The remains of Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe have arrived in the country from Singapore on Wednesday following his death last week, heading home for burial in a nation bitterly divided by the “hero-turned-despot’s legacy”.
Mr Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after the southern African country’s independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted two years ago, died on Friday in Singapore, aged 95. The nonagenarian’s health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending his rule that sent the country into international isolation and ruined the economy.
Mr Mugabe divided opinion when he was alive and that has not changed after his death. Zimbabweans are reflecting on the legacy. He was loved and respected by some while others found him abhorrent.
Church bodies, clerics, faith-based organisations and general Christian believers, in general, are not exempted from this trending discussion. While many are struggling to communicate their genuine feelings and are acting in accordance with the ‘Wafa Wanaka’ tradition – a Shona practice where no one really says anything bad about the deceased, others think it is a custom that has outlived its time in an age of accountability.
“Perhaps if people know during their lifetime that you can still be held accountable even in death, they might behave if they care for their legacy? There is probably some force in the view against sugarcoating just because the subject is deceased. That’s why it should be perfectly fine for people to share their grievances even though the subject is no longer here to receive them.”
In their orbituary statement entitled “Mourning Robert Gabriel Mugabe- A mixed Legacy,” the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) proclaimed that as they are lamenting Mugabe and commending him for being the liberator of black ethnicity from the suppressive Smithian regime, they will not forget his vicious character and his failure to get rid of gun from political realms.
The statement reads:
“Mugabe will have been appropriately mourned, if an inclusive economy free from corruption, cronyism and patronage is recovered. Mugabe will rest in peace if his last plea to separate the gun from the politics is exalted.
Mugabe may rest in peace if the nation is truly reconciled and the victims and perpetrators of past atrocities can embrace.”
ZCC says Mr Mugabe was a good leader but genocides, and political gamesmanship which decayed the political fabrics of the nation till the very day painted him dark.
“One cannot ignore the dark side of Mugabe’s tenure characterised by brutalisation of political opponents inside and outside his own political party. One cannot forget the loss of thousands of lives in Midlands and Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi. As we mourn President Mugabe, Zimbabwe will not forget how his rhetoric and political gamesmanship inhibited consensus politics,” the statement reads.
Mr Mugabe is said to have been one Pan-African and Frontline States leaders who is remembered for being brave in his early ages and the hurdles he encountered during his latter days of life.
“Today we mourn the death of one of the remnants of the rare generation of Pan-African and Frontline States leaders. Robert Gabriel Mugabe will be remembered for the great achievements in his earlier period and also the many challenges under his watch in the later part of his reign.
In mourning Mugabe, on one hand, the nation stands in awe of a man who together with other liberation heroes was part of a liberation struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe,” wrote the ecumenical council.
ZCC also noted that his political principles were professional and unmatched to any leader.
“He demonstrated rare determination, tenacity and principle during the Lancaster House and other negotiations.”
Standing firm and bold during the liberation struggle and the patriotic love he revealed through determination and commitment for the freedom of the nation, and the lost hope he brought back, the ZCC highly commended him for that.
“Mugabe’s call for reconciliation in his inauguration speech in 1980 endowed him with international recognition as well as offering hope to Zimbabweans that ours would be a nation united above the shallow divisions of race and ethnicity,” the statement reads.
The Civic Society and Churches Joint Forum (CSCJF) said that the nonagenarian’s legacy cannot be denied and that he will stand as a beacon of strength against global white supremacy.
“The late former president Mugabe was a man who contributed so much to humanity that if we are to talk about his achievements we will need volumes of books to be written,” wrote CSCJF.
“He was the franchise, the most vigilant president in Africa. He created a legacy of self-respect and confidence that has influenced and inspired many black people. He promoted, advanced and defended the fundamental rights of the African people. He was a champion of black pride and dignity.”
The joint forum applauded Mr Mugabe for resisting a slow genocide exterminating black people and not conforming to “white-sex” -pederasty and homophilia, as well as giving black people land, a move that led to the debilitating isolation of Zimbabwe by the west with the declaration of illegal sanctions.
Just like ZCC, CSCJF also acknowledged the frailty of the departed hero’s personality. He was not perfect, they said.
“He was weak in dealing with corruption and was brutal to puppets. But the imperfections did not exceed his goodness. It is for this reason that in the last year of his reign criminals around him were targeted and he resigned from office giving the new dispensation an opportunity to restore his legacy that was now being fast eroded by these criminals,” wrote the forum.
CSCJF added that socio-politically, Mugabe’s legacy to Zimbabweans and Africans can never be denied.
“In this millennium, no Afrikan leader, as yet, has ever made an impact on the Pan Afrikan ideal as Mugabe. History shall recall that his good deeds far outweighed his ‘evil’. Future generations to come will elevate him to the pantheon of the Greats. Self-reliance, self-preservation, self-autonomy, self-pride and empowerment. Undeniable legacies and building blocks for us to build upon.
Mugabe will stand as a beacon of strength against global white supremacy to all those that know the pains one must endure to attempt to break their rule. He broke their rule in Zimbabwe and showed us what it means to go against all odds. Yes, the Zimbabwean people were collateral damage and the supremacist structure will not praise him because they cannot lift up his success against them. It’s our job to give the glory to one of [the] strongmen of our history.”
Indigenous churches described the late Mr Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s David, who was a great leader who contributed to the decolonisation of Zimbabwe and Africa.
Speaking during the Ordainment of three Bishops of three different indigenous apostolic churches in Zvishavane, Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) Executive Moderator, Archbishop Johannes Ndanga said former President will go down in the books of history as the country’s own David, at the same highlighting on his shortcomings as a leader.
“We want to thank God for the long life that he gave to former President Mugabe,” said Archbishop Ndanga.
“He accomplished his mission in this country which the Lord had assigned him to do. He had his own flaws towards the end of his reign, but we should understand that it was because of the old age. We leave a predetermined life.
God planned everything for us because the holy book says in the end his will shall prevail. So, we can’t bury all the good deed he did including playing a pivotal role during the liberation struggle. He was unwavering on protecting the gains of the revolution. We know many strayed along the way but he remained focused.”
Archbishop Ndanga said indigenous churches were grateful to President Mugabe for instigating black empowerment through the land reform programme.
Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), a community of advocates responsible for U.S. relations with Africa said that the liberator of Zimbabwe will be remembered for his persistent call to reform the United Nations Security Council.
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