Friday September 6, 2019
Editorial Cartoon Gallery by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday September 6, 2019
Mugabe dies; liberated Zimbabwe, then held it for 37 years
Former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla chief who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980 and presided over a country whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil and allegations of human rights violations, has died in Singapore at the age of 95.
Mugabe enjoyed strong support among the population and even the West soon after taking over as Prime Minister and Zimbabwe’s first post-colonial leader. But he was reviled in later years as the economy collapsed and human rights violations increased. His often violent takeover of farms from whites who owned huge tracts of land made him a hated figure in the West and a hero in Africa.
His successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced Mugabe’s death in a tweet Friday, mourning him as an “icon of liberation.”
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry later said he died Friday at the Gleneagles Hospital there, saying it was working with Zimbabwe on arrangements for Mugabe’s body to be flown home. Mugabe had received medical treatment at the hospital in recent years.
Mugabe’s popularity began to rise again after Mnangagwa failed to deliver on promises of economic recovery and appeared to take an even harsher and more repressive stance against critics. Many began to publicly say they missed Mugabe.
Forced to resign amid pressure from the military, his party and the public in November 2017, Mugabe was defiant throughout his long life, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude and urging Africans to take control of their resources — a populist message that was often a hit, even as many nations on the continent shed the strongman model and moved toward democracy.
A target of international sanctions over the years, Mugabe nevertheless enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa who chose not to judge him in the same way as Britain, the United States and other Western detractors.
“They are the ones who say they gave Christianity to Africa,” Mugabe said of the West during a visit to South Africa in 2016. “We say: ‘We came, we saw and we were conquered.’”
Even as old age took its toll and opposition to his rule increased, he refused to step down until the pressure became unbearable in 2017 as his former allies in the ruling party accused him of grooming his wife, Grace, to take over — ahead of long-serving loyalists such as Mnangagwa, who was fired in November 2017 before returning to take over with the help of the military.
Spry in his impeccably tailored suits, Mugabe maintained a schedule of events and international travel during his rule that defied his advancing age, though signs of weariness mounted. He walked with a limp, fell after stepping off a plane in Zimbabwe, read the wrong speech at the opening of parliament, and appeared to be dozing during a news conference in Japan. However, his longevity and frequently dashed rumors of ill health delighted supporters and infuriated opponents who had sardonically predicted he would live forever. (Continued: AP)