Zimbabwe: Mugabe goes, but not his song

Mugabe at the graduation ceremony post-coup

One of the final things Robert Mugabe did last week as Zimbabwe’s president was attend a graduation ceremony where he bizarrely sang the country’s national anthem as if no coup had happened.

What no reports pointed out was that the song was his anthem.

Zimbabwe used to have God Bless Africa as its anthem – the great liberation tune that became world famous during South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and is better known as Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

But, in 1994, Mugabe decided it was time for a change, to instead have a song that could help create the Zimbabwe he wanted. He held a contest and Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe was the winnner.

What’s it like? A boring hymn, unfortunately!

But one thing stands out about it today: the final verse. “Oh God, we beseech Thee to bless Zimbabwe,” it goes. “May leaders be exemplary / Let the nation…be lifted high.”

Mugabe clearly didn’t follow that call. Here’s hoping whoever leads the country next does.

Although some clearly want a change:

An anthemic coup

Has a national anthem ever kickstarted a coup; soldiers singing it for inspiration before jumping into their tanks, as if to say, “This is what we’re doing it for, boys”?

Honestly, I haven’t the faintest idea! But Turkey’s did play a little part in inspiring people to go out on the streets last week to counter the coup against Tayyip Erdoğan, going by posts like this on Twitter:

Turkey coup tweet

Why does Turkey’s anthem, The Independence March, mean so much to people that they would think of it in the middle of a crisis?

Partly, it’s because they can’t escape it – its words are hung in every schoolroom – but it’s also because its lyrics have an intensity you just can’t forget. It’s all about the country’s flag, but features people talking to it as it were a person. “Why the anger? Why the rage?” they ask it at one point, calling on it to smile upon the country instead.

Here are the opening two verses, the ones people sing, to give you a proper feel:

Fear not! For the crimson banner that proudly ripples in this glorious dawn, shall not fade
Until the last fiery hearth that is ablaze in my homeland is extinguished
For the flag is the star of my people, and it will forever shine
It is mine, and solely belongs to my valiant nation

Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent
Smile upon my heroic nation. Why the anger? Why the rage?
Our blood that we shed for you shall not be worthy otherwise
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping nation

This is only the most recent example of Turkey’s anthem playing a part in the country’s politics. In the last election, it bizarrely formed a major part of campaigning. I fully expect Erdoğan to start playing it everywhere soon. After all, he needs to stoke nationalism right now to bolster support for his crackdown on opposition.