By Basidia M Drammeh
Robert Mugabe was indisputably a charismatic and an iconic figure who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 and was the world’s oldest head of State before his unceremonious ouster in 2017 by the military.
Mugabe is loved and loathed in equal measure depending on whom you ask. His fans tout him a hero and a revered elder statesman, while his detractors condemn him as a villain and a brutal dictator.
Mugabe’s opponents portray him as a vicious autocrat and a merciless tyrant who ruled his country with an iron fist since Zimbabwe was liberated from White minority rule. He callously clamped down on dissent and perpetuated himself in power insisting that only God could remove him. As a matter of fact, it was widely believed he was in the process of grooming his wife, Grace, to succeed him, a move that was unsettling for the ruling elite, hence prompting his ouster. The cynics contend that Mugabe’s woeful monetary policies brought the economy to its knees with inflation unbridled, amid rampant corruption.
His supporters and disciples would jump to his defense arguing that Mugabe led his country to independence and that he was a dynamic Panafricanist who stood up to the West. The West was vocal about Mugabe’s policies, particularly the land reform program that saw the redistribution of the land largely owned by the White minority.
Mugabe is credited for his free education program which rendered his country the most educated on the African Continent where the literacy rate is estimated at 90%. Likewise, he created the best healthcare system for his country.
Mugabe would be remembered for being the father of Zimbabwe’s independence and for his eloquent but fiery speeches in which he lashed at the West, particularly the former colonial master: Britain. He once told former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: ”Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe.”