In some decidedly not-sad news, Zimbabwe’s former dictator, Robert Mugabe, has passed away at age 95.
He will not be missed.
Mugabe started his career as an anti-colonial rebel leader that helped Zimbabwe win its independence.
As has been the case with other rebel leaders throughout history— like Fidel Castro—Mugabe seemed to be a man who cared about his people and who fought a just cause.
And just like Castro and others, Mugabe became a tyrant once he reached the pinnacle of power.
The BBC reported, “After criticizing the government of Rhodesia in 1964, he was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial.
In 1973, while still in prison, he was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), of which he was a founding member.
Once released, he headed to Mozambique, from where he directed guerilla raids into Rhodesia but he was also seen as a skilled negotiator.
Political agreements to end the crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe.
With his high profile in the independence movement, Mr. Mugabe secured an overwhelming victory in the republic’s first election in 1980.”
Whatever good intentions Mugabe may have had, he changed soon after and quickly became a tyrant.
Hyperinflation, starvation, and violence were soon to follow.
The New York Times reported, “Once he won power in Zimbabwe’s first free elections, in 1980, after a seven-year war, he turned, with a blend of guile and brutality, to the elimination of adversaries, real and imagined.
He found them in many places: among the minority Ndebele ethnic group and the clergy; in the judiciary and independent news media; in the political opposition and other corners of society pushing for democracy; and in the countryside, where white farmers were chased off their land from 2000 onward.”
Mugabe turned a once-prosperous nation—by African standards anyway—and ran it into the ground.
He confiscated land from farmers and destroyed wildlife refuges.
Economist Marian Tupy described the destructiveness of Mugabe’s economic policies, writing:
“Almost all of the country’s 4,000 white-owned farms were invaded by state-organized gangs. Some of the farmers who resisted the land seizures were murdered, while others fled abroad…The agricultural sector soon collapsed and with it most of Zimbabwe’s tax revenue and foreign currency reserves…the government ordered the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to print more money, sparking the first hyperinflation of the 21st century…Mugabe’s answer to the falling economy was to increase state patronage and the intensity of looting.”
Zimbabwe was forced to give up its currency in 2008 after inflation reached 500 billion percent (and no, that’s not a typo.)
As of 2012, Zimbabwe had the highest unemployment rate in Africa (60%)
Forbes wrote at the time, “Mugabe still wields almost total control over government institutions—a feat he has been able to achieve through his use of violence and subjugation. He remains reluctant to allocate substantial political powers to the MDC, and human rights abuses in the southern African country are rife.”
That is the legacy of Robert Mugabe.
He was finally forced out of power in 2017 at the age of 93.
He will go down as one of the worst dictators of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
No one should shed a tear over his death.