, “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.

So, this Mugabe and Zimbabwe affair has shown me that we are hypocritical from the way we have been contextualising and pontificating on the old man’s years as “a teacher, a revolutionary and a tyrant “as Andrew Nornam, a biographer portrays him. I can now understand the saying that, “Everyone wants the truth but no one wants to be honest”, especially in the poorest continent on earth.
Writing about Mugabe is an intricate task but to us outsiders and African brothers, the situation in Zimbabwe is still today what the legend, Fela once called “suffering and smiling” in his country. They are smiling in Zimbabwe today for witnessing the swearing in of a second leader in 37 years in Harare last Friday. Andrew Norman had in 2008 written about how the ‘Jewel of Africa’ has been laid waste- and why. And everyone has seen it even as the name of a Mugabe’s son born in 1963 symbolises the plight of the people till date. When Robert Mugabe’s son was born in 1963, he was named Nhamodzenyika,which in Shona means “suffering country”.That has turned out to be a horrible prophecy as the people are still suffering 54 years after the “suffering country” was born. Even in his lifetime, the iconic Nelson Mandela condemned the deterioration of Zimbabwe under Mugabe who was disgraced out of office last Tuesday. In 2000, Madiba referred to those African leaders who ‘once commanded liberation armies and… despise the very people who put them in power and I think it is a privilege to be there for eternity…Everybody knows well who I am talking about’.

Yes, everybody is saying the people of former Southern Rhodesia have been brutalized, disenfranchised, and starved. And more than Norman, everyone has been writing and talking about all the awful processes at work –and contexualising explanations for Mugabe’s willful destruction of his own country.

Even Mugabe’s Loot in the Mix
During Mugabe’s 37 years in office, the former president is believed to have amassed a huge fortune. Specifically, South Africa’s tabloids are full of sleazy stories about the “immense riches” that Robert Mugabe and his family are alleged to have accumulated over the decades. For instance,the old fox’s 93rd birthday celebrations in February this year were said to have cost more than 1.7 million euros ($2 million), where guests consumed vast quantities of champagne and caviar.

It is not known exactly how much the geriatric former head of state and his family is worth. Estimates put the figure at around 844 million euros. Apart from a 25-bedroom house in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, valued at 8.5 million euros, Mugabe owns a luxury villa in Hong Kong worth more than 4 million euros. It is regarded as one of his wife, Grace’s favorite estates. His most valuable property is Hamilton Palace in Sussex, England, worth more than 40 million euros.


In addition, he allegedly owns more than 15,000 hectares of land in Zimbabwe, including estates that were seized from white farmers. Some of the farms are said to have been converted into private retreats and resorts. Besides, the Mugabe family owns several armored vehicles, including a Mercedes for official occasions, worth 1 million euros, and a Rolls-Royce. They also own expensive jewelry, watches and shares in diamond and other commodities businesses. “The insatiable ‘Gucci Grace’

Mugabe likes to shower his much younger wife, Grace (52), with expensive gifts. Due to her extravagant dress style and love of “bling,” she has become known as Gucci Grace. She is alleged to have sued a Lebanese jeweler after she did not receive a diamond ring worth 1 million euros, which she had ordered for her 20th wedding anniversary. There are more of his children too who were raised in the laps of luxury. This is just to underline the tipping points in the rave of the moment in Africa: Mugabe and his country.The point I would like us to think about is that we should reflect on what the same Jesus told the hypocrites (Matthew 7:5) on the need to remove the logs in our eyes first. Jesus had told his critics: “You hypocrites, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take out of your brother’s eye”.

Here is the thing, there is the Mugabe in most of our leaders here in Africa, in Nigeria, in the church, in our companies, in our organisations and everywhere we go! Let’s examine ourselves: we editors and managing directors of even newspapers who would not allow succession arrangements after about two decades in that office we are no longer adding value to, are the little Mugabes in the media. Pastors who would like to bribe their way (in mega churches) to remain on lucrative beats (pulpits) in the mega cities are Mugabes in the house of God. Men of God who are called but call their wives to be the ultimate deputy and acting Pastors without any divine authority are ‘the Mugabes in Christ’. The military leaders who participated inor grew out of the 1966 coup that overthrew democracy and federalism in Nigeria and have been struggling to be elected into or remain in power in a democratic settingsince 1990s are the Mugabes in our midst who cannot justifiably condemn the husband of Gucci Grace. Senior civil servants who arm-twisted a president to cancel eight-year only tenure for permanent secretaries and directors and their colleagues who keep changing their years of birth and service to remain in office are the Mugabes in public service…
To be continued…

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