Tracing Mugabe’s legacy

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This name evokes emotions of anger, hatred, regret and revulsion to many.

Yet it is also a name that draws a lot of admiration, satisfaction, pride and gratitude to others.

In death, just like he did in life, Mugabe has caused plenty of controversy as his legacy is a debate that is far from settled.

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People struggle to come up with a clear storyline to definitively capture the essence of his legacy.

For a man who had a long life, going all the way to the age of 95, his life was full of remarkable milestones and historic moments, but never has a man’s life story been so vexatious that people have argued endlessly about what he stood for.

He was a hero to some, but a villain to others.

He is adored in many parts of the continent for his legacy as a liberator, the founding father of Zimbabwe and a great pan-Africanist.

But he also presided over the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy owing to his ruinous policies and failure to take action against corruption.

In Shona they say wafa wanaka (speak no ill of the dead), but for Mugabe there just has to be an exception

. Some have vowed that the wounds and scars he left are too deep to forget and the atrocities he committed too heinous to forgive.

His ouster, in a military coup in November 2017, added to his complicated legacy.

Many say his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has turned out to be as disastrous as the grandmaster of Zimbabwean politics, or even worse.

So bad has Mnangagwa been as a leader that assertions that “Mugabe was better” have been heard frequently in public places in the past two years of Mnangagwa’s increasingly dismal rule.

Leading African political leaders, including heads of state such as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari have all eulogised Mugabe in exceedingly glowing terms.

Julius Malema, who leads opposition South African party Economic Freedom Fighters, also spoke glowingly about Mugabe, describing him as a hero and a true pan-Africanist.

But, as if to fulfil the Biblical expression that a prophet has no honour among his people, Zimbabweans back home have been tearing each other apart on social media as their hard-line stances over the Mugabe legacy have boiled over since the news of his demise filtered through last Friday.

Much of the debate is basically centred on a simple yet complex question: Is Mugabe a hero or a villain?

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