Robert Mugabe, a man of many faces

Saturday September 7 2019

Robert Mugabe.

Despite his dictatorial streak in the 37 years he was leader of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s role as a freedom fighter in a war that liberated Zimbabwe was never in doubt. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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The death of former Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe leaves former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda as the only living pre-Independence liberation hero in Africa.

Mugabe died at the age of 95 in the morning of September 6 at a Singapore hospital while undergoing treatment.

Despite his dictatorial streak in the 37 years he was leader of Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s role as a freedom fighter in a war that liberated Zimbabwe and also helped in the fight against apartheid in South Africa was never in doubt.

“Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten,” said President Emmerson Mnangagwa, when officially announced the death of the man he helped oust in a palace coup in November 2017.

Mugabe was also a staunch pan-Africanist — like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, DRC’s Patrice Lumumba and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — who all believed African resources were for Africans only and not for exploitation and benefit of colonial masters.

But it was also Mugabe’s hard stance pan-Africanist beliefs that led to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy in the 2000s when he started the forceful seizure of white-owned farms, dubbed the “Land Grab” by British authorities — thereby crippling a then thriving agricultural sector.

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However, the land grab was instigated by Britain itself when it went against the spirit of the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement that stated that the former colonial power was to provide the funds for compensating Zimbabwean British settler farmers who were willing to sell their land back to the government. This agreement was signed by the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

When New Labour came to power in 1997 under prime minister Tony Blair, the UK government unilaterally scrapped the arrangement.

President Mugabe was then adamant that his government would not initiate a land buy-out scheme for what had been stolen and taken for free from Africans. These facts were corroborated by the current British premier, Boris Johnson, when he was still a journalist.

Mugabe then launched the so-called “Land Grab” that attracted economic sanctions from Western countries, making Zimbabwe a pariah nation, collapsing almost every sector of the economy.

He was accused of having handed the grabbed farmlands to his cronies who ran them down. The biting economic situation led to over three million Zimbabweans fleeing the country, mainly to South Africa. Zimbabwe was forced to adopt the dollar as its currency in 2009 following hyperinflation.

To make matters worse, in 2009, Mugabe signed the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act into law, which aimed to place 51 per cent of companies in the hands of Black Zimbabweans. This led to a number of closures by foreign owned companies. For instance, the Marange Diamond Fields that was taken over by some of his cronies became a major den of corruption.

Mugabe’s downfall is blamed on his wife Grace, who was believed to be the power behind the throne in Mugabe’s final years as he suffered ill-health.

As a first lady, she was known to harbour political ambitions and was seen as the de facto ruler who made unpopular decisions that led to widespread civil disaffection in the country.

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BACKGROUND

In the 2000s, Mugabe started forceful seizure of white-owned farms thereby crippling a thriving agricultural sector. When New Labour came to power in 1997 under prime minister Tony Blair and the UK government unilaterally scrapped land buy-back arrangement.
However, the land grab was instigated by Britain itself when it went against the spirit of the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement that stated that the former colonial power was to provide the funds for compensating settler farmers who were willing to sell their land back to the government. This agreement was signed by the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

When New Labour came to power in 1997 under prime minister Tony Blair, the UK government unilaterally scrapped the arrangement and President Mugabe became adamant that his government would not initiate a land buy-out scheme for what had been stolen and taken for free from Africans.

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