There can be no doubt that in the very early 1980s, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was considered the ‘darling’ of Africa. After all, he had led ZANU through a bush war in Rhodesia which had culminated in the dismantling of white rule and the installing of Mugabe as, initially, Prime Minister, and in later years, President.
Mugabe effectively brought black rule to Zimbabwe.
His victory over white rule was facilitated by the assistance of the British government of Margaret Thatcher with the assistance of people in America like former President Jimmy Carter and human rights activist Jesse Jackson.
The Rhodesian government then, led by the late Ian Douglas Smith, resisted the intended move to black rule.
Smith said, “Never in a thousand years,” whilst Mugabe was happy to state, “We are ready to rule. Right now!”
The bush war (which killed about 30000 people) came to an end in 1979 with the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement.
Mugabe was seen as a hero, a liberator, a conqueror. And he played to the crowds with his menacing fist salute of his party ZANU, and within just a few years, he had set the Fifth Brigade, a specially North-Korean trained group of men, on the Matabele tribe – and over the next 5 years they set about bullying, robbing, raping and murdering that tribe.
The campaign was ostensibly to rid the Province of the political malcontents – the dissidents – that had returned to the bush with their weapons in protest of the treatment that they were getting as Joshua Nkomo-led former freedom fighters, as opposed to Mugabe’s former freedom fighters.
I do not doubt that there was dissidents, but not in the numbers claimed by Mugabe’s government.
When the Gukurahundi came to an end in 1987 with the signing of a peace accord between Nkomo and Mugabe, between 20 and 30 thousand people were dead.
The people of Zimbabwe breathed a sigh of collective relief.
For the next 12 years the country experienced varying success economically, and Mugabe installed himself as the First Executive State President of Zimbabwe, and declared Zimbabwe a ‘one party State’.
In 2000 the country unanimously rejected a new Constitution that Mugabe wanted the country to adopt.
His answer was to begin the often vicious land grab. That operation continues today as I write, and was intended to return the land to the ‘landless blacks’ on a ‘willing buyer – willing seller’ basis.
The land was taken forcibly, often resulting in the death of the farmer and/or his workers, with Mugabe telling the farmers that they should seek reparation for their loss from the British government.
The fact that the British government paid Mugabe’s government money to affect reparation as long ago as the early 1980s seems to have slipped his mind.
And the land itself has not been returned to the ‘landless blacks’ but has been given away to his government members and supporters, including the heads of the armed forces. The working of the land has all but stopped, and whilst ten years ago Zimbabwe was able to feed itself and export the remainder, Zimbabwe is unable to feed the masses today and is more and more reliant on world food aid.
Sadly, any food aid into Zimbabwe is administrated by the Mugabe regime and those who need the food the most are often overlooked.
But this is just the beginning of the atrocities that Mugabe has committed against his own people (if they really are his people, as he is half-Malawian). Operation Murambatsvina displaced three-quarters of a million people, whilst the present post-election violence and the xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa are all orchestrated by his regime.
I ask you the question…
Robert Mugabe – hero or villain?
Robb WJ Ellis
The Bearded Man