A complex man: Condolences pour in following Robert Mugabe's passing

Mugabe (95) passed away in Singapore on Friday morning where he had been seeking treatment.

FILE: Robert Mugabe. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabweans, political parties and others are remembering former President Robert Mugabe, who led the country for almost four decades, as a complex leader who both built and bruised Zimbabwe’s legacy.

Mugabe (95) passed away in Singapore on Friday morning where he had been seeking treatment.

He ruled Zimbabwe for close to four decades with what had been described as an iron grip on power. However, after a military takeover in 2017, he stepped down with Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over.

President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his condolences to the people and government of Zimbabwe.

“South Africans join the people and government of Zimbabwe in mourning the passing of a liberation fighter and champion of Africa’s cause against colonialism. Under President Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe’s sustained and valiant struggle against colonialism inspired our own struggle against apartheid and built-in us the hope that one day South Africa too would be free,” he said.

Ramaphosa added: “During the decades of our own struggle, Zimbabwe’s liberation movement supported our own liberation movement to fight oppression on multiple fronts. After Zimbabwe achieved independence, the apartheid state brutalised and violated Zimbabwe as punishment for supporting our own struggle.

“Many Zimbabweans paid with their lives so that we could be free. We will never forget or dishonour this sacrifice and solidarity.”

Mugabe was the former leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu-PF, an organisation he led for over 30 years. He leaves behind his wife Grace and three children.

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Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Nelson Chamisa said now was the time to highlight Mugabe’s positive contribution and mourn his passing.

“This is clearly a dark moment for the family because a giant has fallen. From a political perspective, we had many differences [and] we disagreed for decades. But we acknowledge the contributions made by Mr Mugabe during his lifetime, both as a freedom fighter and as the nation’s founding president,” Chamisa said.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions’ Zwelinzima Vavi said Mugabe was a hero after the liberation of his country, but there were two sides to him.

“We remember the massacres in Matabeleland, we remember the brutalisation of activists in Zimbabwe, including from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions for resting this misrule. We must remember both sides [and] we’ll salute him as we should,” Vavi said.


Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC) also sent its condolences on Mugabe's passing, saying he had devoted his life to the service of his country and his people.

The governing party said Mugabe’s life came to “epitomise the ‘new African’ - who having shrugged off the colonial yoke, would strive to ensure his country took its rightful place amongst the community of nations: firmly in charge of its own destiny.”

“Throughout his life, the late Comrade Mugabe as an ardent and vocal advocate of African unity and self-reliance and will always be remembered for his rallying cry: ‘Africa is for Africans, Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans’,” said ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule through a statement.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also sent its condolences, saying Mugabe was one of the liberation fighters that ensured the independence and self-sufficiency of Zimbabwe and its people.

EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “He led this struggle with distinction and selflessness. On his passing, we remember against forgetting, that under his leadership, the Zimbabwean land reform program was suspended so as to allow South Africa to peacefully make the transition to democracy.

“As a people, we owe a lot of our own democratic freedoms to the leadership of President Mugabe.”

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said that while he may be a liberator, he failed as a statesman.

"Robert Mugabe was someone who worked hard for the liberation of his people but equally he was someone who had a terrible governance record. One cannot side-step the fact that here's a nation now in absolute chaos and ruin for the leadership that he took."

Mugabe was born in what was then Rhodesia on 21 February 1924, the son of a carpenter. He later qualified as a teacher but won a scholarship to Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape where he took the first of his seven academic degrees before teaching in Ghana.

In 1960, Mugabe returned to Rhodesia and soon became a founder member of the Zimbabwe African National Union.

Thereafter he was key in the conflict against the government of Ian Smith with Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe.