As anyone who has bothered to read my bio on this site (so, nobody) will know, I am the owner and operator of a ‘niche’ email provider called Mugabe Mail (accounts are not publicly available).
When people see it for the first time, their reaction is either laughter or asking ‘who’s Mugabe?’ Then, people start to question why I made it. It just started as a joke between mates, building off the terrible pun in the name.
Then, it became genuinely useful, to the point that I recently bothered spending just over £4 renewing my Zimbabwean domain name. Still, it’s hardly your average email provider.
An interesting thing I noted was that a lot of people didn’t believe that they were real email addresses. I would hazard a guess that due to the ubiquity of large free webmail providers such as Gmail and Outlook.com have illustrated the web as being inaccessible on a technical level to normal people.
This is mirrored by the rise of social networking – many who may once have bothered to make a personal website will now just use a blogging service such as Tumblr or WordPress, or even just Facebook or Twitter to express themselves.
I think this level of corporate control is rather sad given that the internet is one of the only truly free places we have left, and running my own email server and cloud storage lets me take control of my own online activity. The irony here is that Mugabe himself would likely agree with this approach, refuting the control of larger powers for the sake of self-sufficiency.
This individual freedom of expression bolsters the free and open nature of the internet. Some might say that the legitimacy of email is destroyed when anyone can create some bullshit provider like Mugabe Mail, but surely email’s legitimacy is derived from its libre nature, the fact that it is not controlled by a corporate or governmental power.
Anyone willing to respect the rules of the internet can become part of it; Mugabe Mail is hosted on a standards-compliant and well behaved server creating no issues for other internet users. It is simply a way to exercise my right to freedom of expression.
A lot of people have some strange impression that creating Mugabe Mail puts me at risk, in some way, of arrest or other harassment by the Zimbabwean authorities. I never understood this, given that I don’t live in Zimbabwe or actually have any personal connections there.
What’s more, I once tried to contact the government of Zimbabwe using a Mugabe Mail address. The message was not delivered due to their email server being set up incorrectly – with this tragically low level of IT capability, I doubt that the government are even aware of Mugabe Mail’s existence.
Obviously, Mugabe Mail can be taken as a political statement. Mugabe himself is a very controversial and charismatic political figure, constant and unwavering in his curious backwardness, much loved despite his many, many shortcomings and human rights abuses.
I am not a supporter of Robert Mugabe – but I find myself acutely aware of the fact that his days are numbered – especially as he is now almost 93 years old. In the same way that North Korea is the last true communist country, and it is special to us in its uniqueness, Mugabe is the last truly great African dictator.
He has remained staunchly anti-colonial to the bitter end, and whilst I condemn his racist and homophobic views, I do have respect for his resoluteness and famous sarcasm.
When asked by Barack Obama to legalise gay marriage in Zimbabwe, he responded “Since president Obama endorses the same-sex marriage … I shall travel to Washington DC, get down on my knee, and ask his hand.”
Of course, I support gay marriage, but I certainly respect that Mugabe is strongly convicted against the entitled, interventionist attitude of the West – even though, as a strong proponent of the African Union, he is absolutely not isolationist.
Opinions of Mugabe himself are varied, but similarly to the Kims of North Korea, Muammar Gaddafi, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Idi Amin, he is viewed in the West with ridicule as a comical tin-pot dictator, although he has the advantage of being somewhat less violent – and therefore less dangerous – than his more authoritarian contemporaries.
This makes him an amusing figure to parody with an email provider. Other more modern and important political leaders simply don’t have the same punch. I wouldn’t be seen dead with a ‘Theresa Mail’ address.
Mugabe’s comical nature also lead me to create a ‘holy book’ dedicated to him – the Mugabible – as part of the same joke as Mugabe Mail. It is unfortunately not quite complete, and unsurprisingly rather inappropriate in nature.
I mention this because there I have never seen literature praising Mugabe from an authentic source. On the other hand, the Kim dynasty churns out all sorts of embellished, absurd literature, religionising themselves as a cult of personality; Mobutu’s cult of personality was so pervasive that he was portrayed on TV descending from the heavens as an angel on a daily basis, and at one point he was the only person allowed to be referred to by name on TV; and Gaddafi published three volumes of the Green Book (his vision for the ideal society), and treated it equally the Qur’an, corrupting Islam in Libya for his own goals.
Mugabe has not felt the need to write his own Mugabible or create a cult of personality around himself in the same way as his peers. It has created itself due to his bizarre charisma and incredible longevity.
The cosmopolitan, modern youth in Zimbabwe’s cities can often be seen wearing clothing branded with Mugabe’s signature. This is an act of choice, unlike for example the Kim Il-sung badge every North Korean is forced to wear.
Many wear the brand ironically, as indeed Mugabe Mail does, but there is still a certain reverence for Mugabe to be found throughout Africa. Similarly, on many African tabloid news sites, you will find lists of quotes attributed to Mugabe.
Most of them are false, but his age, impressive education (he has seven university degrees) and sense of humour have led to the reputation for wisdom that is leveraged by these often hilarious articles. Nobody he is comparable to would never be credited for such articles.
Gaddafi was too serious, funny because you would laugh at him rather than with him. The Kims are much the same, except that they are revered by absolutely nobody.
We find, then, that I chose Robert Mugabe for the email provider because he is a unique figure who has irrevocably changed the face of southern Africa. But, of course, that isn’t true. I made Mugabe Mail because Mugabe himself amused me, and a couple of my friends liked the pun.
This article does not show support for Robert Mugabe’s regime and should not be taken as showing such support.