AS IT HAPPENED | Hero, villain, human - the world reacts to Robert Mugabe's death

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06 Sep 2019

OPINION: Rest in peace, Robert Mugabe: Hero, villain, human

Robert Mugabe has died.

May he rest in peace. 

He was one of the engineers who built the foundations of modern-day Zimbabwe. If you ever get the chance, please visit Zimbabwe. It is home to music and fields of maize for as far as the eye can see. There are parks in the middle of the capital.

The women and men are lovely underneath that veneer of British manners that they have been cursed with. They are stern, yet kind.If you love contradictions, you have to go there. And if you want to know what patience looks like, well, you have to go there. It doesn't matter, you just have to go there.

Pretend to be a researcher into the post-colonial experience of racial politics or whatever excuse you need to justify your pilgrimage. Just go.You may awake in the morning to people singing outside your hotel room, singing hymns to the Lord at the very break of dawn as they tend to the land, open up the office, give praise for another day.

As beautiful as an adhan to my coastal ear.It is ridiculously bucolic up in there, everywhere nature is pushing up an offering. Would you like some greens? A homegrown tomato, perhaps?

We all garden out of necessity in our African cities, but still, these people have some skills. Few sights in the world are as gorgeous as a fine full-fatted and long-horned Ankole...yet some of the cattle I saw in Zimbabwe made me glance at them.

Just a bit, I didn't stare too hard, that would have been disrespectful. This is the country that Mugabe helped build. This is the country Mugabe helped destroy.

If you try to talk to Zimbabweans, they will not tell you anything of import until you are ready to really listen. There is a shield of politeness, a grim determination that is necessary to the everyday work of being dependable and productive and willing to survive. It is necessary to keep the pain of unfairness from crushing one's soul.

Stoicism, God, hard work, few words, and political correctness. Maybe even in that order.Do you want to know about Zimbabwe? Let me tell you a story: The guy who drove me from the hotel to the airport in Johannesburg said he was completely floored by Zimbabweans' work ethic.

That's why they help him run his establishment. This was in South Africa. South Africa could learn so much from Zimbabwe. We all could.

This is the country that Mugabe helped build. This is the country he helped destroy.

What my gracious South African host (and no, he wasn't "white" so don't even try trolling) doesn't know is that I managed to charm his breakfast cook into talking to me a bit before he came along. She has kids. She is grateful for the work.

She covers her mouth when she laughs. Her family is back home and they need the remittances. She kept me company of a cold morning and would have sat down to a cup of tea if she wasn't being so...professional.

I asked a friend to help me figure this article out. I said: "Friend, what can a person of my generation actually say about Robert Mugabe?"

And my friend said: "Robert Mugabe built a foundation for a country. Meditate on that."

I cannot join the throngs who fear to speak ill of the dead. I cannot immortalise him with scant regard for the villainy that he brought into this world. No. I will respect his legacy by talking about him as though he was a man, a neighbour, and someone who never did quite understand what to do with all that success.

Let us honour him for having been thoroughly, demonstrably human. Nobody knows what to do with that much success.

Therein lies our lesson.We all want our heroes to be flawless, and our villains to lack good qualities. It makes the world so much simpler. But have you ever visited a country that has stoically refused to give in, year after year, without a functioning currency?

People who must barter for milk while taking care of their grandmothers, and still manage to smile at us stupid strangers who reduce their story to a failure of economic policy and the encounter of black and white? People who are strong. Not stupid-strong like: I want to spear everything. No. Real-strong, like: We are going to survive this and do our best - whatever may come - and still have heart.

This is the country that Mugabe helped build. The same one he helped destroy.Robert Mugabe was part of the liberation of a country that subsequently had to survive him as best it could. Yes, it is paradoxical.

When he was good, he was good and when he was bad, he really messed up. But does that break the foundation that he helped to build for Zimbabwe?

If you can't be the teacher, be the lesson. This is the year of autocratic populism, so let me do my job as a griot and try to sing us all to a better place.

