Africa: Complex and Chequered History: Condolences Flood in Following Robert Mugabe's Passing

The death of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has elicited mixed reactions. Some remember Mugabe as a nationalist, Pan-Africanist, brave revolutionary, but for others Mugabe's long hold on power, and autocracy will remain a stain on his contested legacy. Various political groups in Zimbabwe and across the continent have sent out their condolence messages on the passing on of President Mugabe.
The death of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has come with mixed reactions. Some remember him as a revolutionary, for others, his long hold on power and his rule as a dictator mired every other good thing he might possibly have set to do.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his condolences to the people and government of Zimbabwe on the passing of Mugabe.

"South Africans join the people and government of Zimbabwe in mourning the passing of a liberation fighter and champion of Africa's cause against colonialism. Under President Mugabe's leadership, Zimbabwe's sustained and valiant struggle against colonialism inspired our own struggle against apartheid and built-in us the hope that one day South Africa too would be free," he said.

President Ramaphosa added: "During the decades of our own struggle, Zimbabwe's liberation movement supported our own liberation movement to fight oppression on multiple fronts. After Zimbabwe achieved independence, the apartheid state brutalised and violated Zimbabwe as punishment for supporting our own struggle.

"Many Zimbabweans paid with their lives so that we could be free. We will never forget or dishonour this sacrifice and solidarity."

The Economic Freedom Fighter's (EFF), a political party in South Africa has expressed its condolence on the passing on of President Mugabe.

President Mugabe, Zimbabwe's first post-independence leader was one of Africa's longest serving presidents. He got into power after the war of liberation  in 1980 as Prime Minister, and remained in power on a full belly of greed till 2017 when he was ousted by a bloodless coup.

The EFF in a press release said, "President Mugabe is one of the liberation freedom fighters that ensured the independence and self-sufficiency of Zimbabwe and its people. He led this struggle with distinction and selflessness. On his passing, we remember against forgetting, that under his leadership, the Zimbabwean land reform program was suspended so as to allow South Africa to peacefully make the transition to democracy."

Julius Malema, in 2014 praised President Mugabe as "the only remaining leader in Africa who can stand up to the west. . .He remains the only leader who can still tell African leaders what it means to be African."

Malema in 2017 critiqued President Mugabe's long stay in power. He said, "you are making mockery of a genuine African revolution by allowing President Mugabe to overstay as a Zimbabwean president." In another press conference, Malema said, "Grandpa, it's enough now."

The EFF was in support of President Mugabe's land reforms which saw land taken from white farmers and given to black farmers. It was also a policy the EFF pushed for in South Africa through the land expropriation without compensation debate.

In its condolence message, the EFF said, "As a people, we owe a lot of our own democratic freedoms to the leadership of President Mugabe. We join the world and the continent in saluting his formidability and bravery at the face of imperialists with their regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.

South African opposition party, the Democratic Alliance's leader Mmusi Maimane also added his voice saying while Mugabe may be a liberator, he failed as a statesman.

"Robert Mugabe was someone who worked hard for the liberation of his people but equally he was someone who had a terrible governance record. One cannot side-step the fact that here's a nation now in absolute chaos and ruin for the leadership that he took."

The South African Federation of Trade Unions' Zwelinzima Vavi said President Mugabe was a hero after the liberation of his country, but there are two sides to him.

"We remember the massacres in Matabeleland, we remember the brutalisation of activists in Zimbabwe, including from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions for resting this misrule. We must remember both sides [and] we'll salute him as we should," Vavi said.

African "giant has fallen".

Zimbabwe's main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change's leader Nelson Chamisa highlighted Mugabe's positive contribution as a founding leader.

"This is clearly a dark moment for the family because a giant has fallen. From a political perspective, we had many differences [and] we disagreed for decades. But we acknowledge the contributions made by Mr Mugabe during his lifetime, both as a freedom fighter and as the nation's founding president," Chamisa said.

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