Few Pan-African Alliance Facebook posts have attracted more hatred than our post concerning Robert Mugabe.
Some wrote “What that hell??? Pan-African Alliance stop this sayin’ this bullshit. Mugabe is like “black” Adolf Hitler. The people of Zimbabwe never see him a great leader.”
Others wrote “Mugabe may not be a great leader but surely he has [stood] as a man to defend his country from the hands of wicked colonizers whose interest was to enslaved the entire continent”
Which of these statements are closer to the truth? Is Robert Mugabe the archetype for Black leadership? Or is he as dangerous to Zimbabwe as Hitler was to Germany?
Know your facts before you form an opinion of Robert Mugabe.
Table of Contents
Robert Mugabe And The History Of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is the home of some of Africa’s most advanced ancient civilizations. The Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe endured from around 1000 AD to 1500 AD. The entire kingdom was built from stone, and its walls towered as high as 36 feet, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.
The Great Walls of Zimbabwe are as much of a mystery as the Great Pyramids of Kemet, for all of the stones were fit perfectly in place without mortar and using advanced principles of engineering.
When Cecil Rhodes sent in his agents to rob and steal in Zimbabwe, they and other Europeans marveled at the surviving ruins of the Zimbabwe culture, and automatically assumed that it had been built by white people.
The land of Zimbabwe is rich with coal, iron, tin, and other precious metals, ivory, cattle, diamonds and other precious minerals. This natural wealth gave rise industries and technologies capable of processing precious metals and raw materials into finished goods – an important aspect of developing healthy economies and healthy kingdoms. Farming and cattle raising more than met the nutritional needs of the people, and trade with Arabs from the North and Indians from the seas of the East meant a diversity of goods were available.
This was the state of affairs until the arrival of the first whites in the 1800s. The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 officially ushered in the age of African colonialism, carving up Africa into territories to be ruled by European nations. What we know today as Zimbabwe would become the British territory of “Rhodesia” in honor of Cecil Rhodes, the British empire-builder and key figure during the British expansion into southern Africa.
In 1888 Rhodes obtained mineral rights from the most powerful local traditional leaders through illegal treaties and false promises. Once the new colonial government was in place, the native Africans were ruled by an all-white government in which they were not allowed to participate.Technological progress was brought to a halt, as was their ability to conduct their own affairs of trade and commerce. Farmlands were seized by British companies and the people who had lived on that seized land for generations were forced to work the land for their new masters.
Rhodes believed that the English had an inherent right to imperial rule because they were the “first race in the world and therefore the more of the world (they) inhabited, the better it would be for the human race”.
Life in Rhodesia was brutal and humiliating for Blacks. The progress that they had gained after generations of development was erased. Rhodesia became a white man’s heaven and the Black man’s hell.
Under colonial law, 6000 whites seized the best half of the land while forcing 600,000 black peasant farmers onto the worst half of was left. From 1890 to 1979, the white minority dominated and oppressed the native population and divested them of their land.
This was the world that Robert Mugabe and his countrymen inherited.
Robert Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924. As a child and young man, Robert Mugabe proved to be a towering intellect. While other children socialized and played, Mugabe read. According to his brother Donato his only friends were his books. By the age of 27, Mugabe had graduated from the University of Fort Hare, South Africa, where he had been heavily influenced in thought after meeting men like Julius Nyerere and Robert Sobukwe – first President of the African National Congress (ANC). Mugabe would go on to earn 6 more degrees, including 2 Masters Degrees from The University of London.
He traveled to Ghana to teach from 1958 to 1960, only one year after Kwame Nkrumah came to power. Nkrumah’s Pan-African ideals influenced Mugabe to return to his home country of Rhodesia and join the Revolutionary Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963.
The Wars Of National Liberation
One year after the ZANU was formed, the group went to war with rival nationalist parties. A white farmer was caught in the crossfire and killed, leading the Rhodesian government to ban new Black political parties, and leaders, including Mugabe, were arrested and imprisoned indefinitely. From 1964 until 1974, Mugabe remained incarcerated until political forces moved to set him free. That same year, he was elected the leader of the ZANU and created a militant arm of the political party called the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). Robert Mugabe was now in control of the most revolutionary political group in the country. The ZANU/ZANLA was now ready to take on colonialism head to head, with Robert Mugabe leading the charge.
Black nationalists had been fighting white majority rule in Zimbabwe during the period of time that Mugabe was incarcerated, but the efforts were dis-unified. Guerrillas would strike and flee into neighboring countries that were free from colonial rule like Zambia and Mozambique. As colonialism and capitalism fell in the countries surrounding Rhodesia, Russia, Cuba, and other nations sympathetic to the revolution began arming and training African freedom fighters. With the battles won in their home countries, well equipped and well-trained guerrillas joined the fight against the Rhodesian government.
The battles were fierce, and in the early 1970s, it seemed that the colonial government had everything it needed to win the war. But they underestimated the determination of the Africans that they faced. No longer were the guerrillas the disorganized force they had been in the 1960s. Indeed now they were well-equipped with modern weapons, and although many were still untrained, an increasing number had received training in Communist bloc and other sympathetic countries – particularly Mozambique.
On 9 August 1976, 70 colonial troops disguised their vehicle and snuck into a ZANU-PF camp in Mozambique housing 5,000 guerrillas. During the early morning hours, the colonial forces pulled out a loudspeaker and shouted “Zimbabwe tatona” – “We have taken Zimbabwe”. The sleeping guerrillas awoke and began cheering and running towards the vehicles.The colonials then opened fire and didn’t stop shooting until nobody moved. More than 1,000 ZANLA died that day.
In retaliation, guerrillas on Mugabe’s side bombed trains carrying minerals and slaughtered white civilian farmers.
