Former Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe who died in Singapore on Friday where he had been receiving medical treatment since April, has been granted National Hero status.  He was 95-years old.

National days of mourning have been declared throughout Zim until the late elderly statesman and African icon is buried.

President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe with Sekuru Emmanuel Ranga celebrating his 94th Birthday On February 21, 2018. Credit: Twitter

Granting Mugabe National Hero status automatically qualifies him to be buried at the country’s National Heroes Acre in Harare with full ceremonial honours courtesy of the state.  The burial date is yet to be determined pending the repatriation of his body from Singapore back to the motherland and home of his ancestors where he was born, lived and ruled.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, when news of his death first filtered that their Founding Father and liberation hero had died, it was dismissed as “one of those social media hoaxes” they had become accustomed to. However, it wasn’t until local media outlets started broadcasting the news that it began to sink in.  

The young Robert Mugabe waving his iconic fist salute to supporters as he arrives in neighbouring Zambia’s Lusaka Airport on January 1977. Credit: AP File

Although the reaction was varied, it was disbelief at first followed by shock and then sadness that the only father figure they had known their whole lives and grown up under, was no more.  Despite his obvious shortcomings, there is a genuine sense of sadness and loss among Zimbabweans.  

However, there is, at the same time, a sense of trepidation now that they are seeing the wrong direction their beloved country is headed, with many admitting that the situation today is much worse than it was under his rule.

With news of Mugabe’s death now global, messages of condolences have been flowing from across Africa and the world including from former and current continental and global leaders. 

Former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his first late Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo are Zimbabwe’s Founding Fathers. Credit: AP
Then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe in April 1980 after independence. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called the late Mugabe “a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interests of the African continent.”  He also ordered Kenyan national flags to be flown at half-mast on all military and naval bases including all public buildings from Saturday until Monday sunset.

In neighbouring South Africa, President Cyril Ramaposa released a statement saying that, “South Africans join the people and government of Zimbabwe in mourning the passing of a liberation fighter and champion of Africa’s cause against colonialism.”

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) on the other hand which is also the fraternal organization to former President Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party, posted a condolence message on its Twitter page.

Robert Mugabe during the Liberation Struggle and fight for Zimbabwe’s independence with Cdes. Gen. Josiah Tongogara (C) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (R). Credit: AP File

“ANC mourns the passing of friend, statesman and revolutionary Comrade, Robert Mugabe,” adding that he had “devoted his life to the service of his country and his people.” 

It is important to note that the late President Mugabe had supported and helped ANC in its fight against apartheid during its exile in Zimbabwe and in other countries across the continent and beyond.

In his Twitter message, former Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck said, “Africa has lost a great nationalist” and described Mugabe as a “symbol of Zimbabwe’s emancipation” who will continue to live in the hearts and minds of all lovers of freedom.”

President Robert Mugabe (C) and MDC’s Arthur Mutambara (L) and Morgan Tsvangirai (R) with former South African President, Thabo Mbeki (far right) after signing Zimbabwe’s first Unity Government, 15 September 2008. Credit: Getty Images

Joseph Kabila, the former Congolese President described his late father President Laurent Kabila’s close friend and ally who also became his political mentor, Robert Mugabe, as a “Worthy Son of Africa” while Tanzanian President John Magufuli tweeted his condolences in Swahili later translated as, “Africa has lost one of its courageous leaders.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a long condolence statement which hailed Mugabe’s legacy and contribution in Zimbabwe’s independence.  He also paid respect to the close ties between the two nations built and solidified by Mugabe himself dating back in the revolutionary era.

“Many important events in modern Zimbabwean history are tied to the name Robert Mugabe,” said Putin, adding, “He made a major personal contribution to the struggle for your country’s independence and to building Zimbabwean state institutions and statehood.

“The people of Russia will remember him as a consistent advocate of developing friendly relations between our countries and a person who had accomplished a great deal to strengthen mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation,” he concluded.

Master coup-plotter General Constantino Chiwenga during a staged photo shoot with imprisoned President Robert Mugabe at State House before his live final address to the nation and before being forced to resign afterwards on Nov, 19, 2017, Harare. Credit: AP/ STR
President Robert Mugabe under house arrest with master coup-plotter Gen. Constantino Chiwenga (R) watching. Credit: EPA/The Herald

Another close ally that the late President cultivated was with the Chinese.  Its Foreign Ministry sent a condolence message that said, “Mugabe was an outstanding national liberal movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe.

“Throughout his life, he has firmly defended the sovereign of his country, opposed foreign interference and actively promoted China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa friendship and cooperation,” it concluded.

