With the death of the immediate-past Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe at 95 years, another chapter in the book on the history of (political) liberation and racial reconciliation has been closed.
Mugabe died early yesterday morning in a Singapore hospital where he’d been receiving medical attention regarding an undisclosed illness. This comes nearly six years after another liberation hero, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, also died at 95 years from “a prolonged respiratory infection” in a South African hospital on December 5, 2013.
Mandela was the first President of South Africa to be elected in a universal suffrage, democratic election, to become the country’s first ‘black’ Head of State and Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This ended the segregationist apartheid government in South Africa.
But, to ‘get there,’ Mandela had to spend 27 years of his early life in jail for spearheading the political and armed struggle against the apartheid monolith in efforts to entrench egalitarianism in South Africa.
Virtually the same thing can be said for Mugabe (1924-2019). Except that he wasn’t the first ‘black’ President of the former British colony, ‘(Southern) Rhodesia.’
When the country secured (political) independence from Britain on April 18, 1980, Mr Mugabe became prime minister, with the Methodist Reverend Canaan Banana (1931-2003) becoming a titular president. This was until December 31, 1987 when Canaan Banana stepped down, and was replaced by Mugabe as Executive President... Only to be unceremoniously ousted from the highest Office in the land thirty years later.
In the event, Emerson Munangagwa (1942–) became the third president on November 24, 2017.
As president, Mr Mugabe started out relatively well in the interests of the country and its people. That was the good part of his rule.
The bad and the ugly parts came later. Clearly, what was much more than a fly in the ointment was the National Land Policy enshrined in the 1992 Land Acquisition Act. This empowered the ‘Mugabe Government’ to acquire land as it saw fit – albeit against some financial compensation.
The rest is a history of internecine exchanges between government authorities and big farmers – mostly Whites – as well as between the Mugabe government and its development partners, including its former colonial master Britain.
In due course, Zimbabwe under Mugabe sank to the lowest of the lowly within the comity of nations – and there was little that he could do to reverse its misfortunes...
After being ousted from power on November 21, 2017, Mugabe spent much of his time alone and lonely – or in a Singapore hospital where, finally the godess of Fate Atropos caught up with him yesterday morning.
“Comrade Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Mugabe’s successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, tweeted early yesterday.
Whether or not President Mugabe was a tyrant or a hero is debatable. But, for our part, we can only pray that – tyrant, villain or hero – may his soul rest in peace, even as democracy flourishes.