The late former Zimbabwean Prime Minister and President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, loved and hated by many at the same time.
He died last Thursday in a Singaporean hospital at the age of 95 after a long illness.
During his 38 year reign as the Zimbabwean head of state and in government, he was well known for being calculative, cunning and ruthless on one hand, whilst on the other he had a charismatic character coupled with oratory prowess and dialectic deductions which certainly had the power to convince and confuse even his immediate opponent.
His excellent oratory, as one Fadzayi Mahere – a lawyer, Member of Parliament and human rights activist – puts it, was seductive.
Maybe this could be the reason why, by the time of his death, the ones that he had tormented the most seem to have developed some form of fondness for him.
Nelson Chamisa, the President of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Alliance) and long standing arch rival, critic and a despiser of Robert Mugabe for years is one typical example of an opponent turned admirer.
Having been brutally tortured and savagely assaulted by state apparatus under Mugabe’s command a few decades ago, it surely came as a surprise for Chamisa to lodge business partnerships with his tormentor’s family; have secret meetings before elections; and shower praises after death on someone whom he so despised at some point.
His deputy, Tendai Biti, who suffered the same treatment said that he felt “indebted to Mugabe.”
“His legacy shouldn’t be detracted by the fact that there were atrocities, commissions and omissions committed, ” Biti said in a rather shocking statement.
It therefore makes sense for the upcoming artists from Bulawayo to project a soft spot for the former President who did not only plan and execute a ‘genocide’ on these young people’s forefathers, but also stole their future by running into the drain the country’s economy.
Several who spoke to this publication expressed mixed feelings towards his death and seemed torn between according him the hero or the villain status.
Tariq Bravo (Brian Ndlovu), a local rapper, said his memory of Mugabe comprises of the good and bad of his deeds, with each failing to outweigh the other.
“I will always remember Robert Mugabe as a liberation hero since he played a key role in the liberation struggle and as we know he is the founding president of the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
“But I would say he is not a hero in Matabeleland because of what our elders say was a genocide that happened just after Independence. They say he killed many people many of whom were of the Ndebele origin and for that he is not hero here even if we try bring in some great things that he did before and after then, ” Tariq said.
Amongst the great things that Tariq says Mugabe must be given credit and commended for is the high education and literacy levels that he bequeathed on his people.
Another upcoming artist, Lynden, concurred with Tariq saying its hard to portray the late former president as an icon.
“The thing is that he left a Zimbabwe that we are not so proud of, a Zimbabwe with a dysfunctional economy but on the other hand he left a country that has values and principles,” Lynden said, adding that:
“If I was to choose between Zimbabwe and South Africa at any day, I would pick Zimbabwe because here we have peace and we rarely experience extreme crime levels as compared to other African countries. As Zimbabweans we have always valued things like tradition and being virtuous and we do not resort to terrible things like xenophobia which is a legacy that I believe Mugabe has left us.”
Lynden also said Mugabe should receive acclaim for the land reform programme, turned into a land – grabbing exercise, which he says was “a necessary evil.”
Another rap artist who introduced himself as Lee said the former President left behind both a good and a bad legacy adding that he should be credited for standing against “giving rights to the LGBTI community.”
However, leader of the controversial Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), Mqondisi Moyo, had no kind words for the late former president.
He said, “We don’t have tears to waste. We wont mourn someone who committed atrocities that left over 20 000 innocent civilians dead during the Gukurahundi. We can’t. We are not moved an inch by his death.”
Daniella Nkomo, a local resident, said Mugabe is not a hero because after playing a role as the country’s liberator “he turned into a monster that devoured it’s own children through the Gukurahundi.”
“Mugabe left behind a broken country and underdeveloped country that is deeply divided in terms of tribes. It is misleading to say he is a hero even though he fought to liberate us because afterwards he betrayed his own cadres like Tongogara and Joshua Nkomo. What kind of a hero kills his own blood and flesh?” queried Nkomo.
Robert Mugabe was deposed from presidency through a soft coup in November 2017 after 38 years of ruling.
He is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren.