Alexa Robert Mugabe: Liberator to brutal tyrant

Dhaka, Friday   18 October 2019


Robert Mugabe: Liberator to brutal tyrant


 Published: 09:54 PM, 16 September 2019   Updated: 09:55 PM, 16 September 2019

Robert Mugabe, Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe, Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

To many, he was the “most educated African leader” who dedicated his life to empowering the lives of black people and Africa in general. He was a revolutionary hero, who fought racial oppression and stood up to Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.

To others, Robert Mugabe was the “liberator turned a murderous dictator”, a tyrant who ran Zimbabwe to the ground. Mugabe became a dictatorial authoritarian leader from the leader of the liberated people. 

Sometimes, he was a Marxist leader of the Nationalist Revolution in the independence movement, sometimes a brutal ruler of the oppressive authoritarianism. Many believed that the independence of Zimbabwe 1980 came with the hand of Mugabe.

The first Prime Minister of Independent Zimbabwe and later President of the country Robert Mugabe assured the establishment of democracy in Zimbabwe and the termination of the country’s internal conflict. He delivered independence for Zimbabwe after decades of white-minority rule and remaining in power for long 37 years.

But the dream that was achieved with the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 became dust in the wake of the economic downturn, corruption, and violence.

President Mugabe was a staunch critic of Western policy, particularly the United Kingdom. He also declared the UK an ‘enemy country’.

Although oppressively oppressing or mismanaging politically opposing countries once afflicted a prosperous country, it has never lacked the support of other African countries leaders.

From the classroom to politics 

Born on February 21, 1924, in Katuma, in a Jesuit mission in what was then known as Southern Rhodesia, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was the third of six children. His father, Gabriel Matibili, was a carpenter from Nyasaland (later Malawi). His mother, Bona, belonged to the prominent Shona ethnic group.

Mugabe graduated from Katuma’s St. Francis Xavier College in 1945. For the next 15 years, he taught in Rhodesia and Ghana and pursued further education at Fort Hare University in South Africa. In Ghana, he met and married his first wife, Sally Hayfron.

While working in Ghana, he was greatly influenced by Nkrumah Nkrumah’s ideal of African solidarity, the post-independence leader.

When Mugabe came into politics, the anti-colonial movement broke down all over the world. Naturally, Mugabe became involved in the freedom movement. Ghana formed a unity with the Marxist leaders of different countries, including South Africa. It created the awakening of socialism among black people on the basis of African nationalism. Mugabe, who was initiated into Marxist politics from his teaching, used to say that votes and guns would go together.

He returned to Southern Rhodesia in 1960, a country still in the shadow of white rule and Mugabe vowed to break the yoke of white domination, entering politics by joining the National Democratic Party in the same year. NDP changed names and became ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, run by Joshua Nkomo. He worked with Joshua Nkomo to establish African nationalism.

Two years later Mugabe left ZAPU for the rival Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU, later ZANU-PF), his present political home.

Mugabe was arrested after calling the Rhodesian president and his supporters as cowboy or shepherd in a speech on 1964. He was then detained for almost a decade without trial. In prison, Mugabe taught English to his fellow prisoners and earned multiple graduate degrees by correspondence from the University of London.

His infant son died while he was in prison. Authorities did not allow him to attend the boy’s funeral. He became the president of ZANU while he was detained in 1973.

After his release in 1974, Mugabe went into exile in Zambia and Mozambique, and in 1977 he gained full control of ZANU’s political and military fronts.

Mugabe was one of the most aggressive African leaders during the bloody talks that demanded independence from Rhodesia, and his role at that time was the most compromising in terms of the claim. During his visit to London in 1976, he remarked that the only solution to the Rhodesia problem could come from gunfire. He adopted Marxist and Maoist views and received arms and training from Asia and Eastern Europe.

Creation of Zimbabwe 

In the ninety year span that Zimbabwe was a colony, it was administered by the British South African Company (BSAC) under the name of Rhodesia and the Responsible Government under the name of Southern Rhodesia. Both administrative systems were under the British monarchy. A 1978 accord between Smith’s government and moderate black leaders paved the way for the election of Bishop Abel Muzorewa as prime minister of the state known as Zimbabwe Rhodesia, but it lacked international recognition because ZANU and ZAPU had not participated. 

In 1979, the British-brokered Lancaster House Agreement brought the major parties together to agree to majority rule while protecting the rights and property of the white minority. After winning new elections on March 4, 1980, Mugabe worked to convince the new country’s 200,000 whites, including 4,500 commercial farmers, to stay.

In 1982, Mugabe sent his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to the ZAPU stronghold of Matabeleland to smash dissent. Over five years, 20,000 Ndebele civilians were killed as part of a campaign of alleged political genocide. In 1987, Mugabe switched tactics, inviting ZAPU to be merged with the ruling ZANU-PF and creating a de facto one-party authoritarian state with himself as the ruling president.

Friendly policy

Despite his reputation for aggressiveness, he was widely praised by former critics because of Mugabe’s ability to negotiate. The media was labeled him the ‘Guerrilla of Thought’.

