May he RIP, but there will be no tears for Mugabe
Understandably, some African presidents and a few other world leaders who reacted to the death of Robert Mugabe last week showered him with praise for his determined struggle to free his country from colonial rule.
“Mugabe's sacrifices, especially in struggling for the political and economic emancipation of his people, will always be remembered by posterity,” said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We will remember former President Mugabe as a man of courage who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in, even when it was not popular,” was how Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta paid tribute.
“Mugabe was an outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe,” said China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Mr Mugabe made a great personal contribution to the battle for Zimbabwe's Independence and to the building of Zimbabwean State institutions.
All that, as we said, was expected. And, truth be told, no one can challenge that Mr Mugabe made a significant contribution to the fight against apartheid.
However, what those leaders opted to ignore was that Mr Mugabe eventually became the very thing he opposed as a freedom fighter — a despot.
We have often spoken in this space of the immense feeling of pride that swept across Jamaica when the flag of independent Zimbabwe was raised for the first time on April 18, 1980. That historic moment was even more emotional for us because our own reggae superstar Mr Robert Nesta Marley was in Harare, at the invitation of Mr Mugabe, to perform, because Mr Marley's songs served as motivation for the freedom fighters.
At the time, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania told Mr Mugabe that he had inherited “the jewel of Africa”, and there was much hope of a new dawn for the black majority country, formerly known as Rhodesia.
Up to the mid-1990s Mr Mugabe held our respect, to the point that on September 5, 1996 he was conferred with an honorary Order of Jamaica “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the fight for liberation and the overthrow of apartheid in Southern Africa, and his distinct leadership in the pursuit of freedom and human development throughout the African continent”.
After that, though, it all went downhill as Mr Mugabe's presidency was marked by hyperinflation, an increase in poverty, election rigging, political intimidation, threats against free speech, and a general, sustained assault on democracy.
Based on that ignominious record this newspaper had recommend that the Jamaican Government revoke that award, as we held the view that anyone whose credibility and integrity were so damaged should not have the privilege to hold the title “The Right Honourable”.
Of course, the Government ignored our appeal, and Mr Mugabe continued his tyrannical rule on Zimbabwe until the military, which he controlled throughout his tenure as president, finally woke up on November 14, 2017 and placed him under house arrest with his family.
Five days later, the governing ZANU-PF party fired Mr Mugabe as its leader, and on November 21, 2017 he resigned as head of state, clearing the way for Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace him.
That Mr Mugabe had to seek medical attention in Singapore, where he eventually died, speaks to the state of ruin in which his policies and autocratic rule left his country.
We shed no tear for this tyrant.