It was the late President Robert Mugabe who started and encouraged the “Look East Policy” which encouraged African nations to look more towards China after he witnessed the exploitative, unequal and unchanging nature of imperialistic Europe and the west’s relationship towards the continent. 

President Robert Mugabe in his first public appearance on Wednesday November 15 after military intervention. Credit: AP
Former President Robert Mugabe arrives for the graduation ceremony at the African Open University while under house arrest on November 17, 2017 before he was forced to resign by the military. Credit: AP File

Namibian President Hage Geingob’s condolence message spoke of the “deep sense of gratitude” his people “owe President Mugabe” for all “his immense and selfless contributions to the liberation” of his country Namibia.  He then pointed how, “The loss of the people of Zimbabwe is Africa’s loss.”

The not-so-friendly neighbouring Botswana that has been a provocateur and supported all sorts of regime change attempts by the Brits and Americans in the past to unseat then President Robert Mugabe including a planned partnership with the US to host AFRICOM (American Forces) just in case they needed to invade Zimbabwe, also sent a condolence message.

Then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (2nd R) with leaders of Frontline States from left, Namibia’s Sam Nujoma, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, Mozambique’s Samora Machel and Angola’s Jose Dos Santos (R) in an undated photo. Credit: AP
Then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe holds hands with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the OAU Summit in Harare in August 1982. Credit: Getty Images

“Comrade Mugabe was one of Africa’s most renowned freedom fighters and also one of the Founding Fathers of what is today known as SADC (the intergovernmental Southern African Development Community, whose headquarters are in Botswana).

“The history of our respective parties’ fraternal relations would be incomplete without mention of Uncle Bob, as he was affectionately known.  It is beyond any doubt that he leaves an indelible mark on the politics of the region,” concluded the statement from Botswana Democratic Party’s Secretary General.

Then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe walks hand in hand with American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson during the eighth Summit of Non-Aligned Countries, hosted in Harare in 1986. Credit: Patrick Durand/Sygma via Getty Images)
The President Robert Mugabe with Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a dinner reception at the South Summit for Developing nations in Havana, Cuba on April 12, 2000. Credit: AP/Victor Caivano

Mugabe’s legacy of Pan-Africanism and his fight against colonial imperialism made an indelible make in Africa but particularly in Zimbabwe itself as pointed out by former opposition Minister in the previous GNU (Government of National Unity) David Coltart (MDC) in his statement.

“He was a colossus on the Zimbabwean stage and his enduring positive legacy will be his role in ending white minority rule and expanding a quality education to all Zimbabweans.”

Robert Mugabe waves his iconic fist pumps at reporters during a Rhodesia conference in Geneva,Switzerland ion November 4, 1974 shortly after he was released from 10-years in Jail – Nov. 4, 1974. Credit: AP
Zimbabwe’s two Founding Fathers, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo during another meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on November 11, 1976. Credit: AP

Born Robert Gabriel Mugabe on February 21, 1924, the trained teacher-turned liberation hero leaves behind a complicated and highly complex legacy that should be analyzed holistically.  

A polarizing figure in international politics, Robert Mugabe will be remembered differently by different people across the world and so will his death.   

Then President Robert Mugabe cuts his birthday cake with wife Grace Mugabe and son Bellarmine Chatunga to celebrate his 87th birthday on February 26, 2011 in Harare. Credit: Gallo Images/Getty Images
Then President Robert Mugabe married Grace Marufu during a ceremony at the Kutama Catholic mission west of Harare. on August 17, 1996. Credit: AP/Joao Silva

At the time of his death, Mugabe was a father, husband and a grandfather.  Undoubtedly one of the most educated leaders in the world, he had seven undergrad degrees, two masters  and he also had 11 Honorary Doctorates to his name all from prestigious institutions. 

His master signature, however, was his  brilliant command of the English language which will never be surpassed.

President Robert Mugabe and First Lady, Amai Grace Mugabe celebrating his 94th Birthday, at their Blue Roof Family Residence, Harare in February 2018. Credit: Twitter

He may be gone but Robert Mugabe will go into the annals of history as a freedom fighter, a fearless revolutionary leader and great liberator.  He will also be remembered as a staunch Pan-Africanist, a champion of anti-colonialism and racial equality as well as a man who struggled for his country’s independence from 1959 till the end of his life.  

A very proud an principled man, Mugabe was known to be stubborn and never wavered in his convictions, a gift that he has imparted to Zimbabweans.  How they handle it or choose to deal with it, is all up to them.

Rest in peace Gushungo.  Rest in Peace Mwana Wenhu, Son-of-the-Soil and rest in peace proud Son of Africa.  Your legacy has just been reborn.

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