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Mugabe: Exit of a hero-turned-villain

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[File] Zimbabwe’s former leader, Robert Mugabe. / AFP PHOTO / Phill Magakoe


Zimbabwe’s former leader, Robert Mugabe, has died at the age of 95. He was born on February 21, 1924, in what was then British-ruled Southern Rhodesia.

Between 1940-1950, he was educated at Catholic schools and attended South Africa’s University of Fort Hare. He taught in Zambia and Ghana, where African independence movement leaders influenced him.Mugabe campaigned for Zimbabwe’s independence and was imprisoned in 1964 for political agitation. While incarcerated, he earned two law degrees from the University of London External Programme.

In 1974, he was released from prison. He later escaped to Mozambique, where Zimbabwe African National Union guerrilla fighters elected him to lead their struggle against white minority rule. A number of rivals died in suspicious circumstances, rights groups said.In 1980, Mugabe’s Zanu-PF Party won independent Zimbabwe’s first election. He took office as prime minister on April 18, 1980.

In 1982, Mugabe deployed North Korean-trained troops to crush an insurgency by former guerrillas loyal to his liberation war rival Joshua Nkomo. Government forces were accused of involvement in the killing of 20,000 civilians, which Mugabe denied.Robert Mugabe, former prime minister and president of Zimbabwe, met then-British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher on October 1, 1988.

In 1987, Mugabe became president with sweeping executive powers after changing the constitution and signing a unity pact with Nkomo, who became one of his two deputies.In 1990, Zanu-PF and Mugabe won parliamentary and presidential elections and there was an economic crisis in 1998, which was marked by high interest rates and inflation. This sparked riots.

In 2000, Zimbabweans rejected a new constitution in a referendum. This was Mugabe’s first defeat at the ballot box.
– Thousands of independence war veterans and their allies, backed by the government, seized white-owned farms, saying white settlers illegally appropriated the land.

In 2001, the United States put a financial freeze on Mugabe’s government in response to land seizures, beginning a wave of Western sanctions. Mugabe’s relationship with the West, especially the US and Britain, never recovered.In 2002, he won a disputed presidential vote, which observers condemned as flawed. Zimbabwe was suspended from the British Commonwealth over accusations of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. Mugabe pulled his country from the grouping the following year.

In 2008, hyperinflation reached 500 billion per cent, the nadir of an economic implosion that forced millions of people to leave the country, many to neighbouring South Africa.Mugabe lost a presidential vote but won the run-off after opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, citing violence against his supporters by security forces and war veterans. A power-sharing agreement was signed.

In 2010, media reports said Mugabe was seriously ill with cancer. Speculation continued in following years.In 2013, Mugabe won another disputed presidential vote. Western observers sighted multiple accounts of electoral fraud.In 2016, protesters, led by a pastor, staged the biggest show of defiance against Mugabe in a decade, prompting speculation about life after the veteran leader.Mugabe was forced to resign in November 2017, following an army coup and was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man he had fired as his deputy, two weeks earlier.

In 2018, Mugabe was seen in public for the first time since leaving power. He berated his former Zanu-PF allies and backed opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa on the eve of an election.In 2019, Mugabe travelled several times to Singapore to seek medical treatment.He led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 and ruled with an iron fist until his own army ended his almost four decade rule.

Mugabe died in Singapore, where he often received medical treatment in recent years, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.Zimbabwe President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, confirmed his death. “It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” a post on Mnangagwa’s official presidential Twitter account said.

On leading Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe was feted as an African liberation hero and champion of racial reconciliation.
But later, many at home and abroad denounced him as a power-obsessed autocrat willing to unleash death squads, rig elections and trash the economy in the relentless pursuit of control.

Mugabe was forced to resign in November 2017 after an army coup. His resignation triggered wild celebrations across the country of 13 million. Mugabe denounced his removal as an “unconstitutional and humiliating” act of betrayal by his party and people, and it left him a broken man.In November, Mnangagwa said Mugabe was no longer able to walk when he had been admitted to a hospital in Singapore, without saying what treatment Mugabe had been undergoing.

Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer. Meanwhile, world and African leaders have reacted to Robert Mugabe’s death.

Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Robert Mugabe is an icon of liberation and a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. He is a remarkable statesman of our century. On the backdrop and solid foundation of the first republic, which he moulded as its leader, we today recover and grow. Zimbabwe would be in official mourning until his remains are brought back from Singapore and buried.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africans join the people and government of Zimbabwe in mourning the passing of a liberation fighter and champion of Africa’s cause against colonialism.

Under President Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe’s sustained and valiant struggle against colonialism inspired our own struggle against apartheid and built in us the hope that one day South Africa too would be free.Many Zimbabweans paid with their lives so that we could be free. We will never forget or dishonour this sacrifice and solidarity.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
In this moment of sorrow, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his relatives and the people of Zimbabwe who, for many years, he served with commitment and dedication.

Words cannot convey the magnitude of the loss, as former President Mugabe was an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interests of the African continent.Indeed, we will remember former President Mugabe as a man of courage who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in even when it was not popular.

Tanzanian President, John Magufuli
Africa has lost one of its bravest and Pan-Africanist leaders, who led by example in opposing colonialism.
Zimbabwean Opposition Senator And Rights Lawyer David Coltart, On Twitter. He was a colossus on the Zimbabwean stage and his enduring positive legacy will be his role in ending white minority rule & expanding a quality education to all Zimbabweans.

Mpho Balopi, secretary-general, Botswana Democratic Party
Mugabe was one of Africa’s most renowned freedom fighters and also one of the founding fathers of what is today known as SADC (the intergovernmental Southern African Development Community, whose headquarters are in Botswana).
The history of our respective parties’ fraternal relations would be incomplete without mention of Uncle Bob, as he was affectionately known. It is beyond any doubt that he leaves an indelible mark on the politics of the region.

China’s foreign ministry
Mugabe was an outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe.
Throughout his life, he has firmly defended the sovereignty of his country, opposed foreign interference, and actively promoted China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa friendship and cooperation.

UK prime minister’s spokeswoman
“There will be mixed emotions in Zimbabwe at today’s news. We of course express our condolences to those who mourn but know that for many he was a barrier to a better future. Under his rule the people of Zimbabwe suffered greatly as he impoverished their country and sanctioned the use of violence against them,” she said.
“His resignation in 2017 marked a turning point and we hope that today marks another which allows Zimbabwe to move on from the legacy of its past and become a democratic, prosperous nation that respects the human rights of its citizens,” she added.

Namibian President, Hage Geingob
Comrade Mugabe was an outstanding revolutionary, a tenacious freedom fighter and a dedicated Pan Africanist. He made enormous sacrifices in the struggle against injustice and the liberation of Southern Africa from racial subjugation and colonial oppression. As Namibians, we owe President Mugabe a deep sense of gratitude for his immense and selfless contributions to the liberation of our country… The loss of the people of Zimbabwe is Africa’s loss.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin
Many important events in contemporary history of Zimbabwe are linked with the name of Robert Mugabe. He made a major personal contribution to the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence and to building institutions of Zimbabwean statehood.The people of Russia will remember him as a consistent advocate of developing friendly relations between our countries and a person who had accomplished a great deal to strengthen mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.


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