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Media Statement: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

IJR Media Statement: The Passing Away of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Former President of Zimbabwe

06 September 2019

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) would like to express its condolences to the family, friends and compatriots of the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who passed away on 6th September 2019.

The late Mugabe’s legacy evokes admiration and anguish, depending on who you speak to. To his supporters he was a Pan-African statesman who utilised his long presidential tenure to castigate the West and their excesses on the continent when other African leaders remained silent. He was an educationalist who created the platform for a Zimbabwean society that was committed towards self-development and resilience.

To his critics, the second-half of Mugabe’s rule was marked by mal-administration and authoritarianism towards his political opponents and dissenters. Consequently, Mugabe’s legacy is also defined by years of human rights abuses, political violence, including denial to freedoms of association and speech. Mugabe’s hard-line policies paradoxically condemned the country that he helped to build with a promising economy, into one of Africa’s worst cases of presidential-military excesses and national self-destruction.

In the early years of Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe had a thriving agricultural sector, which earned it the prestigious label “the bread-basket of Africa” as a net exporter of food. The country also registered a high literacy level and functioning infrastructure.

In his determination to consolidate political power, Mugabe oversaw a number of interventions including Gukurahundi – the systematic massacre of the Ndebeles in the early 1980s; Operation Murambatsvina – which saw the progressive securitization of governance and society at large; and the fast-track land reform programme premised on expropriation without compensation that attracted international targeted sanctions and subsequently ruined the economic backbone of Zimbabwe.

In November 2017, Mugabe resigned as President following key interventions by the governing party ZANU-PF aided by the military. At the point of his departure, he left his country in disarray with high unemployment levels, a collapsed industrial sector and literally a collapsed economy. Throughout the period of his rule, innocent Zimbabweans were compelled to flee the country of their birth in search for safety and better livelihoods for their families. South Africa absorbed a significant number of these Zimbabweans who have since made the country their home.

Mugabe has left the world without having had to atone for his legacy, and those affected by his authoritarian rule, corruption and patronage manoeuvres have not achieved any emotional closure, and his memory will forever be tainted by the negative deeds that he and his enablers perpetrated upon innocent citizens.

Efforts revitalize Zimbabwe and provide support through our continuing solidarity with the country and its people remains an urgent one. Consequently, IJR would like to express its support for all those who are working to improve the situation in the country, and stands ready to assist in anyways that it can to expedite transitional justice, peace, reconciliation as well as the renewal and regeneration of the spirit of the great people of Zimbabwe!

 

For media enquiries, contact Sam Kambule skambule@ijr.org.za