UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Hero of independence, he held Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years and plunged it into a bottomless economic crisis: former president Robert Mugabe died Friday at 95 years, in Singapore, less than two years after being overthrown.
A mourning was decreed throughout the country until the funeral, whose date was not communicated, in honor of one of the last “fathers of independence” in Africa to which the party in power, Zanu-PF, granted the title of “national hero”.
Many African countries have given a strong and unanimous tribute to Zimbabwe’s “liberator,” while the United Kingdom, the former colonial power that has had miserable relations with the Mugabe regime, has denounced its “autocratic rule.”
Robert Mugabe, whose health was fragile, died Friday at 02.40 GMT at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore. According to his nephew by marriage Adam Molai, he died of old age: hospitalized this week, “he died surrounded by his family,” he told the press in Singapore.
The body “will not be repatriated tomorrow, probably next week,” according to Adam Molai. The family has not decided on the burial site, one of his Leo nephews told the press from Kutama, the birthplace of the deceased in Zimbabwe. “We are waiting for his remains to come from Singapore,” he said.
It was his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power after a military coup in November 2017, which announced the death of “Zimbabwe’s founding father”.
“Commander Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a panafrican who dedicated his life to the emancipation … of his people,” Emmerson Mnangagwa, who immediately interrupted a trip to neighboring South Africa, said on Twitter.
Robert Mugabe took the reins of the former Rhodesia, became independent, in 1980. During his reign of thirty-seven years, one of the longest on the African continent, he passed the status of father of independence and friend of the West to that of tyrant who caused the economic collapse of his country.
When he fell in November 2017, under the pressure of the army, his party and the street, he left a country with a bloodless economy, where unemployment exceeds 90%.
Like his career and his legacy, his death gave rise to extremely contrasting reactions.
South Africa, like other African countries, and China hailed the memory of an “exceptional” leader.
A “liberation fighter and champion of the cause of Africa against colonialism,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country has very close relations with Zimbabwe especially because of Mugabe’s support for long years of anti-apartheid struggle of the African National Congress (ANC).
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his “great personal contribution” to Zimbabwe’s independence.
London, on the other hand, recalled that Zimbabweans had “suffered too long” and hoped that the country could now “continue to follow a more democratic and prosperous path”.
– ‘Mixed heritage’ –
For Amnesty International, “while portraying himself as the liberator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe inflicted lasting damage on his people.”
In Zimbabwe, stuck in the economic crisis for decades, the population continued Friday to go about its business as if nothing had happened.
In his native village of Kutama, “people are starting to gather,” one of his nephews, Leo, told AFP. As tradition dictates, a ceremony will be held in Zvimba, where Robert Mugabe owned a house, he told reporters.
“As a leader, the only thing he has done wrong is to stay in power for too long,” said Joshua Tsenzete, a resident of the capital Harare.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), fervent opponent of Robert Mugabe, said that despite his “enormous political differences” with the former president, Robert Mugabe had “immensely contributed” ” to the struggle for liberation “.
“He freed us from the settlers and gave us land,” said another Harare resident, George Bindu.
In the early 2000s, Robert Mugabe launched a controversial land reform aimed at redistributing predominantly white farmland to the black majority. This reform precipitated the country, former granary grain of southern Africa, in a terrible economic and financial crisis.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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