Robert Mugabe died in a hospital in Singapore on Friday, according to sources. He was surrounded by family including his wife, Grace. He had been receiving treatment in Singapore since April.
Sources told ZimLive: “Sadly, we have lost him. It’s a day we hoped would never come, but he has had a good innings and is now rested.” Mugabe had made frequent visits to Singapore for medical care. Zimbabwe’s own health system has imploded due to his mismanagement.
His second wife Grace, is known to Zimbabweans as the “First Shopper” or “Gucci” Grace Mugabe. She had initially positioned herself as his successor, but later gave up on her plan.
The brutal African despot will not only be remembered for his treatment of political opponents, but also his economic mismanagement of a once prosperous country. Mugabe was ousted from power in a military coup in November 2017 after 37 years in power.
Mugabe crippled Zimbabwe under his bloody reign of terror that lasted almost four decades, after a his campaign in 2000 to evict white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans. The land grab led to widespread famine with millions of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa.
New documents that came to light in 2015, directly implicated Mugabe in mass killings of Ndebele people in western Zimbabwe in January 1983. Known as the Gukurahundi, the massacres of Ndebele civilians were carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early 1983 to late 1987. Estimates of the death toll are put at 20 000 people, but it may be more.
Thousands of declassified documents have since exposed the perpetrators. The testimonies of Zimbabwean witnesses substantiated what survivors and scholars had always suspected: Mugabe, then prime minister, was the prime architect of the genocide that was well-planned and systematically executed.
Zapu, a party led by rival Joshua Nkomo, represented the main opposition to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. Given that Zapu enjoyed overwhelming support among the Ndebele tribe, this ethnic group from Matabeleland – in the words of Mugabe himself – needed to be “re-educated”.
Similarly to Nelson Mandela, Mugabe deemed terrorism aimed at whites to be necessary in the overthrow white minority rule in Rhodesia. This contrasted with Nkomo’s view that Africans should focus on international diplomacy to encourage the British colonial government to grant their demands.
Sydney Sekeramayi, Defence Minister confirmed that “not only was Mugabe fully aware of what was going on — [but] what the Fifth Brigade [Mugabe’s killing squad] was doing was under Mugabe’s explicit orders”. The Australian High Commission reported this attrocity to Canberra.
The “army had had to act ‘hard’”, Sekeramayi told the British defence attaché, “but … the situation was now under control”. Later, Sekeramayi admitted to the British high commissioner that “there had been atrocities”.
Eddison Zvobgo, a member of Zanu’s 20-member policy-making body, also confirmed the “decision of the central committee that there had to be a ‘massacre’ of Ndebeles”. That statement was confirmed by the Fifth Brigade’s ethnocentric modus operandi.
The country’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was a member of this notorious central committee. Mnangagwa, who seized power in November 2017 after the military coup, on Friday praised Mugabe as an “icon” on Twitter.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” Mnangagwa tweeted.
“Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
Mnangagwa told a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago that Mugabe had been taken off life support. “There’s nothing more they can do for him,” Mnangagwa told Cabinet, according to a minister who was present.
Calls for the government to publicly apologize for the atrocities, came to naught. A seven-member Commission of Inquiry was set up in early 2019 chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, but there was general discontent and people from the affected communities did not believe that the Government was sincere in its commitments towards the Gukurahundi genocide issue.
In 1973, while still in prison, Mugabe was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), by promising “democracy and reconciliation”. He had been attending Roman Catholic mission schools, and had qualified as a teacher, after his father abandoned the family in 1934.
But after independence in 1980 the country quickly descended into ethnic cleansing, violence, corruption and economic disaster. Eventually, hyperinflation of 500 billion percent saw prices rocketing in 2008.
Mugabe studied at the South African University of Fort Hare during the Apartheid years before returning to Zimbabwe. Ironically, black South Africans are told today by the ruling ANC that education was being withheld from blacks at that time. In 1960, Mugabe returned to Rhodesia.
On Friday, the African National Congress also fondly remembered Mugabe as a “friend, statesman and revolutionary”.