The death of Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe marks the end of an era for one of Africa’s revered freedom fighters.
His demise two years after exit from power was fast and sudden, and contrasted sharply with the aggression and boisterousness of his heyday.
Bob, as he was fondly called by his admirers across the continent, was a mixed bag of paradox.
He was liberator and tyrant all rolled into one. He espoused Marxist-Socialist ideology that promotes communal well-being and modesty, but he led a life of extravagance and opulence that made him a capitalist par excellence.
Mugabe had the uncanny ability to arouse public emotions through unmatched eloquence and courage.
But at the same time he was an unrepentant, vindictive and vengeful person who frowned upon any form of dissent.
That is how he eliminated his erstwhile friends and liberation compatriots such as Joshua Nkomo and Canaan Banana.
Mugabe’s role in the creation of modern-day Zimbabwe is well etched in history.
Together with compatriots Joshua Nkomo, Leopold Takawira, Ndahaningi Sithole and James Chikerema, they led the struggle to liberate then Rhodesia from the clutches of white colonial rule and he rose to become the first prime minister in 1980 before becoming President in 1987.
In the early years, he aggressively rolled out major programmes in education, agriculture and health to uplift the Africans who had lagged behind in development under a segregationist White administration.
Paradoxically, Mugabe would lead Zimbabwe down the path of destruction and ruin when in later years he embarked on reckless mission of compulsory acquisition of white settler farms and thoughtlessly gave them to the so-called war veterans, which in reality, was a bunch of his acolytes.
He pursued thoughtless policies that turned Zimbabwe into a basket case; with inflation rising beyond economic measures and attendant widespread commodity shortage that literally turned the country into a black market for products from neighbouring countries.
Zimbabwe quickly fell from a promising African state to an unmitigated failure. And democracy was thrown to the dogs.
On the international stage, Mugabe stood tall and courageously confronted the US and other western nations, routinely chastising them for exploiting Africa and patronising the rest of the world.
Indeed, his defiance against the West was comparable only to the likes of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s revolutionary leader, and Libya’s Muammar Mohammed Gaddafi.
High-handed, ruthless and despotic, Mugabe’s story represents the tragedy of Africa where leaders who rose to prominence because of liberation credentials fell on their knife and turned into incorrigible tyrants who dragged their nations to the mud.
Never again should the continent face this fate. Africa must turn the corner and rid itself of tyrannical and avaricious leaders who plunder its wealth.