Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Mugabe The Legacy

18 Sep 2019 at 15:33hrs | Views
Born 21 February 1924 in Kutama Zvimba to Bona a catechist and Gabriel a carpenter no one would have thought that such a humble family would raise up an astute Pan-Africanist, Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

Mugabe had a keen interest in education from a very tender age and he spent most of his time reading and studying which helped him excel in his academics.

Upon finishing his tertiary education in 1945 which saw him attaining a diploma in teaching. Mugabe decided not only to further his educational path but also give back to his people by teaching at various schools in then Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

In 1949 Mugabe won a scholarship to study in South Africa at Fort Hare University. There Mugabe decided to be part of the African revolution as he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and attended many Pan-Africanist caucus meetings.

Three years later Mugabe graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Literature and History. Mugabe gave back again to his people as he taught at various schools in Harare and Gweru. His zest for education saw him corresponding in Education with the University of South Africa.

Mugabe's influencers that comprised of the likes of Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Kwame Nkrumah helped him in understanding that political ideologies were best solved if one had an educational background of what was transpiring.

Mugabe then moved to then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1955 where he conveyed his teaching skills to then Chalimbana Teacher Training College (Chalimbana University) in Lusaka.

Between 1955 and 1958 whilst working at Chalimbana Teacher Training College Mugabe decided once again to embark on yet another degree in Administration from the University of London through correspondence.

In 1958 Mugabe moved to Ghana where he taught at both secondary and tertiary levels. However, Mugabe's real agenda was to marvel and understand how Ghana which was the first African country to attain its indepence had done it under the stewardship of Kwame Nkrumah.

In 1960 Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia where he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) formerly the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress, where he was elected publicity secretary due to his intellectual capacity.

After having helped in the formation of the youth league, cooperating traditional leaders and involving women in the fight to liberation the NDP was banned a year later.
A few days later members of the former NDP including Mugabe went on to establish another political party, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) where Mugabe was immediately elected publicity and general secretary of the party.

Nine months later the Rhodesian government shutdown ZAPU. Some of the members of ZAPU went on to form a new political party the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).
Mugabe at that time was in then Tanganyika (Tanzania) where he was consulting with then President, Julius Nyerere about the political fiasco that was transpiring in Southern Rhodesia. Regardless, the party decided to appoint Mugabe secretary general even though he was not there.

Mugabe was arrested on his return to Southern Rhodesia in December 1963. His trial lasted from January to March 1964, during which he refused to retract the subversive statements that he had publicly made about the Rhodesian government.

In March 1964 he was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment. Mugabe was first imprisoned at Salisbury (Harare) Maximum Security Prison, before being moved to the Wha Wha detention centre in Gweru and then the Sikombela detention centre in Que Que (Kwekwe). At the latter, he organised study classes for the inmates, teaching them basic literacy, maths, and English.

In 1966 Mugabe was sent back to Salisbury Maximum Security Prison. There, forty prisoners were divided among four communal cells, with many sleeping on the concrete floor due to overcrowding. Mugabe shared his cell with  Ndabaningi Sithole, Enos Nkala, and Edgar Tekere . He remained there for eight years, devoting his time to reading and studying. During this period he gained several further degrees from the University of London a Masters in Economics, a Bachelor of Administration, and two Law degrees.
While imprisoned, Mugabe learned that his first born son Nhamodzenyika, had died of encephalitis at the age of three. Mugabe was grief-stricken and requested a leave of absence to visit his wife Sally (née Hayfron) in Ghana, but the Prison Warden refused to allow him to bury and mourn for his son.

After almost eleven years of imprisonment, Mugabe was released in November 1974. In August 1977, he was officially declared ZANU President at a meeting of the party's central committee held in Chimoio Mozambique.

Mugabe was now also the leader of ZANU's military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). By 1979, ZANLA was in a position to attack a number of Rhodesian forcers and by the latter part of the decade the guerrillas were winning.

Mugabe focused on the propaganda war, making regular speeches and radio broadcasts. For Mugabe, armed struggle was an essential part of the establishment of a new state.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1979, held in Lusaka, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher surprised delegates by announcing that the UK would officially recognise the country (Zimbabwe)'s independence if it transitioned to democratic majority rule.

The negotiations later took place at the Lancaster House in London and were led by the Conservative Party politician, Peter Carington.

Amongst some of the outlines of the Lancaster House Agreement, Mugabe agreed to the protection of the white community's privately owned property on the condition that the UK and US governments provide financial assistance allowing the Zimbabwean government to purchase much land for redistribution among the black people.

This then ultimately resulted in a ceasefire. Upon his return to Zimbabwe in 1980 he formed ZANU into a political party, known as the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in which he was gearing up for the first democratic elections.

