Robert Mugabe has died a corrupt tyrant who plundered his country for billions of dollars for himself and a small circle of cronies.
Robert Mugabe did lead the liberation movement against the white minority rule of the Smith regime, which achieved change in 1980 when for the first time all Zimbabweans could vote for their government. This is the achievement to be remembered and built on – equality and democracy.
The mistakes and failures were many, and now almost 40 years after the liberation, the 17 million Zimbabwean people are struggling with a comatose economy, collapsed services, rampant corruption and a culture of political violence rather than democracy.
Soon Robert Mugabe will be given a state funeral at Heroes’ Acre, and then the nation will have a moment to unite to overcome these huge problems.
Australia and many of its people have had a long engagement with Zimbabwe, from the mining and agriculture sectors, in sport, from those who supported Ian Smith, those anti-apartheid activists who opposed Ian Smith, to the Whitlam government which gave non-lethal aid and political support to the liberation movement, to the Fraser government which engaged in the Lancaster House peace negotiations in 1979 and gave political support to Mugabe rather than a British stooge, the Hawke government which provided ongoing aid, and the Howard government which confronted Mugabe for the stolen election of 2002.
In broad terms, Australia supported Mugabe to be the political leader of Zimbabwe, and Australia must play a positive role in helping the people of Zimbabwe overcome the shocking legacy left by Mugabe. One thing is sure, the people of Zimbabwe are fully capable of overcoming all the challenges they face, and Australian people can be confident that sustained intelligent support will help them do that.
There is a Shona statement for the moment of Robert Mugabe’s death: “wafa wanaka” (the one who has died is now a good person).
This African way of responding to a death means that you remember the good that Mugabe did in life, build on these positives; and the things that were not done well, the bad things, are then recognised and learnt from, not to be repeated, but to be corrected as society moves forward.
Zimbabwe Information Centre
Australia, September 6, 2019