Remembering the Late Cde. Robert Gabriel Mugabe
There comes a time in the lives of man that an individual emerges and defines generations. Every human being is born with certain attributes, some, we accept and some, we will not.
The name Robert Mugabe means different things to different people. Today, as we observe the Robert Mugabe National Youth Day, I shall speak of the Mugabe I worked under, the Mugabe who mentored me and many others, the man who gave us responsibilities, the man who fought for the independence of our country and had a clear desire to see the empowerment of the majority and total control of our national resources. I will speak about a man who was uncompromising on matters of black independence, and in particular, youth empowerment, regardless of what naysayers would say.

President Mugabe was trans generational. He was clear that after independence, the first thing to address was education. True to his word, he made sure that the majority became educated and was unwavering on this stance. He came up with with policies and programs that transformed the education system in Zimbabwe. With clear academics like Dr. Dzingai Mtumbuka, Mai Chitepo, Fay Chung and many others, the Zintec program was launched which produced a dynamic group of Zimbabweans who were on a pathway to allowing the small teacher population to grow in a bid to advance the black education cause.

With a literacy rate of 92%, an undergraduate degree is no longer considered adequate by majority of Zimbabweans, some continue to strive towards higher education thus fulfilling the black education mandate. RGM himself was a proud holder of seven academic degrees and several honorary degrees, which became a benchmark for many Zimbabweans. There is however, a lot to be done with our primary school system in order to see our children, in all provinces, obtaining good results. There should be no compromise on the quality of education given to our children at primary level as this forms the foundation of Zimbabwe’s tomorrow. Work was done to empower the black majority through education but it must not stop now, schools must be well equipped, exam boards transparent, teachers well remunerated and most importantly equal access to schools for all, not in theory, or in line with the Constitution, but in actual practice.

At the last count, Zimbabwe boasts of over 15 universities, whereas before independence, Zimbabwe only had 1 university. Thousands were afforded an opportunity to study at higher education institutions both locally and beyond our borders, thanks to President Mugabe. Equally important are the young electricians emerging out of our polytechnics, the plumbers, computer specialists and others raising the Zimbabwean flag higher than we could have ever imagined during the colonial years. The skills base that has been developed is rare on the continent and Zimbabweans have subsequently emerged as leaders of the pack wherever they go.

The 21st February Movement founders felt it was necessary to inculcate the values and leadership skills President Mugabe displayed. The late Cde Ernest Kadungure along with Cdes Kembo Mohadi and Webster Shamu are the founders of the 21st February Movement. Thousands have participated in the annual activities which the President would attend. It was at these occasions that RGM would speak directly to the young people of the country. Being the teacher he was, his address was an open lecture to a growing nation. The influence was massive and forever implanted in our minds. It was at these celebrations that he would detail the psychomotor skills and the academic was an occasion to call upon the young people to fight poverty and realize the vision.
The National Youth Policy document captures in detail the strategies and programs that should be undertaken to give full effect to their rights entrenched in the constitution. The Zimbabwe Youth Council should rise to the occasion and agitate for youth participation across the board. This is to say, that there is no other way of empowering a nation without first empowering the young people. With this is mind, let the Youth Day be one that reminds us of the importance of a youth-centric leadership, let us be reminded that this empowerment must cut across the political divide and and be implemented with the intentionality it deserves. We cannot continue giving the youth handouts for political votes in return, we must empower them to be able to sustain themselves long after we are gone. It only takes a spark to get a fire going and may the fire associated with the ideals of youth empowerment burn forever.
President Mugabe valued national unity and cohesion. At every turn, he would seek an acceptable solution to any deadlock or conflict. He was not afraid to fight, but at all times believed, unity must come first. President Mugabe was clear on the future of our country and agreeing to the 1987 Unity Accord and The 2009 GNU, spoke volumes on thetype of leader he was, willing to compromise and unite to carry the country forward.

Coal concessions were given to the young people in Hwange, Youth Funds made available, Women Empowerment programs designed, land reform carried out and control of the subsoil assets and surface endowment harnessed. Today, the green shoots are emerging in agriculture. The Zimbabwean farmers are emerging and with amazing innovations taking hold of the sector. I am inspired by young people making strides in all the sectors of the economy, especially agriculture and mining. I cannot name each young agricultural shot caller by name but the young tobacco farmers in Matepatepa, the goat and beef breeders in Matebeleland, the maize famers in Mash West and the young people growing vegetables for daily consumption in their respective areas, I see you, and I respect you, you are living testimonies of the drive to empower the majority as postulated by RGM.

Young artisanal miners, you are not forgotten. Realizing the bottlenecks associated with the mining sector, we urged President Mugabe to decriminalize artisanal mining and this was done. We now need more training centers to prepare our artisanal miners for sustainable mining across the country, we need to protect them from abuse and direct them into being wealth creators and community leaders. He was firm when it came to orderliness and would not destroy systems to create rent seeking opportunities.
His position on the decolonization of Africa was principled. His voice was huge in Africa and his unapologetic nature paved the way for other leaders to demand emancipation from oppressors who only came with a mandate to plunder the riches of Africa. He was not afraid to fight for what he believed in, even if it rendered him unpopular.
Let us continue to empower the youth for they hold the keys to the future. Let us not look back, we are not going that way.