Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 September 2019:
Robert Mugabe, the former president and architect of Zimbabwe’s independence has died, aged 95. Mugabe has been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April. Cause of death is uncertain, but according to family sources, the former president has been suffering from failing health since he was forced out of office two years ago.
Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power, and was replaced by his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Robert Mugabe will be remembered for his revolutionary war against White supremacist – Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, for the right of black self-determination, economic empowerment and self-rule.
After successfully negotiating a new democratic constitution for Rhodesia – marking the end of British rule, Mugabe went on to win the first general elections in 1980 as prime minister and saw the birth of Zimbabwe.
His Marxist policies brought greater access to universal education and healthcare for Black Zimbabweans, and the emergence of a new and growing Black middle-class.
But his political alignment with communist China and North Korea was to mark the beginning of his downfall, and the start of economic misery for the people of Zimbabwe.
Hs policy of land reforms, based on the seizing of White-owned lands and farms after the failure of successive British governments to negotiate a comprehensive and orderly land reform strategy, became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Zimbabwe’s pre-independence economic success was driven by White farmers who owned and tilled the vast majority of fertile lands. The forced transfer of those farms to the new crop of Black entrepreneurs, did not go down well with Western governments, who then imposed crippling economic sanctions on the government of Zimbabwe.
As sanctions bite and Zimbabwe’s exports fell, so too did standards of living of the majority of Zimbabweans began to suffer, causing widespread poverty and disaffection across the country.
A move towards a new form of governance based on power sharing and a government of national unity, was expected to bring political stability and economic change.
But the power sharing arrangement failed and saw the return of more political instability and unrest, as the economy descended to bankruptcy, amid allegations of rampant corruption and abuse of power by Mugabe’s family and senior government officials.
In 2017 Robert Mugabe was deposed by the military and was placed in house arrest. He was succeeded by his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, who – two years on, is still struggling to control the deep economic rot that Zimbabwe has suffered for decades.
Will Mugabe’s death mark the beginning of a new and prosperous Zimbabwe?
His party – ZANU PF has been in power for more than 30 years, and there is very little sign of the much needed political and economic reforms that could bring about such change. Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of perpetuating Mugabe’s failed policies.
Robert Mugabe has left behind a mixed legacy. He will no doubt be remembered as a deeply divisive leader by many.
But for millions in Zimbabwe and across the African continent, he was a liberator. There are also those who would remember him as a brutal dictator, responsible for the death of thousands of people in the opposition heartland of Matabeleland.