Robert Mugabe has been the president of Zimbabwe for 26 years, and even at 89, he’s still kicking. But now a controversy over a fashion line inspired by the country’s leader has arisen.
The House of Gushungo has two lines of clothing that was inspired by Robert Mugabe. One features his “R G Mugabe” signature sweeping across t-shirts, hats, umbrellas, jackets and more. The other is a line called “1924,” which is the year Mugabe was born. It was released just last month in time for his 89th birthday.
Yedu Nesu is the company that controls the House of Gushungo label. Its chief executive is Justin Matenda, who said that Mugabe originally gave his blessing and go ahead when the brand first launched.
“The president does not want to make money,” Matenda said. He says that the understanding was that once profits began coming in, some of those funds would be designated to humanitarian causes.
But Mugabe’s political party, Zanu-PF, wants to control the brand. “It’s an intellectual property which we have to maintain,” a spokesperson told BBC. “We have allowed every Jack and Jill to do what they like about the whole thing. We want to control it to make sure whoever is going to use it will have to pay something. So we are going to restrict it as a party.”
Zanu-PF is working to obtain a patent on Mugabe’s signature, which would mean financial sanctions against the House of Gushungo and profits for the party. Some see the move as a way to secure younger voters in the next election, a tactic that rivals call a “desperate attempt” that won’t work.
For Yedu Nesu, the brand isn’t about political sway—it’s about remembering an iconic Zimbabwean leader.
“We know President Mugabe’s story, we know who he is,” said designer Saint Mahaka. “And those who resonate with his story and what he stands for—there is something only for the older guys but for the young guys as well.”
“We are just there to propel his identity, to maintain his legacy,” said Matenda.