It is not an easy poem; but it's factual.
'nor that sadistic men be excused' ... this line at the end is where the poem says it doesn't condone Mugabe's actions.
That Mugabe had a choice is pointed out when it compares Mandela and Mugabe and the different roads they chose to take. And right now the world is seeing (quite graphically) the results - one is a dictator, the other a peacemaker. Right there is the choice each man made.
The poem to me isn't a poem in favour of Mugabe but it is in favour of laying out on the table the whole picture; the facts and liabilities.
'The native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise. We
must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians
of Southern Africa... I personally prefer land to niggers.'
Cecil Rhodes (1887)
It's easy to call Mugabe a demon,
ignoring the fools who fouled it up before.
Bob wasn't spawned from Beelzebub's semen;
the tiny baby Bona Mugabe bore
was once a crying, watching, wriggling human,
a struggling life, no less, no worse, no more.
To call him monstrous fails to face the fact
that caring's a counter-intuitive act.
Mugabe was a quiet, dutiful child
who helped his mother when his father left,
a little boy, he labored hard and piled
books in his bag and loved their sombre heft.
Never considered reckless, mean or wild,
never caught in mischief for a fight or theft,
he played his tennis, tailed the priest,
dove into studies, kept his trousers creased...
Bob was a baby in 1924.
25 years before, his mum had seen
Sir Cecil Rhodes exclude the African poor
from power to grab the country's gold and green.
Just five percent of the country wielded more
than 95% of votes -- obscene! --
but settlers thought that this percent was fine
as recently as 1979.
The 1940s brought more settler whites,
thousands of farmers keen to cash in on crops
Bob, having education in his sights,
trained as a teacher, staying clear of cops,
and taught in Ghana studying African rights
admiring Nkruma, making lecture stops.
In 1960, with Sally his wife,
he started to live a hard political life.
Arrested in 1964 he spent
ten years in prison for subversive words.
The empire's policy NIBMAR ripped the rent
between Rhodesians and the Crown XX;
Prime Minister Smith's swift telegram went
to Harold Wilson: a verbal gift of turds.
The Unilateral Declaration came
and kept four million African citizens lame.
Mugabe labored in his cell to gain
a Bachelor and a Master of Laws by mail.
He did this enduring the bitter chain
when his little toddler died, kept in jail
denied the funeral rites. Pleas were in vain
when Sally, in Britain, had her visa fail.
The Foreign Office welcomed Ian Smith's kin;
Only at protests did it keep Sally in.
Nelson Mandela, after twenty seven years,
emerged from prison smiling, a force for Peace,
loved partly, perhaps, because a civilian fears
that decades of waiting for a just release
would make you bitter, crazy or dissolve in tears.
How could you keep on smiling, loving, when
your life was crushed to serve the means of men?
Mugabe's freedom steeled mistrust of Peace;
he favoured militance to secure the prize.
Militance suited Smith as well; Police
chopped, agents poisoned wells, his spies
put anthrax in the market bread -- caprice
stained lakes with sickness spreading through the land
malice put all oppostion into the sand.
The point, in case you think I am confused,
is not that whites are all to blame for crime;
nor that sadistic men should be excused.
The point is men are made by place and time;
Mugabe's land and he himself were long abused,
scorned and denied in toxic, racist slime.
The gurhakundi, autogolpe came
from playing a common human game.