By Zara Samy, 11A
One may wonder how a leader, once regarded a freedom fighter, now holds the title of the current longest-reigning dictator. Ruling for nearly four decades, the president of Zimbabwe, to this day, refuses to cease his power and control—even at the ripe age of 93.
President Mugabe was once a hero to the nation, as he fought against British colonisation and its disregard for the rights of black people in Southern Rhodesia, triumphing over their rule. In the process, he had been imprisoned for over a decade, for he had founded his own movement against the system, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).
Strongly holding Marxist beliefs, he opted for a guerilla war, and even carried out secret operations whilst in prison to launch such an operation. He eventually escaped from prison and assembled troops to initiate a war, which would continue throughout the 1970s. His long battle for freedom, however, had its setbacks as the war crippled the nation’s economy.
His reign began when the war was won and Southern Rhodesia—now named the Independent Republic of Zimbabwe—was freed from British rule by 1980, and he was elected prime minister. In 1987, he was elected the president of Zimbabwe, and for the first few years, he had managed to successfully execute a five-year plan. The country’s economy grew, improving living standards.
However, the public began to see their hero transforming into a totalitarian dictator. Mugabe began to seize the lands of the white people without any compensation. This began his dictatorial reign, which ironically contradicted with his own views regarding Marxism. He justified his actions by saying it was the only way to gain full liberty for the black. He even went as far as passing an amendment, in 2000, that the British were to pay reparations to the blacks for the land that they had seized.
Growing unpopular among his people, he further refused to allow members of other parties to be involved in the constitution, assuring his dictatorial power. To make matters worse, he has been alleged to scam the elections in his favour through means of violence or corruption. These suspicions have been largely assumed to be true, as he pardoned attackers of his opposition. He has even gone to the extent of recounting votes for an election that he had lost against Morgan Tvangirai, a democrat.
Zimbabwe’s foreign relations have been greatly strained due to Mugabe’s many doings, leaving them no support to overthrow such a government. Tvangirai may now be the prime minister but Mugabe has ensured that most power still lies in his hands.
Though some still believe Mugabe to be a revolutionary—a hero to Zimbabwe—he is now cited a controversial figure due to his power craze. He refuses to hand over authority till the day he dies and defies anyone who attempts to do so.
While he is noted nowadays for dozing off at events—he had even read out the wrong speech in the parliament—he has lived up to a shocking of age of 93, and even retained his power over a whole nation. This leaves one to speculate just how long this man may continue to rule.