Some Zimbabweans who normally make their shopping in Francistown have expressed mixed feelings about the passing of their country’s founding president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe who passed on aged 95 last Friday in Singapore where he has been receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until in 2017 when he was toppled from the highest position through a military coup orchestrated by one of his trusted lieutenant and long-time ally, President Emmerson Mnangagwa .The late Mugabe served as Zimbabwe prime minister from 1980 to 1987 and later became the founding president of the country after the country gained independence from Britain from 1987 to 2017 when he was ousted from power. The Southern African country, Zimbabwe used to be regarded as the bread basket of Africa but some of the policies by Mugabe such as the decision to forcefully repossess farms from white farmers and redistributing such land to Zimbabweans brought the country’s economy to its knees. Inflation sky rocketed and the Zimbabwean dollar lost value, shortage of basic commodities became a norm during Mugabe’s era. Things moved from bad to worse during Mugabe’s regime as the western countries started to impose strict sanctions on Zimbabwe amid accusations that Mugabe was trampling over human rights of his people as he hang onto power.
The Patriot on Sunday took to the streets of the second city ahead of Mugabe’s burial to get Zimbabweans opinions about their former president who was popularly known as Uncle Bob or Gushungu. “For me Mugabe was a liberation struggle icon, he played a pivotal role for the country to gain independence from Britain. But after independence, Mugabe and his cronies started to rip the country apart, corruption became rampant, our health facilities started to crumble with no medication. We used to offer one of the best education in Southern Africa but under Mugabe our education sector started to be poor,” revealed one Zimbabwean called Givemore Moyo. Moyo opined that the economic situation deteriorated which forced many to relocate to neighbouring countries such as Botswana and South Africa in search of greener pastures as unemployment became ridiculously high. “Those who remained back home, resorted to street vending and in some instances they were assaulted by the merciless security personnel,” Moyo added with a gloomy face.
Another Zimbabwean, Caroline Biti noted that life has to go on after Mugabe’s passing adding that they suffered under Mugabe’s regime. “Life is very tough back home because of some of Mugabe’s policies. Most of us are living in abject poverty and our economy has crumbled, there are no basic necessities such as cooking oil in Zimbabwe and shortage of fuel has become a norm,” Biti held. She continued: “To me Mugabe is a villain who turned our country which was once a bread basket of Africa into a hub of poverty and misery. Many people are dying in our health facilities because there are no medicines. Mugabe always went for medical attention abroad which is a clear sign that he did not have confidence in the local health facilities which became poor during his era,” she underscored. Biti opined that she had hoped that president Mnangagwa will turn the fortunes of the country around but things have turned from bad to worse under his administration.
Mugabe will be laid to rest at a monument for national heroes in the capital, Harare, after a long and heated debate between his family and the government. His family wanted to bury him at his rural home village of Masvingo while the state is adamant that since he was declared a national hero, he should be buried at the Heroes’ Acre. Heads of states from Africa and from across the globe among them Vice President Slumber Tsogwane are expected to attend Mugabe’s funeral service on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. It is unclear when he will be buried.