Mugabe: the Intellectual, the Monster and the Legacy - Zimbabwe Independence DayApr 18, 2021 09:00AM ● By Oga Africa
Today in 1980, Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain. The road to Zimbabwean independence is known to be led by African nationalist leader, Robert Mugabe, who, like many other African leaders, began with progressive ideas and gradually evolved into a dictator who refused to give up power.
The term “Mugabeism”, which describes Mugabe’s political rhetoric and ethos, is a thought ideology focused on colonial resistance. However, Mugabe’s Pan-African legacy has been tainted by violence and harsh dictatorship.
In 1958, Mugabe traveled to Ghana and worked at Takoradi Teaching College. Ghana was the only postcolonial country in a Southern Saharan African country at the time and therefore served as a model and hub for other African thought leaders and changemakers.
(A Zimbabwean Independence Advertisement)
Living, working, and studying the work of Nkrumah in Ghana gave Mugabe a glimpse of what life for Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia) would be like if they gained colonial independence. By the time Mugabe returned to Rhodesia, the Zambia African National Union was progressing in developing its agenda of expelling European colonial rule in the country. Mugabe joined in on the efforts, and by 1979 the country declared independence. Mugabe’s ability to speak eloquently pushed him to the forefront of the liberation movement, as many other guerilla-style leaders of the time did not have adequate formal education.
(Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)
Brutal attempts to control citizens, including the ‘Gukurahundi’ killing, in which Mugabe led the murder of an estimated 20,000 citizens in an attempt to squash supporters of his rival, ex Vice President Joshua Nkomo, negated his accomplishments.
In 2000, Mugabe seized land from over 4,000 white nationals in the country, whose farming played a crucial role in the economy. Mugabe argued that these farmers, who were mostly German, Dutch and British, continued a colonial legacy that was to be disrupted. The confiscated land was then redistributed to Black Zimbabweans.
(Zimbabweans in Harare wait to board a train)
Following a 37 year rule, Mugabe was overthrown in a coup d’etat. This overthrow was the result of Mugabe refusing to give up power after losing the presidential election, and a culmination of injustices that intensified during his last years of rule.
Today, Zimbabwe continues to grapple with human rights and economic empowerment issues, and as Mugabe’s ghost seemingly haunts the country, it is evident that access to education, including oratory skills, economic versatility, and strong country allies is crucial for societal development.