According to the Lancaster House agreement, a new constitution was created for the “Republic of Zimbabwe” in 1979 under which the new name of Rhodesia was designated as Zimbabwe. It was decided on February 1980 to hold an election to form Zimbabwe’s first government.

Mugabe won the election with a huge margin selecting from the party ZANU, not from Nkomo’s ZAPU. Many unbiased observers also called the victory an unexpected one. ZANU easily got a majority in that election, though both sides accused of vote fraud and intimidation of the voters.

When the ‘self-proclaimed Marxist’ Mugabe won the election, many whites were preparing to leave Rhodesia. However, Mugabe’s moderate and peaceful speech assured many of his supporters at that time. 

At that time, he promised that the opposition would not be victimized and private property would not be taken over by the state. He claimed that the main theme of his politics would be the ‘spread of friendship’.

At the end of the year, he finalized his economic policy where he considered the policy of private companies to be considered for public investment. Conflicts between Mugabe and Nkomo continued to grow as the Prime Minister constantly expressed support for a one-party rule.  Nkomo was subsequently fired from the government after getting secret stockpile weapons in the ZAPU-owned area. 

Destruction in agriculture

Although Mugabe was accused of involvement in the assassination of the Zimbabwean army’s Fifth Brigade, which trained in North Korea, he was never brought to justice.
Mugabe became President of Zimbabwe in 1987 after the Prime Minister’s Office was abolished. He was elected in the third term in 1996. 

He married Grace Marufu that year. The then-president had two children with Marufu, who was 40 years younger than Mugabe. The third child was born when Mugabe was 73.

Although he had some success in creating a society without discrimination, in 1992 he enacted the Land Acquisition Rule to acquire land without any application.

The main aim of this policy was to redistribute ownership of the land to Zimbabwe in the hands of 4,000 white farmers to occupy the best quality land. 

In the first decade of the 21st century, Mugabe’s so-called ‘war-retreating’ forces occupied the farm of the white peasants who were in opposition to his government and killed the black peasants under them.

Foreign investment

Mugabe’s critics blame him for the near-destruction of Zimbabwe’s agricultural fields. Critics demanded that after redistributing the ownership of the land, instead of handing it over to the poorer people in the rural areas, he entrusted them with the duties of his own choice. 

Zimbabwe one of Africa’s largest food-producing countries became the country of depending on foreign investment. 

In the 2002 presidential election, the party of Mugabe received about 57 percent of the vote and his opposition MDC got about 42 percent of the vote.

In that election, there were allegations of intimidation of Mugabe’s opposition leaders and closure of polling stations to prevent voters from voting in many villages.

At that time, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union did not approve the elections because of the violence and fraud. From then on, Mugabe and Zimbabwe began to alienate from the rest of the world.

Zimbabwe was also banned from meeting of the Commonwealth until the development of democracy in the country.

Mugabe decided to launch a campaign to end the black market in Zimbabwe, which resulted in the arrest of 30000 small businessmen traded on the street, leaving an estimated 700000 Zimbabweans homeless.

Conflict with political opponents

He lost the first round elections on March 2008, but in the second round on June, he was re-elected when his opponent Tsvangirai withdrew his candidacy.

Mr. Tsvangirai continued to claim the fair election never possible because the attack on his supporters continued. On February 2008, Mr. Mugabe takes Tsvangirai as prime minister. But Mr. Tsvangirai's supporters were still subjected to torture and harassment.

Mugabe was elected president with 61 percent of the vote again in 2013, which led to his re-election to power alone. There were allegations of fraud in the election but violence did not happen like previous elections.

Subsequently, Mugabe’s physical condition began to deteriorate. It is believed that after his death, his wife, Grace Mugabe, will be in power. Robert Mugabe announced in 2015 that, he would also contest in the election of 2018 when he would be at the age of 94. 

During a discussion on February 2016, who would be his successor, he said at one point, “I will remain in power until God lifted.” Mugabe, however, was forced to step down by Zimbabwe’s army, not God. Mugabe was detained on November 15, 2017, and four days later, his political party replaced him as the top leader of the ZANU-PF party.

Before he was forced to resign, he signed a deal to avoid future trials for him and his family. As a result, some of his business interests were also protected. He also enjoyed the privilege of car-houses with diplomatic dignity.

He was later seen in casual and conservative clothing. He even gave up drinking alcohol. Be friends or enemies – Mugabe began to doubt them that they could do any harm to him at any time.

Mugabe was thought to have played a major role in removing the colonial rule from Africa, for which he could have the honor of being a hero throughout Africa —- but Mugabe had become a dictatorship. He repeatedly violated human rights, turning the once-prosperous Zimbabwe into a bottomless basket. 

The legacy of Mugabe politics will chase Zimbabwe for many years. His economic policies turned Africa’s breadbasket into a basket-case. Zimbabwe needs a genuinely pan-African mass movement to change the system its authoritarian president built. Robert Mugabe died aged 95 on September 6, 2019. Zimbabwe paid its final tribute on September 16 to its former and highly controversial President Robert Mugabe.