MIXED tributes have been pouring in from around the world for late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Mugabe died at the age of 95 at a Singaporean hospital on Friday. A fearless leader, Mugabe led the country to liberation and away from white rule in 1980 after a fierce war against Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith’s forces.
Mugabe died a bitter and powerless man after being deposed by long-time ally President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in the 2017 military coup after ruling the country with an iron fist for 37 years.
Mugabe recently asked to be buried in his home village of Kutama in Mashonaland West and not in the Heroes Acre in the capital Harare. He gave instructions that Mnangagwa does not attend his funeral. Mugabe went from being hero-worshipped to being a most hated leader as the country slid from one economic disaster to another.
Under his rule, political activists were squashed and opposition leaders were tortured and harassed. In 2013, Morgan Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of stealing the general elections as all indications were that the then Movement for Democratic Change leader had emerged victor. Some observers claimed that up to a million Zimbabweans had been prevented from voting.
Mugabe had a way of responding to critics. Reacting to rumours that he had died after going on holiday in Singapore, Mugabe said: “I have died many times. That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and was resurrected once. I have died and have been resurrected many times and I don’t know how many times I will die and be resurrect again. Although his people lived in poverty, he always maintained they loved him. Likened to German dictator characteristic Adolf Hitler, he said he had only one objective: justice for his people. If that is Hitler, let me be a Hitler tenfold,” he said.
Many Zimbabweans are reported to be saddened by his death. African leaders have hailed him as a champion of the liberation struggle. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta described him as a leader who for many years served with dedication and commitment.
He said Mugabe was never afraid to fight for what he believed in. 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,” he said. The US was cautious in its tribute.
“We join the world in reflecting on his legacy in securing Zimbabwe’s independence,” the US Embassy said. In the streets, Zimbabweans remained divided. Some praised him while others described him as the author of their troubles. While Mugabe has died a wealthy man, many of the country’s citizens are poor.
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