Robert Mugabe was a complex and complicated man, for whom many of us would have wished a better end, but we saw this coming. We participated in his demise, though, didn't we? Nobody survives that much "success", which is why term limits were invented.

Let us learn not to break our leaders by making them kings for life. Let us appreciate what foundations they have built and, on those foundations, build better governments, more inclusive societies.

Let us save our sons - and daughters, but mostly sons - from the ravages of egomania.Let us try to forgive them their sins.And let him rest, in peace. You did what you did, Uncle Bob. It was quite the life.Farewell.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.

06 Sep 2019

Zimbabweans 'suffered for too long' under Mugabe: UK

Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler Britain on Friday said Zimbabweans had "suffered for too long" under former president Robert Mugabe, reacting to news of his death.

"We express our condolences to those who mourn Robert Mugabe's death. However, Zimbabweans suffered for too long as a result of Mugabe's autocratic role," the foreign ministry said in a statement.


06 Sep 2019

OPINION: Mugabe was no revolutionary. He was obsessed with power and control

Robert Mugabe will not be remembered as the freedom fighter who helped liberate Zimbabwe, but as a man who whose 40 years in power was anything but admirable, writes Melusi Nkomo.


06 Sep 2019

Vladimir Putin hails Mugabe's role in Zimbabwe's independence as 'great contribution'

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hailed Robert Mugabe's "great personal contribution" to Zimbabwe's independence.

"Many important dates in Zimbabwe's modern history are tied to the name of Robert Mugabe. He made a great personal contribution to the battle for your country's independence, to the building of Zimbabwean state institutions," Putin said.

He also was a proponent of "friendly relations" with Russia, Putin added.


06 Sep 2019

Mugabe's decision to invest in education helped his people - UDM's Bantu Holomisa

Robert Mugabe's decision to invest in his country's education while he was the president of Zimbabwe helped the nation even after the collapse of its economy, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said on Friday.

Sending his condolences to the people of Zimbabwe, as well as the Mugabe family, Holomisa said it was a pity that the project of former president Nelson Mandela and Mugabe, to liberate their people from poverty, wasn't successful.


06 Sep 2019

WATCH | Zimbabweans react to death of Robert Mugabe

"As a leader the only thing he did wrong was to stay in power for a long time and that's the only thing that was not right," says Harare resident Joshua Tsenzete.


06 Sep 2019

Zimbabwe will one day shine again as the Jewel of Africa

Issued by Solly Malatsi – DA National Spokesperson

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted reports confirming the passing of former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. He will be remembered for his conflicting legacy as a liberator towards independence and an oppressor of the democratic values he once fought for.

President Mugabe oversaw the rise of Zimbabwe as an independent and prosperous Republic but he also oversaw the decline of Zimbabwe into a tyrannical dictatorship which violently repressed opposition and brutalized civilians.

Zimbabwe and her people have suffered a great deal because of this decline.

The repressive regime that President Mugabe left behind is now being put to good use by his erstwhile proteges to continue denying Zimbabweans their fundamental human rights.

It is the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) hope that Zimbabwe will one day shine again as the Jewel of this continent and that her people will finally be governed by fair democratic principles, which enshrine the protection of human rights, including the right to freedom of speech and expression, without fear of coercive violence at the hands of those in power.

We convey our condolences to President Robert Mugabe’s family and loved ones.

May there one day be Unity, Freedom and Work for the people of Zimbabwe.

06 Sep 2019

ANALYSIS: Robert Mugabe as divisive in death as he was in life

The responses to the announcement were immediate and widely varied. Some hailed former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe a liberation hero. Others dismissed him as a "monster". This suggests that Mugabe will be as divisive a figure in death as he was in life, writes Roger Southall.


06 Sep 2019


Figures are hard to pin down, but the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said about three million Zimbabweans are believed to live abroad.

Many of them fled due the economic crisis, heading to South Africa, Botswana, the Middle East, the United States, Britain and Australia.

