By Baffour Ankomah Editor-at-Large of New African magazine
One of Africa’s greatest warriors is gone. Robert Gabriel Mugabe who stood unbowed for 17 years as the collective might of the Western world tried to bring him down, has finally gone to the ancestors who, l am sure, will welcome him with song and dance.
He wanted to live for 100 years, “just 100” he once said in an interview with the then New African correspondent Mabasa Sasa, but the Good Lord eventually granted him 95 years, much longer than most of his comrades who stood with him in the liberation war.
Mugabe was human so he made his mistakes like all humans do. But he did more good for his country and people than bad. He was not one of those African “heroes” glorified in the West but have nothing or little to show at home for their alleged heroism. He was a true champion.
Mugabe did not mind to soil his name for a good cause. And no good cause was bigger than recovering the land stolen by European settlers who pillaged across his native land in the late 1880s. It was a cause celebre, and today the land he redistributed has brought immense benefits to the people of Zimbabwe who were lucky enough to be allocated land.
In a country where the farmer is king, unlike in many African nations, the new farmers of Zimbabwe will forever remember the man they affectionately called “Gushungo” (Crocodile), the man who famously stood up to Blair and Bush and told the British prime minister to keep his “England and let me keep my Zimbabwe”.
Many enemies and detractors may want to dance on Mugabe’s grave, but they will only be spitting in their own faces as the man’s record and virtues are sacrosanct. He did what he did on the land issue because it had to be done. In fact it was long overdue.
Land was the major grievance before, during and after the liberation war. If anything, Mugabe was too conciliatory on the land issue as he pushed his post-independence reconciliation policy too far for many people’s liking.
Today, in some circles Nelson Mandela is the father of reconciliation in Africa, but 14 long years before South Africa got its first black president in 1994, a certain Robert Mugabe had become famous for stretching a hand of reconciliation to the white people who had oppressed his people since 1890 and had lost the war and the politics to Mugabe and his comrades.
For 20 years after independence, Mugabe was an able leader loved not only by his people, but by the Western world as well. The many honorary degrees given to him by Western universities (and even a knighthood granted him by the British Queen) were testament to his larger-than-life character.
Mugabe only became a tyrant and an ugly dictator in 2000 when Tony Blair and Claire Short left him with no options but to seize the land stolen by the white settlers and redistribute it to black Zimbabweans. We should not forget this fact. Thus Blair and Short bear a huge responsibility for what has happened to Zimbabwe and it’s white farmers today. Blair and Short may want to hide from this miscalculation but we shouldn’t allow them.
Remarkably instead of penance, Blair sought support from the larger Western world to crush Mugabe. In the process, Zimbabwe as a country has hugely suffered under the harsh economic and political sanctions imposed by Britain and its Western allies. The sanctions led to an economic implosion that Zimbabwe has still not recovered from 11 years later. The American sanctions are still in force, renewed last year and this year by President Trump who may, for all you care, not be able to point out Zimbabwe on the world map.
Blair and his Western allies even sponsored an opposition party and opposition politicians in Zimbabwe as part of their regime change agenda, forcing Mugabe to adopt sometimes brutal and undemocratic responses to beat the enemy away. That was part of the psychological warfare played on Mugabe and he sadly fell into the trap, giving his enemies abroad and opponents at home the joy of calling him a dictator and even a Hitler.
In all this, Mugabe’s greatest sin was not knowing when to leave the stage when the applause was loudest. He hung on and on even as his abilities as a leader were seriously eroded by his advanced age. His refusal to groom a successor worsened matters, allowing his youthful wife Grace to attempt to seize the reins of power to the chagrin of Mugabe’s long-standing comrades. This brought the house down on Mugabe when the military intervened In November 2017 and brought what had been a glorious career to an ignominious end.
Eventually the man who could not be defeated by the combined might of the Western world was brought low by one woman, his wife Grace who foolishly behaved as if there were no grace left in the world to hold on to, or even aspire to.
Now that he is gone, Mugabe’s enemies might think they have a field day to rub salt into his wounds, but whatever they may say will not be enough to deny him his heroic and iconic status. As one of the true sons of Africa and a great warrior, he will forever be remembered for his noble fight for justice and equality in Zimbabwe. He deserves Africa’s praise and honour.