During the campaign, Mugabe survived two assassination attempts. In the first, which took place on 6 February, a grenade was thrown at his Mount Pleasant home, where it exploded against a garden wall. In the second, on 10 February, a roadside bomb exploded near his motorcade as he left then the Fort Victoria (Masvingo) rally. Mugabe himself was unharmed.

In the February election, ZANU-PF secured 63% of the national vote, gaining 57 of the 80 parliamentary seats allocated for Black parties and providing them with an absolute majority.

Mugabe took his oath of office on 17 April 1980. He gave a speech at Salisbury's Rufaro Stadium announcing that Rhodesia would be renamed Zimbabwe and pledged racial reconciliation.

Across the country, statues of Cecil Rhodes were removed and squares and roads named after prominent colonial figures were renamed after black nationalists.  In 1982 Salisbury was renamed Harare.

From 1980 to 1990, the country's economy grew by an average of 2.7% a year. Under Mugabe's leadership, there was a massive expansion in education and health spending. In 1980, Zimbabwe had just 177 secondary schools, by 2000 this number had risen to 1 548.

During that period, the adult literacy rate rose from 62% to 82%, one of the best records in Africa. Levels of child immunisation were raised from 25%  to 92%.

At independence, 39% of Zimbabwe's land was under the ownership of around 6000 White large-scale commercial farmers, while 4% was owned by Black small-scale commercial farmers, and 41% was communal land where 4 million people lived often in overcrowded conditions.

ZANU-PF's target was to resettle 18,000 black families on 2.5 million acres of White-owned land over a period of three years. This would cost £30 million half of which was to be provided by the UK government as per the Lancaster House Agreement.

However, by 1990, 52 000 Black families had been settled on 6.5 million acres. This was insufficient to deal with the country's overcrowding problem. That year, the Parliament passed an amendment allowing the government to expropriate land at a fixed price. The government hoped that by doing so it could settle 110 000 Black families on 13 million acres of land.

In 1997, Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of the UK his government expressed reticence toward restarting the land resettlement payments promised by the Lancaster House Agreement, with minister Clare Short rejecting the idea that the UK had any moral obligation to fund land redistribution. This attitude fuelled anti-imperialist sentiment across Africa.

The land question was still unanswered as most Zimbabweans were still in the peripherals where the land was arid.

As a result of this, the former liberation war heroes and heroines started asking the initial reason that had fuelled the war and the answer was the issue of land.
The United States of America as well as the United Kingdom failed to live up to the terms of the Lancaster  House Agreement.

With regards to this, Mugabe enacted the Land Reform Act which saw the land being expropriated without compensation. Mugabe channeled the compensation to the British and the Americans as per the Lancaster House Agreement.

In return the British and the Americans initiated sanctions on Zimbabwe which relatively resulted in almost all of the Western countries doing so. The sanctions had serious socioeconomic repercussions which left the country in a very dilapidated state.

In the 2008 general elections Mugabe failed to reach the constitutionally mandated 51% to be President as his party only managed to secure 43.2% of the national votes which ultimately resulted in a government of national unity with the opposition parties.

Prior to that, the economy was now in a souring state as a result of the weakening Zimbabwean dollar. Mugabe's finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (now Air Zimbabwe chairperson) formulated the multi currency system that would see Zimbabwe abandoning its currency and making use of foreign currency as legal tender.

In 2009 the multi currency system became the norm of business transaction and the economy started to slowly recuperate.

In 2013 the government of national unity was dissolved as per the agreement paving way for another election, but this time Mugabe managed to surpass the required 51% which ultimately saw ZANU-PF returning to absolute power.

Three years later, Mugabe introduced the Command Agriculture Program that would see aspiring farmers getting farming inputs assistance from the government.
The program has since bore fruits as year in year out Zimbabwe is reaping from this program. In 2017 Zimbabwe recorded its highest maize output in decades securing more than a million tonnes.

The Command Agriculture is not racially or politically motivated however, the majority of the beneficiaries are aspiring Black farmers.
Last year Zimbabwe sold more than  237 million kgs of tobacco as a result of the Command Agriculture which saw the country racking in billions of US dollars. The record surpassed the one that had been set by White commercial farmers back around 2000 when they were still in possession of huge parts of the land of 236.9 million kgs.

In November 2017 ZANU-PF passed a vote of no confidence on Mugabe as a result of in-house party politics that ultimately saw Mugabe resigning and paving way for his former deputy president now the incumbent President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa.

After his resignation Mugabe decided to leave the political landscape. Due to his old age Mugabe was now constantly seeking medical attention which eventually led to his death.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe died at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore on 6 September 2019 at the age of 95.
Like any other human being, Mugabe had his faults some which were horrific and atrocious but he also had his merits which are and will constantly be reaped by Zimbabweans and Africans at large.

Source - Daniel Itai
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.