Mugabe death not mourned by many, says expat of Rhodesian origin

Robert Mugabe with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Edinburgh in 1997.
Robert Mugabe with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Edinburgh in 1997. Source: SCANPIX/ PA Wire/PA Images

As reported in the international media, former leader of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe died on Friday at the age of 95.

Mugabe, who served first as prime minister then as president of Zimbabwe, for a total of 37 years, remains a controversial figure and is reviled as a dictator who presided over the country's decline into economic meltdown by many, as well as heading up a brutal regime.

While a long way from Estonia, one long-term resident of Estonia who grew up in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was formerly called, Chris Lautre, has noted that Mugabe's death is not likely to be mourned much.

"His death is only about 30 years too late. He will be mourned by nobody," Lautre told ERR News.

"He took what had been the bread basket of southern Africa to a complete basket case, with an 80 percent unemployment rate, killing thousands who opposed him on the way; the list of crazy things goes on and on.

"My parents sold a beautiful house for 40,000 Zimbabwe dollars, a sum which 20 years later would only pay for a box of matches," Lautre added, noting that Mugabe had been supported in his rise to power by the U.K., Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, and other countries.

Present-day Zimbabwe formed part of a territory called Rhodesia during the colonial era, named after the 19th century businessman and politician Cecil Rhodes and inhabited chiefly by people from the Shona and Ndebele ethnicities, and later split into two as Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia).

Southern Rhodesia was formally annexed by Britain in 1923, subsequently declaring independence unilaterally under Ian Smith in 1965.

An ensuing civil war pitted Robert Mugabe's ZANU and Joshua Nkomo's Soviet-backed ZAPU forces against the predominantly white government at Salisbury (present-day Harare) and its armed forces. UN sanctions had been imposed on Rhodesia from the late 1960s, principally at Britain's behest, and the international big business community also subsequently shunned the country. The Soviet Union was involved in civil and other wars in several other African countries, including Angola.

A subsequent settlement saw Britain return in 1979, with Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as it was now known, returning to the Commonwealth, but not for long; elections in February 1980 brought Mugabe to power as prime minister, with the country becoming independent as Zimbabwe that April.

Mugabe was initially theoretically keen to forge good relations with white Zimbabweans. However, this did not last, and repressive policies against people of all races saw by some estimates as many as 20,000 killed by the regime by the mid-1980s, with the hammer falling particularly hard on the Matabeleland region, in the west of the country.

Economic collapse in the 1990s led to a series of infamous land seizures, mostly from white farmers who had stayed on after independence.

Despite the World Health Organization appointing Mugabe as one of its goodwill ambassadors in 2017, Mugabe had long seemed to be becoming increasingly unhinged, with his antics including tirades against homosexuals and others. He was removed as leader of ZANU and thus the country, in November that year, replaced by current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe had been traveling to Singapore for medical treatment for many years prior to his death, and died in that country, at the age of 95, of causes not reported.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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