Robert Mugabe: The dark side of the late iconic African leader

Robert Mugabe: The dark side of the late iconic African leader

- Robert Mugabe has passed away, but his legacy will live on - for better or worse

- With his reign as Zimbabwean president spanning nearly four decades, Mugabe's impact on his country is unmistakable

- explores the politician's lengthy career, taking a look at quotes and scandals from his time at the helm of his nation

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Robert Mugabe was president of Zimbabwe for almost as long as the African nation was an independent country. reported earlier that Mugabe had passed away after a long battle with illness, which had seen him seeking treatment in Singapore.

His legacy to both his nation and Africa spans over a 37-year-long reign over Zimbabwe; here are some key quotes and scandals from his time in power:

“The people’s votes and the people’s guns are always inseparable twins.” - Mugabe, 1976

Mugabe was a formidable intellect; despite his modest background he managed to attend the best schools available to him as a black citizen in colonial Zimbabwe.

Much like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Mugabe attended the University of Fort Hare in South Africa.

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Arrested with no charges

Returning home in 1960, Mugabe immersed himself into the underground opposition, taking up a top role in the Zimbabwe African National Union eventually, reports the Mail&Guardian.

1964 saw Mugabe arrested for 'subversive speech', resulting in a decade-long imprisonment despite a lack of charges.

“Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe; I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen.” - Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe- Southern Africa's breadbasket

In 1980, a merger saw his political home transformed into ZANU-PF, and the first independent elections in Zimbabwe saw Mugabe elected president by a landslide.

Mugabe was lauded as an African hero, relishing the attention given by both his nation and the international community.

However, Mugabe's authoritarian streak was compounded by the power he now enjoyed. Joshua Nkomo, a liberation icon, was the highest-profile victim of this, fleeing into exile in 1983.

'Gukurahundi'- The rain that washes away to chaff

Between 1983 and 1987, Mugabe deployed the Fifth Brigade to purge the Ndebele community out of Matabeleland, making way for the Shona to take over.

The Zimbabwean president had dubbed the operation ‘gukurahundi’, a Shona word for the rains that wash away the useless chaff and make way for the crops to grow. The Shona, in this effort, was regarded as the healthy seed, while the Ndebele people needed to be 'washed away'.

It remains unclear how many perished at the hands of this operation, with estimates between 8 000 and 30 000 victims.

“This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be Hitler tenfold.” - Robert Mugabe, 2003

From beloved to despised

Mugabe's decent into the tyrant he is now known as was slow, and difficult to track, slowly emerging as the same creature as his predecessor, the colonial ruler, in many ways.

  • Mugabe was known for his ruthless removal of comrades and opposition members
  • Zimbabwean foot soldiers were sent to perish in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while both him and his generals enjoyed smuggled minerals
  • The president authorised the seizure of white-owned land, encouraging force to be used
  • Money was printed to secure loyalty, destroying the nation's economy in the process
  • In 2002 and 2007 he managed to bully his way into leadership, outright stealing or intimidating his opposition out of his path.
"I have died many times - that's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once."- Mugabe

Ultimately, the late president will still be mourned, but his fingerprint on the future of Zimbabwe will linger for years to come.

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