He led the country, once called the breadbasket of Africa, for more than 40 years but his violent policies and ruthless crushing of opposition has left a legacy of poverty and bitterness.
Once a freedom fighter who fought a bush war against Ian Smith’s government, he heralded in a new nation that offered excellent education and health care to a people stumbling out of colonial rule. Surprisingly, he was also celebrated in those early years for offering whites an olive branch.
But, while the West knows Mugabe for his vicious stripping of land from white farmers in the 2000s, it was the murder of thousands of people in Matabeleland in the 1980s, that was his greatest crime.
This morning, Britain’s Guardian newspaper said it was this “ethnic cleansing”, ignored by the international community, that had crushed opposition from his rival Joshua Nkomo.
In later years it was rigged elections and “land reform” which saw productive, food producing farms handed to his cronies or people with no capital to farm, which had a devastating impact on the nation.
The Guardian quoted from an earlier interview with the late John Makumbe, a politics professor at the University of Zimbabwe, who said: “ He will be remembered as a villain. His legacy was destroyed by his staying, his violence, his imposing his own political allies and rivals.
“Robert Mugabe always had the seed of bad governance, cruelty, selfishness: ‘It’s only me who matters’.”
Journalist and political commentator Dr Remi Adeokya tweeted, “(The) story of Mugabe is too often the story of many post-colonial African leaders. 1) Rightly dispatch the white man from your country. 2) Proceed to loot, oppress and disenfranchise your own people. 3) When criticised, blame the white man for all your country’s problems.”
For Zimbabweans Mugabe’s death will be hard to mark. Rampant inflation and food shortages mean daily life is a fight for survival. Hundreds of thousands are working in neighbouring countries facing xenophobia in South Africa and discrimination elsewhere.
Mugabe has left his people crippled and reduced them to beggars.
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