"Emigration particularly after 2000 contributed significantly to brain drain especially in the health and education sectors," IOM said.

"Zimbabwe was left incapacitated in terms of service delivery."



06 Sep 2019

Press Freedom

Zimbabwe is one of the least open countries for press freedom in the world. In 2002 it was ranked 122nd out of 139, and in 2019 127th out of 180.

Reporters Without Borders said that the government controls the two main newspapers, and all radio and television. Journalists must be accredited and foreign correspondents have been arrested and deported.



06 Sep 2019


Zimbabwe has consistently been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, rated at 160th out of 180 last year.

Transparency International said that the problems range from "petty, bureaucratic and political corruption to grand forms of corruption involving high level-officials".

It also highlighted "the deeply entrenched system of political patronage, the tight grip of the ruling party over the security forces, and the history of political violence, repression and manipulation".



06 Sep 2019

Data on health, economics, corruption, press freedom and migration reveals much about Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule:

Life expectancy

When Mugabe came to power in 1980, life expectancy at birth in Zimbabwe was 59.4 years, rising to 60.8 years in 1986, according to the World Bank.

It then crashed to just 44.1 years by 2002 - a devastating indictment of his rule.

In 2006, the World Health Organisation put it even lower at 34 years for women and 37 for men - the worst figures worldwide.

The major causes were HIV-AIDS, the collapse of healthcare and falling standards of living as the country's economy crumbled.

Life expectancy has now risen to 61.4 years according to WHO, largely due to international aid funding.

Mugabe died aged >- GDP growth - 

Erratic GDP growth and decline has exposed Zimbabwe's torrid economic woes... and its potential.

1980: +14.4%

1992: -9%

1996: +10.3%

2003: -16.9%

2008: -17.6%

2011: +14.1%

2015: +1.7%

2018: >- HIV-AIDS -

The HIV infection rate climbed sharply to a peak in 1997 at 27% of all 15 to 49-year-olds.

With a massive, foreign-funded treatment programme, it fell to 13.3% in 2017.

Last year Zimbabwe still had one of the highest HIV prevalences in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.3 million people living with HIV.

But nearly every pregnant woman now has access to anti-retroviral medicines, according to Avert.


06 Sep 2019

Obituary: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe a revolutionary

At his best, Robert Mugabe could rank beside such revolutionaries as Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara. In the 1970s, he was Africa's teacher-turned Marxist rebel against white rule who declared: "Our votes must go together with our guns."

He remains a Zimbabwean liberator who defied the West, but Mugabe, who died on Friday aged 95, will also be remembered as an autocrat who butchered opponents, rigged votes and gobbled up cake at lavish birthday parties while his people went hungry.


06 Sep 2019

Mugabe's life epitomised the 'new African' - ANC extends condolences after former Zimbabwean leader dies

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has extended the party's condolences to the family of former Zimbabwean president and liberator Robert Mugabe following reports of his death at the age of 95.

Magashule said Mugabe's life epitomised the "new African" who, having shrugged off the colonial yoke, strived to ensure his country took its place among the community of nations, firmly in charge of its own destiny.


06 Sep 2019

PICS: Robert Mugabe has died at 95
<strong>PICS: Robert Mugabe has died at 95</strong>

06 Sep 2019

President Ramaphosa mourns passing of Mugaba

President Cyril Ramaphosa has on behalf of the government and people of South Africa expressed his sincere condolences to the people and government of the Republic of Zimbabwe following the passing of Founding President Robert Gabriel Mugabe.President Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first post-independence president, has passed away in Singapore at the age of 95.

Paying tribute to President Mugabe, President Ramaphosa said: “South Africans join the people and government of Zimbabwe in mourning the passing of a liberation fighter and champion of Africa’s cause against colonialism.

“Under President Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe’s sustained and valiant struggle against colonialism inspired our own struggle against apartheid and built in us the hope that one day South Africa too would be free.