In November 1977, in response to the buildup of Mugabe’s guerrilla force in Mozambique, Rhodesian forces launched a surprise attack on guerrilla camps. The onslaught lasted three days, from 23 to 25 November 1977, inflicting thousands of casualties on Robert Mugabe’s ranks.
Total war swept over Rhodesia, and with Black soldiers defecting from the white ranks and fellow revolutionaries sweeping over the border, the colonial government began to realize its days were numbered. In March of 1978, the white government disbanded and renamed the country Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, and installed the country’s first black prime minister. But nothing had essentially changed – control of the military, police, civil service, and judicial branches of the government remained in white hands, and whites kept one-third of the seats in parliament.
Mugabe’s forces didn’t buy it and kept fighting. They would not stop until majority rule was established and the yoke of imperialism was removed. However, a temporary ceasefire was called under the conditions that a new election be held and nationalist guerrilla leaders were allowed to run for office. The Rhodesian government – weary from nearly 20 years of bloodshed – agreed. Elections were scheduled for early 1980. Only two prominent nationalist leaders stepped forward, Robert Mugabe of the ZANU and his long time rival, Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU).
After two decades of struggle for liberation, after more than 20,000 lost lives, and after the reduction of the nation into a war torn battlefield, in 1980, Robert Mugabe had done the impossible, winning election to the leadership of the new nation that he renamed Zimbabwe.
Under The Rule Of Robert Mugabe
One of the first acts of Prime Minister Mugabe was to revoke white privilege. Generous social welfare policies that covered white education and healthcare were cancelled and that money and those resources were redirected to the Black population that had been denied for so long. Jobs that were previously off limits were now wide open to Blacks in the nation.
According to a World Bank report,”Zimbabwe gave priority to human resource investments and support for smallholder agriculture,” and as a result, “smallholder agriculture expanded rapidly during the first half of the 1980s and social indicators improved quickly.” As a result, the country became known as the breadbasket of southern Africa.
Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe became an example to follow for the rest of the continent. His achievements included:
- Reducing infant mortality rates from 86 to 49 per 1000 live births, under five mortality was reduced from 128 to 58 per 1000 live births,
- Increasing immunization from 25% to 80% of the population.
- Reducing child malnutrition from 22% to 12%
- Increasing life expectancy from 56 to 64 years of age
- Increasing the literacy rate of his people to 98% (a rate better than the United States. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population)
- Cutting HIV/AIDS prevalence in half
Because of these achievements, the world praised Robert Mugabe as the future of African leadership. Universities worldwide awarded him honorary degrees and he was Knighted by the Queen of England.
Despite all of Zimbabwe’s achievements, the nation still suffered from political strife and division. In 1983, Mugabe fired Nkomo from the position of Vice President. Nkomo’s political party, the ZAPU, remained active and saw the firing as an attack on their interests – which it was: Mugabe sought to bring a one government rule to the nation, based on the advice of his mentor Julius Nyerere.
Tribes loyal to Nkomo began plots to overthrow Robert Mugabe and threaten the hard-earned peace won less than 3 years earlier. Mugabe went into action. From 1982 until 1987, he ordered his armies to crush armed resistance from the Ndebele tribes of the ZAPU, killing as many as 20,000 and securing his rule over the nation.
Rather than continuing to war with rival political parties, Mugabe merged the ZANU with other revolutionary groups to create the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and he reinstated Nkomo as the Vice President within the newly created party. This unified front had achieved the support of the peasants, the strength of a respectable military, and consolidated Mugabe’s rule.
This was an impressive achievement on Mugabe’s part, but the international community refused to turn a blind eye to the Ndebele massacre. If they were troubled by the massacre, they were absolutely pissed about Mugabe’s Fast Track land reform
The Arrival Of The Economic Hitmen
The United States was first to move against Mugabe in retaliation for his land reforms, which forced thousands of white farmers to turn land back over o Africans. In 2000, members of the Senate (including Hillary Clinton) froze the credit of the nation, forcing the Zimbabwean government to operate on a cash only basis and causing high inflation.The economy of the nation was destroyed. The Zimbabwe dollar fell. Tobacco – a major export – experienced an export deficit. No one would buy Zimbabwe diamonds.
The European Union followed behind the United States with sanctions on Mugabe and 94 members of his government, banning them from traveling to participating countries and freezing any assets held there.
Mugabe was stripped of many of his honorary degrees and his Knighthood was revoked. Zimbabwe was removed from the Commonwealth of Nations – 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire – thereby cutting foreign aid to Zimbabwe.
Because of these sanctions and climate change, the former “breadbasket of South Africa” experienced food shortages, and the people began to call for Mugabe’s removal.
Mugabe had to do something to regain control over the economic situation of his nation. In 2008, he signed the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill into law to give black Zimbabweans greater control of the southern African economy. “The indigenization and empowerment drive will continue unabated in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country’s resources.
”Mr Mugabe says giving black Zimbabweans control of the business sector is the next step and said the election result had given him a “resounding mandate” to do so. “We will do everything in our power to ensure our objective of total indigenization, empowerment, development and employment is realized,” he told a public rally to mark the annual Defense Forces Day. He said the policy was the “final phase of the liberation struggle” and “final phase of total independence”.
Robert Mugabe has continued unabated in his economic reforms. He continues to survive the political manipulation of the west (who attempted to install a puppet leader in the form of Morgan Tsvangirai). He continues to fight on behalf of Pan-African movements, and continues to build the economic sovereignty of his nation.
Since this article was originally published, Robert Mugabe was removed from power. We covered events as they happened in our article Robert Mugabe’s Fall From Grace here.
So is Robert Mugabe a hero or villain? After you have read the article above, leave a comment below!