RAFAL (Royals & Friends Action Line)
As the electoral fever is spreading across Mauritius, we believe this is the right time to talk about Ramnarain Subrun’s book* “Living in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe”, especially his reflections on economic efficiency, power politics and how power can trigger ‘madness’ in the mind of some people!
For seven years, from 1983 to 1989, Ramnarain Subrun lived in Zimbabwe with his family and taught English and Economics at the Masvingo Barracks Secondary School. During all those years he was closely associated with Zimbabweans of all colours and from all walks of life and, together with his family, he enjoyed a marvellous time in what was then a wonderful country. He also travelled extensively in southern Africa, often with his wife and their three kids, and met with some memorable adventures along the way, notably with wild animals.
In 2007 Subrun decided to start writing about his Zimbabwean experience and, consequently, in December 2008 a relatively short account entitled “A Leap into Africa” ** was published in Australia where Subrun was on vacation.
Following the forced departure of Robert Mugabe from power after a 37-year long reign (as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017), Subrun decided to write a longer version about life in that country, with a deeper insight into its politics and economics. In this new book, Subrun explains succinctly how a country that was once called the ‘breadbasket of Africa’ moved from multicultural harmony and prosperity to dismal poverty and anarchy. He wonders if something like that can happen here, in Mauritius.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the freedom fighter who had previously fought valiantly for the independence of his country (then known as Southern Rhodesia), got so intoxicated with all the power placed in his hands that, with time, he insidiously metamorphosed into a vile, blood-thirsty tyrant. Finally, in 2017, he was booted out of his cherished post! Mugabe, the poor boy who became President of his country, was 95 years old when he died in September 2019.
At first Subrun was very much impressed by Mugabe and he wrote (page 234): “I always watched with avidity Mugabe’s press conferences, broadcast live on television. He gave the indubitable impression that he was a totally different brand of African leader. He had far reaching knowledge; he desired his country to develop first…. I definitely thought highly of him because none of his actions indicated in any way that he would veer so drastically in the not so far future.”
According to Subrun, the forced removal of Mugabe from the Presidency should serve as a warning to dictators or dictators in the making. Regarding Zimbabweans, Subrun writes (p.235) : “they are a race apart. Their docility is exemplary. It has manifested itself in a pronounced manner during the tyrannical reign of Mugabe when he suddenly became intolerant….The cruel despot ordered his sycophants to murder indiscriminately the docile people who opposed his government. Many were deliberately killed, still they did not start a civil war.” And Subrun says with a note of sadness (p.236): “My mind often travels to Masvingo, remembering my interaction with the Zimbabwean youngsters whom I had selflessly helped and encouraged in their education. I think about the hardships that they must undoubtedly be encountering amidst economic disintegration, unemployment and food shortages.”
At several points in his book, Subrun gives his impression of life in Zimbabwe when he was staying there as compared to life in Mauritius at that time. As a matter of fact he writes (page 33): “Although I am very critical of Mugabe’s incompetence and his hunger for power, I cannot forget the near famine condition in which Mauritius had been reduced by our grand political masters of the late seventies. In addition, the cancerous favouritism and nepotism that had prevailed, forced our discouraged youngsters into self-imposed exile.” We must point out that nepotism and tikopinaz still flourish in Mauritius, notwithstanding which political group is at the helm….
Regarding politicians, Subrun writes (page 33): “all politicians are prone to corruption, the more powerful the more corrupt. Hence it is a necessity that politicians and government should be renewed at short intervals to avoid degenerative abuses.” Apparently someone had suggested that “a lie detector should be utilized to test how truthful a politician is before any authority or power is conferred upon him.” We must agree that this is not a bad idea at all!
As a concluding remark in the postface, Ramnarain Subrun writes: “This book shall also serve as a reminder to those unscrupulous politicians who heedlessly dilapidate the wealth of a country…. It is unacceptable that irresponsible politicians just dish out favours and other gratuitous generosity for the purposes of only buying votes to stay in power.”
This seems to be the case in Paradise Island whenever it is election time!
* Ramnarain Subrun: “Living in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe” – Published by Preciprint Co Ltd, August 2019
** Ramnarain Subrun: “A Leap into Africa” – Published by Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd, 2008