“During the decades of our own struggle, Zimbabwe’s liberation movement supported our own liberation movement to fight oppression on multiple fronts. After Zimbabwe achieved independence, the apartheid state brutalised and violated Zimbabwe as punishment for supporting our own struggle.

“Many Zimbabweans paid with their lives so that we could be free. We will never forget or dishonour this sacrifice and solidarity.”

Early in his life, President Mugabe won a scholarship to Fort Hare University where he obtained the first of his seven academic degrees.

President Ramaphosa also acknowledged the role President Mugabe had played in advancing regional solidarity, integration and development through Zimbabwe’s participation in the Southern African Development Community.

06 Sep 2019

Mugabe enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa

Mugabe's decline in his last years as president was partly linked to the political ambitions of his wife, Grace, a brash, divisive figure whose ruling party faction eventually lost out in a power struggle with supporters of Mnangagwa, who was close to the military.

Despite Zimbabwe's decline during his rule, Mugabe remained defiant, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude and urging Africans to take control of their resources, a populist message that was often a hit even as many nations on the continent shed the strongman model and moved toward democracy.

Mugabe enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa who chose not to judge him in the same way as Britain, the United States and other Western detractors.

Toward the end of his rule, he served as rotating chairperson of the 54-nation African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community; his criticism of the International Criminal Court was welcomed by regional leaders who also thought it was being unfairly used to target Africans.

- Al Jazeera

06 Sep 2019

Mugabe once famously said he'd rule his country until he turned 100

Mugabe's four-year-old son by his first wife, Ghanaian-born Sally Francesca Hayfron, died while he was behind bars.

Rhodesian leader Ian Smith denied him leave to attend the funeral.

He once famously said that he'd rule his country until he turned 100, and many expected him to die in office. But growing discontent about the southern African country's fractured leadership and other problems prompted a military intervention, impeachment proceedings by the Parliament and large street demonstrations for his removal.

The announcement of Mugabe's November 21, 2017 resignation after he initially ignored escalating calls to quit triggered wild celebrations in the streets of the capital, Harare.

- Al Jazeera

06 Sep 2019

Mugabe described as 'a loner and a studious child'

Born on February 21, 1924, into a Catholic family at Kutama Mission northwest of Harare, Mugabe was described as a loner and a studious child, known to carry a book even while tending cattle in the bush.

After his carpenter father left the family when he was 10, the young Mugabe concentrated on his studies, qualifying as a schoolteacher at the age of 17.

An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, he enrolled at Fort Hare University in South Africa, meeting many of Southern Africa's future black nationalist leaders.

After teaching in Ghana, where he was influenced by founder president Kwame Nkrumah, Mugabe returned to what was then Rhodesia, where he was detained for his nationalist activities in 1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.

During his incarceration, he gained three degrees through correspondence, but the years in prison were wrenching.

- Al Jazeera

06 Sep 2019

'His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten' - Mnangagwa

Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

"It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe's founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe," Mnangagwa posted on Twitter early on Friday.

"His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace," he added.

After Mugabe's fall from office in November 2017, his renowned physical stamina seemed to seep away.

The former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader swept to power in the 1980 elections after a growing rebellion and economic sanctions forced the white minority colonial government to the negotiating table.

- Al Jazeera

06 Sep 2019

Robert Mugabe: A leader loved and hated in equal measure by Zimbabweans

Loved and hated in almost equal measure by Zimbabweans, the former teacher was best known for his controversial land reform programme, his hatred of any political opposition and his very glamorous young wife Grace.

Mugabe was reported to have died with such frequency in recent years that he boasted once that he had "beaten Jesus Christ because he only died once". But as he became noticeably more doddery in his 90s, slipping twice in public in 2015, officials in his party began to campaign more openly to succeed him despite his very obvious displeasure. 


06 Sep 2019

BREAKING | Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has died. He was 95. According to ZimLive, the news was confirmed by two sources. He died in a hospital in Singapore on Friday morning. 

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