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Robert Mugabe: The Hero and the Tyrant

Tributes have begun pouring in from dignitaries across the globe following the death of Zimbabwean longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe. The Pan-Africanist was declared dead on Friday September 6, in a hospital in Singapore. Mugabe’s relatives told the BBC he died after battling with ill heath since April 2019.

A Fearless Pan-Africanist

Condolence messages have been streaming in from heads of other countries such as Kenya, South Africa Democratic Republic of Congo and China.
Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, described Robert Mugabe as “an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interest of the African continent.”

As a sign of respect for the late first Post-independence leader of Zimbabwe, President Kenyatta said Kenya will, from Saturday September 7 to Monday September 9, mourn Mugabe. He also ordered his country’s flag be flown at half-mast in all public buildings and military barracks until the end the of the two-day-long mourning exercise.

Robert Mugabe the pan-Africanist
Mugabe: Hero or tyrant? Credits: Aljazeera

In neighboring South Africa, the government of Cyril Romaphosa projected Mugabe as a “fearless Pan-Africanist liberation fighter.” The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, in a statement called him the epitome of “the ‘new African’ — who having shrugged off the colonial yoke, would strive to ensure his country took its rightful place amongst the community of nations.”

The incumbent President of Zimbabwe said his predecessor’s demise was a huge loss, not only to the country, but to the continent at large.

“It is with utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Comrade Robert Mugabe. 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 the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,”

President Mnangagwa said on Twitter.

Reconciliation at death

Despite political differences with Mugabe, Nelson Chamisa, leader of opposition Movement for Democratic party, acknowledged the deceased leader contributed enormously to the development of the African country.

“During his leadership there were many positives and many negatives, there are gains and pains, what is important is to forget the pains and learn from them but also look at the gains and build upon them. Chamisa averred. Clearly there are omissions and commissions, a lot of omissions that have resulted and we need to reflect on those and never make those mistakes,”

Nelson Chamisa

As the Funeral program of the anti-colonial patriarch is still being awaited, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry revealed on Friday that it was holding talks with Zimbabwe’s embassy to the country, on how the remains of the nonagenarian will be conveyed back home for burial.

The question as to where the former statesman will be buried remains a puzzle, given that he had rejected to be inhumed at the Horoes Acre (a cemetery on a hill in Hahare, where icons are buried). Weeks back, the Zimbabwe Independent reported that Mugabe had firmly instructed his family not to burry him at the Horoes Acre. Ebonigram cannot say with certainty if Mugabe’s relatives will repect his will.

However, critics argue he should be laid to rest at the National Heroes’ cemetery owing to his outstanding contributions in the decolonization and economic development of Zimbabwe.

Who was Robert Mugabe?

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
Predident R. G. Mugabe credits: Daily Telegraph

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924 in Rhodesia — now Zimbabwe. He was known to be a good orator, especially given his training as a teacher. Before rising to prominence, he, like Nelson Mandela, was jailed by the British colonial leaders in 1964, after being convicted of sedition. He was considered a thorn in their flesh, owing to his stringent opposition to British rule of the then Rhodesia. While in prison, he was chosen as the leader of the ZANU-PF party which he co-founded.

After his release in 1974, he intensified the fight against colonial rule in the country. His anti-colonial campaign saw him become Zimbabwe’s first Prime Minister in 1980, and President in 1987, under the new constitution.
In 1992, President Robert Mugabe was devastated by the death of his first wife Sally. But, it only took four years till he married his second wife Grace Marufu, who many considered the real commander in chief of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe began a stiff land-grab campaign in 2000, which saw the seizure of lands belonging to white minority Zimbabweans, in favour of blacks.

There was outrage in the country when Robert Mugabe won a controversial presidential election in 2002, marred by fraud. This led to tensions and the country witnessed a spate of violence. But the tensions grew even stronger when he launched “Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish)” in 2005, which forced about 700,000 urban residents from their homes. It was meant to be a punishment to citizens who opposed his rule and supported the opposition.

Final Years of Robert Mugabe

Given his stiff rule, many tagged him a dictator. His genuineness in power was put to question in 2008, when his opponent, the late Morgan Tsvangirai, led in the presidential election, but withdrew from partaking in the run-off, owing to mounting violence.

Under Mugabe’s rule, the economy plummeted, as he put the country into so much debt, leading international financial bodies such as the IMF to suspend granting loans to Zimbabwe.

In 2017, the army rose up against their boss, demanding he stepped down. Mugabe was placed under house arrest, and the army seized power. He was ousted in a military coup, after he was forced to resign or face impeachment. Mugabe’s sacked Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, succeeded his 37-year reign over Zimbabwe. He was the oldest serving president in the world at the age of 93.

Robert Mugabe died on September 6, 2019 in Singapore, after an illness.

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