Zvimba, Zimbabwe – Far from the marching crowds and parliamentarians baying for frail President Robert Mugabe‘s impeachment, lies a rural heartland west of the capital, Harare, where the fate befalling the world’s oldest sitting president is discussed in parables about dignity and legacy.
In Zvimba, Mugabe’s rural homeland, some villagers say the leader’s seniority entitles him to continue ruling, while others have humbly accepted the nation’s call.
Many never imagined Mugabe would be chased out of power, and they call for a dignified exit, rather than what they believe is a callous and hasty attempt to remove him.
Some of Zvimba’s residents are not happy with the impeachment move, which begins on Tuesday.
‘I really, really support him’
Spencer Muparaganda is a 29-year-old poultry farmer from Murombedzi, a village near Kutama where Mugabe was born, and a firm believer in the president. He told Al Jazeera he supports the veteran leader’s refusal to step down.
“I really, really support him, like many of the youths from this area. He is our elder so we have to show him as much respect and support as we can. People may think he has lost his way, but he is a wise man, he knows what he’s doing.
“I hope he’ll find a way to stay in power because there is strong support for him here; if he’s our leader, the people of Zvimba will live well,” he said.
George Chigondo, 60, a war veterans associate for Zvimba district, told Al Jazeera that he accepted Mugabe should step down, but claimed sudden bids to remove him were “not right”.
“When the time comes, he must go and rest in a peaceful manner, but the problem is that there is mistrust between people and they are impatient because they want their turn to have power,” he said.
“If you look at those who are leading the call, they are all disgruntled people and they want to put him in a corner, but they forget where they have come from with President Mugabe. Each person has the right to be looked after in a dignified manner and he must have that.”
A smoothly tarred main road connects one village to another in the sleepy, rural district that was proposed to become Zimbabwe‘s new capital.
Extravagant plans for the construction of a new State House, parliament and an assortment of luxury hotels and villas are currently under government consideration. But they could all be put on hold if Mugabe is sacked.
Even in the bad things, Mugabe thought he was doing it to serve the majority of people - we must remember he did not act alone.
Many across the district, including market women who usually shy away from talking about the sensitive issue, said they were grateful for the improvements Mugabe’s presidency has brought to the farming district.
Edson Chireru, 58, who runs an open-air bicycle repair centre, recalled with fondness the way Zvimba has grown from a cluster of huts dotted across the hills, into a network of little rural hubs with electricity and clinics.
“I used to work for Manica Cycles, but when the fire of ESAP [Economic Structural Adjustment Program from 1990 to 1995] came, the company collapsed and came back home. I didn’t have much, but I was able to restart my life because of the opportunities we have here.
“If the country is saying the president must go, I accept it, but a child does not throw away the parent who raised them just because they are grown up,” he said in Shona.
Ernest Turirekwa, 40, said he had no personal gripe with Mugabe, but claimed the ageing president did not act alone in the abuses he is accused of.
“The current situation in the country is not good, but a leader does not rule alone. When there are programmes to be implemented, he implements them with other people. So even in the bad things, Mugabe thought he was doing it to serve the majority of people – we must remember he did not act alone.
“If the majority wants him to go, then I accept it, that’s majority rule. But those who acted with him can’t stay as rulers while they tell him to go,” said the poultry farmer.
In power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, ZANU-PF and the security services have been the pillars of Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, which is accused of a litany of human rights abuses, stolen elections and mass corruption.
David Coltart, an opposition senator, said he wondered if the same generals who enabled Mugabe to maintain his rule have reformed.
“My concern is now that Robert Mugabe is on his way out, have the generals and ZANU-PF politicians had a change of heart, or is it simply about taking power for themselves and continuing with the same repressive rule?” he told Al Jazeera by phone.
Coltart was also minister of education during a five-year coalition government formed in 2009 after violent elections in 2008, which left close to 200 dead.
“Getting rid of Mugabe doesn’t get rid of the problems this country faces; it’s a whole regime that needs to be gotten rid of, so it’s up to them to turn their backs on the policies of Robert Mugabe,” he said.
Since November 15, Mugabe has been under military quarantine as part of an operation code-named “Operation: Restore Legacy”, overseen by General Constantino Chiwenga.
The army chief and former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was recently appointed interim leader of ZANU-PF, have served the Mugabe administration since 1980, presiding over a range of security operations that have reportedly resulted in the deaths of thousands.
As Mugabe fights to hold onto his legacy, the people of Zvimba will join the country in watching developments unfold.
But even after possible impeachment, Gushungo, as he is known by his totem, will still be given the honour some villagers here think he deserves.
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