Robert Mugabe Hero Or Dictator?

Robert Mugabe Hero Or Dictator?

Zimbabwe’s First President Robert Mugabe can be described as both a Hero and a Villain which explains why he was removed from Political power in a 2017 Military Coup.

After being hailed a Hero for liberating Zimbabwe from British Colonial Rule in 1980, Robert Mugabe later became a Villain in the period after Zimbabwe’s Land Reforms of 2000 which have since left Zimbabwe reeling from the legacy of Mugabe’s contradictory 40 year Rule.

The Lancaster House Agreement & Robert Mugabe’s Legacy

The roots of Mugabe’s transition from Hero to Villain lie in the birth of the Nation of Zimbabwe itself on the 21st of December 1979 when the Lancaster House Agreement was signed, and the Rhodesian bush war also known as the Zimbabwe liberation War was officially brought to an end.

The Lancaster House Agreement was a means to pave the way for democratic elections in order to end White Minority Rule following Rhodesia’s protracted Liberation War. All the Leaders of Zimbabwe’s Armed Resistance Movements as well as Ian Smith, leader of the White Minority Regime were signatories to the Lancaster House Agreement.

Robert Mugabe had reluctantly signed the Lancaster House Agreement on behalf of ZANU (PF) because Mugabe had intended to achieve the Liberation of Zimbabwe through outight Military victory.

One particular concession made in the Lancaster House Agreement which was to lead to Robert Mugabe’s transition from Hero to Villain and Mugabe’s removal from office after Independence was the concession to buy land from Colonial Settler Farmers on a willing buyer and willing seller basis after independence.

Despite threatening to boycott the Lancaster House Conference because of the land question, ZANU (PF) was prevailed upon to continue with and sign the Lancaster House Conference Agreement by key ally Mozamique’s Samora Machel.

Robert Mugabe’s Early Life, Nationalist Politics & Liberation War

Before becoming the Villain that was ousted in a Military Coup, Robert Mugabe began his journey as the Hero Liberator of Zimbabwe when he was born in the village of Zvimba in February 1924 where he was raised by his mother in a single parent household.

Robert Mugabe went on to attend Kutama College, a local Missionary School after which he began his career as a Teacher in Rhodesia before moving over to teach in Ghana where Mugabe met his first wife Sally.

Since Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah was Africa’s first independent country, Mugabe was heavily influenced by the revolutionary ideas of Ghana’s first President and his brand of African socialism.

Robert Mugabe was inspired to achieve Zimbabwean Independence and so Mugabe returned to Rhodesia to join the growing Black Nationalist Movement where Mugabe would eventually rise to become Hero and leader of one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent Armed Resistance Movements, the Zimbabwe African National Union or ZANU (PF).

In Rhodesia Robert Mugabe became a Hero of the Nationalist Movement and in 1964 Robert Mugabe and other Black Nationalists were imprisoned for sedition.

It was during his time in Prison that Mugabe’s 3 year old Son died, but the Colonial Government would not give him the permission to attend his Son’s funeral.   

Mugabe also used his time in Prison to earn a Master’s degree in Economics and Two Law degrees.

In 1965, the Rhodesian Colonial Government Unilaterally declared its independence from Britain and the Settler Regime sought to entrench the Colonial Policy of Racial Segregation even more through such measures as Land segregation under the Land Apportionment Act which further limited Black people’s access to fertile agricultural land.

In addition, repression intensified as new Laws such as the Law and Order (Maintanance Act) were passed in order to curb the rising tide of Black Nationalist resistance.

Pressure continued to intensify for the Settler Regime however until 1974 when Mugabe was released in a bid to obtain the consent of the imprisoned Nationalist leaders to Minority Rule in a Bi-cameral Parliament dominated by the Rhodesian Settler Regime.

After his release Mugabe made a decision that would further elevate him as a Hero of Zimbabwe’s Liberation struggle when he fled to Mozambique where he joined his Party’s Liberation Army and intensified the Military engagement with the Colonial Government in Rhodesia until the Lancaster House Agreement was convened and finally concluded in 1979.

Mugabe’s Hero Golden Years: 1980s-1990s

Although the Lancaster House Agreement led to a general Election and a Black Majority Government in a newly independent Zimbabwe led by Robert Mugabe, it also sowed the seeds of Robert Mugabe’s transition from Hero to Villain and thus his removal from power.

