Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe — a guerrilla leader who swept to power after the southern African country’s independence from Britain and ruled for 37 years until he was ousted two years ago — died in Singapore last week aged 95.
Mugabe was forced to tender his resignation in November 2017 when his army generals seized power days after he fired his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. There were also mass street protests over concern Mugabe was positioning his wife Grace to succeed him.
ZANU-PF party, which led the liberation movement against the white colonial government, revoked his leadership and moved to impeach him, forcing him to resign. His protege and longtime ally, Mnangagwa, succeeded Mugabe as the president with the blessings of the military.
Now, in the event of his death, his family was quoted saying that the nonagenarian’s health deteriorated after his former loyalists toppled him, and he never forgave those behind his ouster.
The former ruler’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, who is the family spokesperson told The Standard that his uncle died a bitter man.
“He died a very bitter man. Imagine the people that are guarding you that you trusted the most turn against you. They have dented his legacy; it was not an easy thing,” he said.
The sentiment has also been echoed by the Roman Catholic Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Harare, Kennedy Muguti. The cleric who used to go to Mugabe’s house to celebrate mass said the former leader was “disappointed and angry” at the ouster but kept his faith.
“The last mass that he attended before he went to Singapore, I celebrated that mass. He still had his faith even after the frustrations of what happened … the way he was removed from power; yes, he was a disappointed man, he was frustrated, he was angry,” said Vicar-General Muguti.
Mr Mugabe’s anger was displayed visibly during one of his last addresses to the media on the eve of the July elections last year, just eight months after he was ousted when he went on record that he would not vote for people in the party he founded because they had “tormented” him.
“I can’t vote for ZANU-PF,” he said, seated on a chair at his Blue Roof residence. “What is left? I think it is just (Nelson) Chamisa,” he said referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader.
It has been said that it was Mr Mugabe’s spiritual adviser Father Fidelis Mukonori of the Roman Catholic Church who during one of his visits pleaded with him to let go the weight, to which he replied,
“Of course, why shouldn’t I, this is something quite good,” said the Fr Mukonori adding that he had a “beautiful smile,” and “he looked calm”.
Fr Mukonori was close to Mr Mugabe for decades and was at the centre of several political negotiations that happened during the deceased’s tenure. He mediated the 1970s talks between guerrillas and colonial ruler Britain that led to the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 and went on to mediate talks between Mugabe and the army during the 2017 coup.
“It was in the national interest that he decided to resign,” said the Jesuit priest.
Other aides who spoke of Mr Mugabe’s emotional welfare in the post-coup turbulence also noted that the nonagenarian was still bitter.
Jonathan Moyo, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister and one of Mugabe’s associates who fled the country following the 2017 coup, said the once-feared autocrat dramatically changed.
“He became unusually introverted. He just became instantly withdrawn and non-engaging. He was deep in thought and palpably at a loss,” Moyo told an international press in a phone interview from Kenya where he fled after the coup, adding that he became a “broken soul, an obliterated soul and someone whose world collapsed in front of him and left him helpless,”.
The while, Mr Mugabe’s remains arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on Wednesday, and ‘reports from family members are that he will be buried “sometime next week”, although it remained unclear where he would be interred amid disagreement between his family and government over the funeral plans.
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