Mugabe's divisive legacy

President Hage Geingob has paid tribute to the immense sacrifices Robert Mugabe made during his life, in the fight for Africa and Zimbabwe's freedom.

09 September 2019 | Local News

While tributes have poured in for Zimbabwean revolutionary, politician and president, Robert Mugabe, some have also painted him as a self-absorbed and selfish despot.

Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a national period of mourning until Mugabe's burial. He died on Friday in Singapore at the age of 95. Many have lauded him, while others have highlighted human rights abuses, most notably the 1980s ethnic cleansing of at least 20 000 people in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland province. They also pointed to his lust to cling to power and the economic collapse of a country that was once known as the bread-basket of Africa. President Hage Geingob paid tribute to the immense sacrifices Mugabe made during his life, in the fight for Africa and Zimbabwe's freedom.

Geingob said he had learned with sadness about Mugabe's death. “It is with a deep sense of sadness that I have learned about the passing of the former president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, comrade Robert Mugabe, an outstanding revolutionary, a tenacious freedom fighter and dedicated pan-Africanist.” Geingob said Mugabe had made enormous sacrifices in the struggle against injustice, 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.

“On behalf of the Namibian people, I extend sincere condolences to my dear brother, president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the family and the people of Zimbabwe. The loss of the people of Zimbabwe is Africa's loss. May his revolutionary soul rest in eternal peace.” Founding President Sam Nujoma said Mugabe will be remembered as one of the most iconic leaders, who fought for the liberation of his country and Africa.

Nujoma released a video message through his foundation, in which he said Mugabe was a pan-Africanist and a “dear brother”.

“He will be remembered as one who stood firm when others wavered. He was an iconic pan-Africanist. On behalf of the veterans of the Namibian liberation struggle, stewards and on my own behalf, I wish to express our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the family and the entire revolutionary people of Zimbabwe,” Nujoma said.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani also extended his condolences and empathy to the people of Zimbabwe.

While Venaani said Mugabe was a hero of the liberation struggle, he also pointed out that he made many mistakes that undermined his legacy.

“We all need to take our lessons. We put his country in prayer to seek unity and economic transformation.”

Landless People's Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi credited Mugabe for Zimbabwe's quality education system and agricultural development. “He empowered his people and returned dignity to people,” Swartbooi told Nampa. He said Mugabe was instrumental in land reform and ensured that the land was returned to his country's people.

He further described the late leader as a qualified spokesperson for the African agenda and its concerns at international platforms.

Swartbooi, however, said Mugabe became self-absorbed and selfish with state resources, which he used for self-enrichment. Swartbooi warned that Namibia is destined for the same fate. Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) president Mike Kavekotora told Nampa that Mugabe will be remembered as a great leader, who did not waver.

“On the other hand, his political manoeuvres contributed to the economic downfall of his country in his later years,” Kavekotora said.

Seasoned journalist and Zimbabwean commentator, Wonder Guchu, told Namibian Sun that Mugabe was everything in one.

“He had a good side and a bad side.” Guchu stressed it was the Zimbabwean people who made Mugabe what he became. “Nobody held him accountable and he later thought he was irreplaceable, but from the beginning his intentions were good.” Guchu explained that in the beginning Mugabe had focus, but when he realised how much the people loved him, it made him what he became. “We create our own dictators,” said Guchu.

“In the 60s Mugabe was never power-hungry, but in the 90s he got it in his mind that the Zimbabwe cannot do without him.”

Guchu said people might blame Mugabe now for many things, but it was Zimbabweans that made him what he became. “It made him believe that he was some kind of God.”

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has conferred national hero status on Mugabe and called him “a great teacher” and a “remarkable statesman”, whose passing “leaves a national void”.

Mugabe served as Zimbabwe's prime minister after the country's independence, before taking over the presidency in 1987. He held the position for three decades, until he was ousted in 2017.

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ELLANIE SMIT

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