EDITORIAL: Love him, loathe him, Robert Mugabe was an African icon

At the end of the day, the inevitable happened, the candle’s wicker was consumed and darkness ensued.

No one disputes the fact that Robert Mugabe was a respected African liberator, a revolutionary in the same fabric as other pre-independence freedom fighters.

Mugabe’s rule is a bag of mixed spices. For many years, Zimbabwe was a prosperous nation with one of the most educated population on the continent. He managed to mend the racial divide and united the country and the land he managed was the breadbasket of the region.

Today it’s a basket case.

Many put the beginning of Zimbabwe’s demise on the eviction of white farmers by violent war veterans. Many farms were taken over and given to the veterans – or those acting under their name. Others, it is alleged, were divided among Mugabe’s cronies.

Commercial farming was the country’s mainstay but the new tenants were in the dark on how to run the farms; production plummeted, the West instigated economic difficulties and soon the economy was in freefall.

His violent repression of the opposition whom he regarded as lackeys of the West was the final straw. The screws were tightened and yet the old warrior was intransigent, he would not give up.

In the end old age set in, slowly relinquishing the reins to – some say – his wife, Grace. He was no longer in control, his close allies jumped ship. In the end, the great African icon failed to leave the stage via the front door, and his last days were definitely miserable.

But whatever his shortcomings, the last of the independence warriors deserves recognition for leading a struggle that inspired others. A great tree has fallen indeed, albeit brought down by evitable termites.