Former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe passed on in a Singaporean hospital, his successor, President Emmerson Mnangangwa announced early today, September 6. He was 95 years old.
Mugabe ruled his country for 37 years and was overthrown in a military coup in November 2017.
Mugabe will go down in history as one of the greatest African orators, freedom fighter and liberator. His contribution to the liberation of his country from colonial and white supremacists rule will forever remain in the annuls of history.
Despite his numerous accomplishments and illustrious anti-colonial and political career, Mugabe will, unfortunately, also be remembered as the leader who, in his later years in power, ruined his country’s economy, oppressed his political opponents and pursued policies that divided the country; all combining to sow seeds of economic decay, corruption and cycles of violence.
Evidentially, Mugabe’s initial 20 years in power after kicking out colonialists in 1980 were years of progress for his country. He was adored by his people, Africa and the world for pursuing progressive policies and reconciliation between black and white Zimbabweans.
In return, his country became prosperous and the breadbasket for Southern Africa under these policies.
However, the longer Mugabe stayed in power and experienced political contestations from opposition parties, particularly, from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2000s, the more his government became brutal and violent that, gradually, overturned the success of his earlier policies of pursuing a united, non-racialized, democratic and inclusive state.
His controversial land policy and his supporters’ invasion of farmlands owned by white Zimbabweans after he lost the referendum on constitutional reforms in 2000 and his ruthless attacks on opponents turned the country into a basket case and hasn’t recovered since.
Of course, as any leader, especially a pan-African one interested in doing things his way, Mugabe had enemies and friends.
As we remember him, some of his supporters and admirers will lay blame on Mugabe’s enemies, especially imperialists that sanctioned his government exacerbating economic ruin. His enemies will seek to portray him as a tyrant who killed his opponents and destroyed his country.
In reality however, Mugabe leaves a mixed legacy: the legacy of a freedom fighter and liberator, and that of an iron-fisted autocrat that mimed his opponents and sought to stay in power indefinitely using all means possible.
The greatest lesson to Africa’s leaders then is that policies matter; good or bad, and seeking to eliminate the opposition and stay in power for life undermines national interests.
It’s The Chronicles’ belief that had Robert Mugabe continued to pursue progressive policies; treated his opponents humanely and overcame his thirsty to stay in power endlessly, he would have left a positive uncontested legacy.
So, as we mourn him, let’s learn from his deeds─both the good and the bad; for these are policy choices. Good and pro-people policies bring shared success and national progress. Bad policies bring division and national tragedy.
For Africa’s leaders then, the lesson is: pursue pro-people policies and learn to know when to leave power before it’s too late.
Rest in eternal peace; Comrade Mugabe.