The Sunday Mail
Albert Mugabe Jnr, son of President Mugabe’s step-brother, was raised by the President in a way any biological father would raise his own child. Growing up in the shadow of such a global icon after the tragic death of his father Albert Snr when he was only four, the new family offered him an access to a front row seat of national and international developments.
From there, Albert Mugabe Jnr observed and learned from a man who today is revered the world over as a great freedom fighter and revolutionary.
Today, Albert Mugabe Jnr is engaged in extensive research tracing the origins of the family and has uncovered a raft of fascinating information around this.
Our Senior Reporters Kuda Bwititi and Lincoln Towindo sat with Albert Mugabe Jnr who spoke about the Gushungo clan and his life with the President among other subjects.
He also gave an insight into previously unknown traits of the President. We publish excerpts of that conversation. Read on:
When we were growing up, President Mugabe wanted us to understand that, for example, (the) Mugabes do not begin and end with the few that carry that name. He wanted us to know that there is Matibiri, Karigamombe and all those are really one and the same.
The nomenclature we use today is an adopted system which has left a lot of our traditional structures in disarray.
When we take your surname and try to trace your foundations, you might be surprised that the line stops abruptly after three generations. But does that mean the person from the third generation had no father?
Now, as people, we give each other names and surnames, which is not how we existed before that.
So, in doing that you find the names Karigamombe, Mugabe and Matibiri are actually one and the same, we all come from one line, but now we exist with three different surnames.
It also goes beyond that because there is also ana Chidhakwa and all these are actually one. The net has really broadened.
But what President Mugabe was actually trying to do is currently not cemented in our generation.
Vakuru vedu kumhuri vagara vanozivana, they know who is who.
But the younger generation, my generation and those below me, know very little.
Knowing how intimately we are related is very central to him that is why we started that family tree and it’s an ongoing exercise, you can appreciate how difficult it is. It is a work in progress.
But he never picks one family over the other because everyone has always been equal in his eyes. In that way he has united the family, by bringing in the different components of the family to sit together and discuss family issues as a family.
That is one thing that we will be forever grateful for; that as a family he has found a way of bringing the varying ideas and personalities to actually work as one.
And it is amazing given that the family keeps on getting broader and wider.
The Zvimba chieftainship oscillates essentially between two families, and these two families previously didn’t see eye-to-eye but now they can actually sit at a table and agree or even agree to disagree without throttling each other.
It is all thanks to his leadership within the family and how he handles disagreements.
As a family we lost exclusivity to him and then secondly as vanhu verudzi rwekwaGushungo we lost exclusivity to him as well.
We lost exclusivity to him as a nation and ultimately as Africans, that is how far it has gone. He is now a global figure.
My earliest memory of him is when I was still very young. My biological father died when I was four, so for me he is the only father I have ever known.
From such an early age I have never felt I lacked a Baba.
Even though I had to realise that he was “ours” and not “mine”, I realised that he made me feel as if I was his and his alone and I guess that is part of his character.
Knowing full well the demands of his office, then as Prime Minister, I never had a scenario whereby I could not access him when I needed to.
And I want to differentiate between needed to and wanted to, you want to but you may not need to.
He always made sure that time for family was always available no matter what.
If there was anything that I needed at school he provided … again, what I needed not what I wanted.
People are generally amazed at how I was never spoiled and yet I was the President’s child.
How could that be? Surely as the President’s child, people thought, I should have whatever I wanted, but he made sure I got what I needed and not necessarily what I wanted.
He was never forceful but always firm.
During those days kwanga kuine ma “punky” – that hairstyle similar to the modern day Mohawk – I would get that haircut and people would wonder why the Prime Minister would allow his child to have such a hairstyle.
But his focus was always about what is inside and not what is outside.
He was instilling these principles in us, even when we were very young, that is how he was. I remember one of the toys he brought me was a tractor – an orange tractor.
Now that I am an adult I try to figure which company manufactures orange tractors – it is not a Massey-Ferguson, not a John Deere and it is not a Bain New Holland.
But ironically I am a farmer now, in fact, farming is actually my primary activity and I don’t know if this is because of that little orange tractor.
I remember it clearly; everywhere I went I took that little tractor with me.
I developed a passion for farming. Taiyenda kumusha every holiday tichinorima nemombe.
And that dichotomy of existing in both the affluence of Group A schools and the reality of our people in the rural areas has greatly shaped the person that I am today and influenced my understanding of where we are and where we are going, but more importantly where we need to be.
As I said he is the only father I ever knew so ndaitoti “Daddy”.
It was much later that I realised that he was not my biological father and I don’t think he ever actually wanted me to know that.
Part of his obligations as a Head of State was to travel a lot but he would call from wherever he was.
He could be in a different time zone but around my bed time he would call just to find out if I was all right and he would ask about my school work as well.
We would chat and he would tell me about the different places he would be and he would tell me about the people there and the people he would have met and their culture and heritage.
But the important thing is no matter where he was in the world he would want to know kuti mhuri irisei.
That is sort of the caring man he is.
Perhaps that is the side of his life that very few people experience or even realise exists. Vazukuru vedu ava – ana Leo, Robert and Patrick – they were all brought up by him in pretty much the same way we all were.
People know him as a teacher and everyone is strong on education but from a family point of view what people don’t know is that he schooled all his siblings. Sabina, Bridget, Albert Snr and Regina – were all put through school by him.
And we are not talking school yekuti kutangira at some later stage, but he started from scratch.
Vapedza ivava he then sent vana – isusu – to school.
People see the strides he has made in promoting education in the country but he started all that within his family.