Mugabe: Loved by strangers, loathed by compatriots

The late Zimbabwean former leader, Robert Mugabe, who died two weeks ago at a Singapore hospital, appears to be celebrated by outsiders more than his own.

This probably confirms the biblical adage that a prophet is honoured everywhere except in his homeland.

Mugabe’s demise on September 6 attracted mixed reactions from Zimbabweans, with some accusing him of being the author of economic problems bedevilling the Southern African country, while others acknowledged the role he played in liberating Zimbabwe from colonial rule.

In Matabeleland, some people who said they were not moved by his departure, expressed their bitterness over the long-time ruler’s failure to address the Gukurahundi atrocities.

However, the same does not hold for many outsiders, who view Mugabe as a hero of the liberation struggle and empowerment of his own people.

Several leaders from Africa and beyond, who attended Mugabe’s funeral service in Harare over the weekend spoke highly of him, arguing that Zimbabwe had lost a hero and unique leader.

These included South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, as well as former presidents – Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Festus Mogae of Botswana.

 “To me, the whole of Africa is mourning the death of a great fighter. He was an African icon of the liberation of the continent,” said Mbasogo.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta said Mugabe had left an indelible mark in the history of Zimbabwe and Africa, describing him as a visionary.

“Comrade Mugabe will be remembered as a Pan Africanist and as a great icon of liberation who selflessly dedicated his life to the emancipation of Zimbabwe. He was a visionary leader and relentless champion of African dignity,” Kenyatta said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also spoke glowingly of Mugabe.

“Comrade Mugabe stood with us during our darkest hour. He was unwavering in his support for our liberation. We want to thank President Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe for the contribution they made to our struggle.”

Mehluli Majoni, a Bulawayo resident, told CITE that despite Mugabe being heaped with praises from outside the country, he would never remember the deceased as a good or great leader, accusing him of ruining the country’s economy.

“He (Mugabe) is just celebrated outside by people with confused history of this country,” he argued.

Political analysts who spoke to CITE were also of the idea that the celebration of Mugabe’s life by outsiders was misguided and not genuine.

“Outsiders, especially black South Africans, and continental leaders are hypocrites,” said Rejoice Ngwenya.

“They pretend to like Mugabe’s so-called pan Africanist policies, yet are silent about what he did in destroying our country. South Africa plays host to more than two million Zimbabweans, so their praising of Mugabe is based more on romantic perceptions of black land ownership than productivity.”

Ngwenya said regional and continental bodies such as the Southern African Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) have never been sincere on their treatment of African issues.

“As for other black leaders, we know how moribund the SADC and AU are, so it is not surprising for them to see the good in Mugabe we locals (Zimbabweans) don’t,” he added.

Sipho Nyoni, another political analyst said it was regrettable that Mugabe who is celebrated by outsiders did not do much to empower Zimbabweans economically, save for a few elites.

“Mugabe chose to sacrifice his own people for popularity on the African continent,” said Nyoni.

“Some Africans choose to overlook the fact that he (Mugabe) was brutal and suppressive to his own people. His popularity is largely due to his stance on the land issue but unbeknown to most Africans is the fact that even the land exercise only benefited a few elites and party members.”

Nyoni added, despite Mugabe being eulogized by outsiders, to many Zimbabweans he will always be the person who “destroyed dreams, ambitions and hopes for the future through his disastrous economic policies and misrule.”

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