Tinashe Mufute ’09 Discusses the Crisis in His Native Zimbabwe

March 4, 2008

Tinashe MufuteRobert Mugabe came to power in 1980, a hero of the guerilla war that won his new country of Zimbabwe independence from white rule. For politics major Tinashe Mufute ‘09, Mugabe was “my Dr. King, my Gandhi, my Nelson Mandela.”

In a recent talk at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, however, Mufute recounted how the freedom Mugabe promised was an illusion and the man “we loved so much would be the cause of pain for my family and all of Zimbabwe.”

After winning its independence, Zimbabwe was welcomed by the international community as “a beacon of democracy in Africa,” Mufute said. Its agriculture helped feed the region, whites were embraced as fellow citizens by the black-led government, and the country enjoyed a sense of purpose and optimism.

Mufute’s parents worked in the new government, along with his aunt, who had fought in the war for liberation while she was pregnant. It was a proud part of Mufute family lore that Mugabe took Tinashe in his arms as a baby during a rally in 1988. Tinashe’s father attended state dinners, and the prime minister attended family weddings.

But the promise of democracy vanished as Mugabe seized greater power. Accounts of brutality and corruption began coming to light, and life became dangerous for white Zimbabweans and anyone who publicly disagreed with Mugabe. Eventually, white farmers were forced violently from their land, and the agriculture and economy failed. Millions of people are starving in Zimbabwe today.

“To live in Zimbabwe is to live in fear,” Mufute said.

Mufute and his parents joined the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, putting themselves at risk of beatings and worse by the thugs who enforce Mugabe’s ban on dissidence.

Tinashe himself was beaten after he donned an MDC t-shirt at his boarding school, and he and his friends blew the whistles that are a symbol of the opposition party. Attackers put bars of soap in socks and beat the students in the middle of the night.

Mufute was 14 years old when his parents brought him to New York to live with his brother. He enrolled at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark and then Saint Anselm. His parents now live in Fairfax, Va.

To read more about Tinashe Mufute ‘09 click here.


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