Since it was a compromise agreement reluctantly concluded by the Nationalist Movements who preferred the option of Military victory, the Lancaster House Agreement ensured that the White Minority continued to enjoy many of the economic privileges they enjoyed before independence.

The protection of White Farms and properties was guaranteed in exchange for a commitment from the UK and US Governments to provide the required financial assistance that would enable the Black Government to gradually purchase land from White Farmers for redistribution to landless Blacks.

Mugabe in the mould of a Post-revolutionary Hero initially adopted a conciliatory attitude at independence making peaceful overtures to the White Community for which he was a universally praised and embraced Hero. Moreover, despite his war time Marxist rhetoric, his Government did not adopt a Soviet-Style Communist Economy. 

Mugabe nevertheless invested heavily in providing free education and healthcare which made Mugabe a Hero to the general Zimbabwean population.

Some Land Resettlement programmes were also conducted but the results fell short of what was promised during the Liberation struggle.

After brutally crushing what he called a dissident Rebellion in the mid-1980s, the Mugabe Regime settled into the 1990s until Neo-Liberal Structural Adjustment Policies coupled with neglect due mainly to Government corruption led to a new wave of pressure from newly liberated and educated young Zimbabweans who sought the full economic benefits promised by independence.

As a result, Mugabe began to demonstrate the flaws that turned him into a Villain as Robert Mugabe lost significant support in the Urban areas, and after a failed Constitutional Referendum in 2000 which would have resulted in a new Constitution to lengthen his term as President after 20 years in power, Mugabe and ZANU (PF) resorted to the unresolved Land quesion emanating from the lopsided terms of the Lancaster House Agreement they had reluctantly entered into in 1979 as a means of revitalising the Party and reviving Political support.

It was during the period from the mid 1980s that the seeds for Mugabe’s removal from Office in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe would be sown as Robert Mugabe slowly transitioned from Liberation Hero to Villain in his management of Zimbabwe’s Domestic Politics.

Zimbabwe Post 2000: Robert Mugabe’s Villainy, Fall & Removal From Office

In order to avoid losing power, Robert Mugabe soon revived his pre-Independence revolutionary rhetoric in an effort to convince the population that Zimbabwe’s problems were due to the White minority’s occupation of the ancestral lands coupled with a global conspiracy by racist foreign powers to sabotage his government.

Using this strategy Mugabe descended into depths of Villainy re-inforced by the suppression of Policital dissent, Robert Mugabe managed to get re-elected in 2000, 2008 and 2013 as the Zimbabwean Economy continued to plunge to unprecedented levels and into a dire Political and Economic crisis from which it has still not recovered today.

By this stage however, Robert Mugabe had become a Dictator viewed as a Villain because Mugabe’s Political power rested on the co-operation of the Country’s Security apparatus.

At 89 Mugabe announced his intention to run in the 2018 General Election but unfortunately for Mugabe, this time around Mugabe would make a major mistake when in November 2017 he sacked his Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa which fueled speculation that Robert Mugabe was about to name his unpopular second wife Grace as his successor.

This series of events led to the Security Forces turning their backs on Mugabe, and a Military Coup to remove Robert Mugabe from Political Office was staged and Mugabe announced his resignation on the 20th of November 2017 after over 37 years in power.

Conclusion: Robert Mugabe’s Legacy

Robert Mugabe’s legacy as both Liberation Hero and a Post-Independence Dictator Villain who was forcibly removed from Office through a Military Coup is ultimately tragic.

Beginning his life as a genuine Revolutionary Hero who played a key role in the liberation of Zimbabwe, it would seem that despite the gains and benefits enjoyed by the Black population from the 1980s-1990s, from 2000 onwards, Mugabe became a Dictator Villain mainly because his of pre-occupation with preserving personal Political power.

As a result, Robert Mugabe plunged Zimbabwe into a deep Political and Economic Crisis from which it may never recover.

Ultimately, the transition of Mugabe from Hero to Villain demonstrates the elitist nature of African Anti-Colonial Mass Resistance Movements of the 20th Century because once Independence had been obtained, Mugabe and other Members of the Pre-Colonial Black elite in his Political Party turned from struggle Heroes to Dictator Villains by appropriating the benefits of Zimbabwe’s independence at the expense of the broader population whose sacrifices had been necessary to achieve independence during the armed resistance phase of the Zimbabwe’s anti-colonial struggle.