SUN REPORTER writes
ZIMBABWE’S first post-independence leader Robert Mugabe has died in Singapore aged 95.
His family confirmed his death and said Mr Mugabe had been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April.
And Zambian veteran politician Dr Vernon Mwaanga said the passing of Zimbabwe’s founding father Robert Gabriel Mugabe, represented the end of an era.
Dr Mwaanga said Mr Mugabe was an African patriot who contributed greatly to the liberation of his country and to Africa.
He said Mr Mugabe was a fearless freedom fighter who endured many years of imprisonment under the notorious minority regime of Ian Douglas Smith.
In a statement, Dr Mwaanga said the former Head of State was unrelenting and outspoken against colonialism and apartheid.
After his release from Gweru prison, which was negotiated by the frontline States of Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Nigeria, he continued fighting for his people, until 1979, when Tanzania and Zambia, struck a deal with the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher during the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka, where it was agreed that a constitutional conference be held at Lancaster House in London, involving all the parties.
“This finally took place and paved the way for Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.At Commonwealth Conferences and at the United Nations, Mugabe was an indefatigable defender of his country and Africa. Under his leadership, Zimbabwe achieved the distinction of recording the highest literacy rate on the African continent,
He said on the deficit side, Zimbabwe’s democratic and human rights credentials came under serious scrutiny and the country has had to endure many years of harsh international sanctions which led to severe economic decline in his once prosperous country.
“I pay tribute to this icon of Africa, whom I got to know well and with whom i interacted with both during the struggle for independence and much after. I will remember him in my own and mourn with the people of Zimbabwe at this time of sorrow.,
“ I am confident that the history of Zimbabwe will accurately record the immense contribution he made to his country and Africa. Zambia had a special relationship with Mugabe who once taught at Chalimbana Teacher Training College, a few kilometres east of Lusaka. MHSRIEP,” said Dr Mwaanga.
And BBC reports that Mr Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power.
His early years were praised for broadening access to health and education for the black majority – but his later years were marked by rights abuses and corruption.
He won Zimbabwe’s first election after it secured independence from the UK, becoming prime minister in 1980.
He abolished the office in 1987, becoming president instead.
His successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, expressed his “utmost sadness”, calling Mr Mugabe “an icon of liberation”.
It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe (1/2)
Mr Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 in what was then Rhodesia. The country, once a British colony, was run by a white minority.
He was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial after criticising the government of Rhodesia in 1964.
In 1973, while still in prison, he was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), of which he was a founding member.
Once released, he headed to Mozambique, directing guerrilla raids into Rhodesia. But he was also seen as a skilled negotiator.
Political agreements to end the crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe.
Mr Mugabe, with his high profile in the independence movement, secured an overwhelming victory in the republic’s first election.
But over his decades in power, the international perception of Mr Mugabe soured, with an increasing number of critics portraying him as a kind of dictator.
In 2000, facing serious political opposition for the first time, he seized white-owned farms to resettle black farmers, causing economic disruption but boosting his popularity among supporters.
Around the same time, pro-Mugabe militias used violence to influence political outcomes. In 2008, when he lost the first round of the presidential election, attacks on the opposition resulted in his rival pulling out of the contest.
He was forced into sharing power in 2009 amid economic collapse, installing rival Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.
But in 2017, amid concerns that he was grooming his wife Grace as his successor, the army – his long-time ally – turned against the president and forced him to step down.
Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi, of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, told the BBC the party was “very much saddened” by the former leader’s death.
“As a government, we are very much with the family members of the Mugabe family,” he said.
“He was a principled man, he could not change easily over his beliefs, he’s a man who believed himself, he’s a man who believed in what he did and he is a man who was very assertive in whatever he said.”
“This was a good man.”
Not everyone agreed, however.
Zimbabwean Senator David Coltart tweeted that Mr Mugabe’s legacy was one of “violence, disrespect for the rule of law, corruption & abuse of power”.