Will Robert Mugabe be remembered as a Hero Or Villain?

Brief History 

Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980 when Zimbabwe got its independence from Britain. He was one of the long-serving leaders until last year when he was ousted by his party. Robert Mugabe was a teacher and political prisoner; he spent 11 years in prison under Ian Smith Rhodesian government. Robert Mugabe graduated from Katuma’s St.Francis Xavier college in 1945; he taught in Rhodesia and Ghana for 15 years. Mugabe joined the pro-independent National Democratic Party in 1960, becoming its national secretary.

In 1961 NDP was banned and was later reformed as the Zimbabwean African People Union  ( ZAPU).  Mugabe left ZAPU two years later and joined the Zambian African Union which was later named ZANU-PF.

ZANU PF was banned in 1964 by the Rhodesian government and Mugabe was imprisoned. In 1965, while in prison Mugabe taught English to his fellow prisoners, during his time he managed to earn multiple degrees by correspondence from the University of London. Mugabe was freed in 1974 spent years in Zambia and Mozambique in exile.

Mugabe gained control of ZANU – PF and its military front in 1977, it is during this time that he adopted Marxist and Maoist ideologies and received arms and training from Asia and eastern Europe. But he still maintained a good relationship with Western donors.

In 1982 Mugabe sent his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade to the ZAPU stronghold of Matabeleland to crack down on dissent. Over a period five years, 20,000 Ndebele civilians were killed as part of an alleged political genocide.

When Mugabe became president in 1987, he abolished the role of the prime minister, and since then he has won a series of controversial elections that critics say where not free and fair. In 2008 when he lost the election to the late Morgan Tsvangirai, it sparked political violence and according to human rights groups, 200 people died as a result.

During the creation of Zimbabwe and after winning the election Mugabe worked to convince the white farmers to stay. In fact, the first minister for agriculture under is regime was a white. In the first decade, Zimbabwe for decades was a symbol of how to move as a country after colonialism. For example, after independence, all the white people from Zambia stated migrating out of the country, and there was no effort from the Zambian government back then to try and convince them to stay. For most of Mugabe’s reign, Zimbabwe’ s economy was doing well, largely because Mugabe did not change the structure that was left by the British. Mugabe was praised for injecting new life into the country by expanding its social services and for improving the countries infrastructure, with programs of building hospitals and schools through overspending.

During the 90s Mugabe faced growing unrest, this was due to a failing economy and his decision to assist president Laurent Kabila of DRC in his fight against the rebels. This led to strikes and violence broke out in 1998 following the announcement that he and his members of parliament will be receiving pay raises. The first opposition to Mugabe’s reign come from the Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC won half of the contested seats in 2000, but ZANU-PF won or controlled most of the remaining seats, this Mugabe and his Party maintained a firm grip on power in Zimbabwe.

In early 2000, war veteran started demanding immediate land reforms; they threatened to occupy some of the country’s white-owned farms. Mugabe showed sympathy for their cause and did nothing to persuade them not to act on the threats. In the months that led to the 2000 parliamentary elections, the war veteran acted on their threats; this heightened the tension in the country which was already experiencing a downturn in the economy.

In 2000, Mugabe organised a referendum to change the constitution, this essentially expanded the power of the presidency to allow the government to seize white-owned land. The violence perpetrated by a group of individuals calling themselves war veterans even though they were not old enough to have fought for independence,  caused many of the white farmers to flee the country. The migration of white farmers led to the collapse of the Zimbabwean commercial farming. Which led to years of hyperinflation and food shortages that created a nation of poor billionaires.

After 2000, Zimbabwe entered one its darkest years, Mugabe during his reign had managed to destroy the judiciary by appointing judges that were loyal to him. He constantly shut down dissenting voices and imprisoned members of the opposition party. Since the 90s, 20 percent of Zimbabweans have migrated in search of a better life. This is even more evident in the health care system, continuous migration of the health care personals has led to the loss of experienced healthcare workers. According to the ministry of health, Zimbabwe has  1.6 doctors and 7.2 nurses for every 10,000 people. Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly confined in the northern province of Matabeleland, and in the southeastern regions of Manicaland and Masvingo, where water is hard to find. According to the business insider, Zimbabwe is the second poorest country in the world.

If we asked Zimbabweans the question, is Mugabe a hero or Villan? The answer would be split and would be dependant on age and what part of Zimbabwe they come from. Rural Zimbabwe still views Mugabe as a hero, and despite the current state of the country,  those that were born before Zimbabwe got its independence in 1980, Mugabe is still seen as a hero. Mugabe is a hero because he gave them dignity, fought oppression and gave them freedom. Lastly, for Zimbabweans that were born after 1980, the story is different, Mugabe is the man who took their future away.

Will Mugabe be remembered as a hero or a villain in Zimbabwe?