The tyrant Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years with an iron fist, is dead. There are three groups of Zimbabweans who are saddened by his death at 95.
To his cronies, who were allowed to loot government institutions at will, he was a god-like figure.
To the four million exiles, destitute, held in contempt in the diaspora, suffering from xenophobic attacks in South Africa, their fortunes back home stolen or squandered by a rapacious government, Mugabe was a killer of dreams.
The tiny group of 50,000 whites who remained after independence is probably the saddest because they believed his rhetoric of reconciliation.
On the eve of independence, April 18, 1980, Mugabe made the dream speech. He lived to betray and to dishonor every promise.
“I urge you, whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive others and forget. Join hands in a new unity and together as Zimbabweans trample upon racialism, tribalism and regionalism and work hard to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.”
He even talked of a “total commitment to build a great Zimbabwe that will be the pride of all of Africa.”
Despite everything, Mugabe remained a hero to the majority of Africans of the Atlantic diaspora, and on the African continent.
They were mesmerized by his posturing as a prophet, defending black rights against white imperialism.
In their eyes, Mugabe had challenged the white colonial establishment by confiscating the properties of 5,000 white commercial farmers. True, these farmers owned one third of the most fertile land. However, because of their modern methods, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Southern Africa.
In this one act of betrayal, Mugabe destroyed one third of the economy, sending 4 million workers into exile. Today, unemployment is at 90% of the population as agro-based companies fled to neighboring countries.
In any case, the US and British governments had offered financial help for resettlement. But such monitored resettlement would interfere with his state sponsored criminal enterprises.
Such a regime could only be maintained by violence carried out in the form of disappearances of opponents.
There is no excuse for Zimbabwe’s poverty, now second only to that of Haiti. With the discovery of the largest diamond field in the world, Zimbabwe would have been an El Dorado.
In my book, “Life and Times of Robert Mugabe,” the conclusion is that Mugabe “wanted to be master of everything he set his eyes on. What he could not master, he destroyed. Humans were used and discarded when their usefulness expired.”
He killed all our dreams, died in Gleneagles Hospital, a reminder of the British he so pretended to hate, without friends, looked at by the world as a tragic figure.
If I were to list the names of opponents, including generals who disappeared into the night, I would not see the end of it.
For a person raised by Catholic missionaries, some form of compunction was expected. The missionary family of the Rev. Sir Garfield Todd had been imprisoned during the colonial war for supporting black causes.
When Mugabe failed to buy their silence, he first imprisoned them; later, he stripped them of their citizenship.
The 4 million exiles are celebrating. Those in Zimbabwe dare not show any measure of happiness. The tyrant is dead, the system lives on.