On Thursday, September 5 2019, another lion of Africa passed on and slept. Taking in the news of former Zimbabwe President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s passing, some people cried for him, others celebrated; some recalled the good that he brought to Zimbabwe, the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region, and Africa as a whole while others recounted the abusive tyranny and the 150-day Singapore hospitalisation that has cost the Zimbabwe government millions of US dollars.
Mugabe shall forever be the last remaining pan-Africanist giant of southern Africa and the African continent, the hero and elder statesman whose voice resounded with a resolute no-apology for his opposition to Western powers.
To those who did not like Comrade Mugabe, he stood for corruption, abuse, tyranny, and dictatorial tendencies. Among his cruelty in his over 30-year over-stay at the helm of Zimbabwe was his harsh treatment of white farmers whom he chased off, like the treatment former president Kamuzu Banda gave Asians in rural Malawi. He made no apologies for chasing white farmers, and some scenes were ugly.
Mugabe later was accused of corruption, manipulating election results; and much later the aging leader was accused of failing to quell actions of his cohorts. It took the generals in his army who came and conducted a sort of sit-in and convinced the old man to give up power peacefully. He held his ground and negotiated a safe exit for himself, his family, and cohorts.
While in the wake of the loss of his presidential privileges, Mugabe lost numerous business enterprises. He and family lived peacefully, unlike in other African countries. However, the British disliked Mugabe with a passion, as do numerous Zimbabwean diasporas living abroad. One woman in a BBC interview openly wept, citing that she was happy Mugabe was dead. She told the interviewer that his death would end poverty in her country.
If the Mugabe haters could briefly remove their Euro-centric lenses, they could see who Mugabe was, what he achieved for Zimbabwe, southern Africa, and Africa. Firstly, at the start of his tenure as leader of the newly independent Zimbabwe (after over 10-year Ian Smith UDI Rhodesia, Mugabe ordered that all schools in Zimbabwe were to be segregated or would face closure.
Mugabe’s voice was not only strong inside Zimbabwe, but he also voiced a strong stance and persistent position against the Western government’s tying development aid to African countries’ acceptance and support for gay rights. His anti-gay stand was taken on by other African leaders, and with the lead by Nigeria, Zimbabwe and others orchestrated the African Summit in 2010 to sign an African position paper on the subject. Mugabe was relentless on his disapproval of gay and lesbian rights; his voice was given a megaphone on Western media as a means of discrediting him. Mugabe, however, continued his stand, amassing the attention of both his allies and enemies alike.
On this point, Mugabe advanced that Africa should be allowed to have a say on all issues affecting the continent, and this included sexual rights.
The third point is regarding powers at the United Nations. Mugabe and a host of other nations in the developing and emerging countries championed the need for equal representation, especially in the Security Council. This includes opening the veto power mandate and permanent seats, to include two to three additional members.
During his 37-year rule, Mugabe’s voice rang loud counter to Western ideals, in the same way pan-Africanist voices did in the 1950s and 1960s when African leaders like Nkrumah, Nyerere, Banda, Kenyatta, and others did in their fight for ousting colonial powers from the continent. Because Mugabe refused to bow to Western ideals, the western media, which floods the global information systems, continued to castigate, mock, and negatively present him throughout his rule, the debacle of his ousting by the military, the matter of the cost of his medical expenses in Singapore, and to his death.
Mugabe, son of the soil of Africa, was a hero. Unfortunately, most view him as a villain. This is largely because he was gauged by the symptoms of the economic status of Zimbabwe’s, likewise most African countries. The root causes of these statuses are actually the malaise of the structural adjustment programmes enforced by the Bretton Woods institutions, coupled with high-interest development loans.
May the soul of Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe rest in God’s eternal loving peace. And may Zimbabwe, Sadc countries and Africa celebrate their son.