Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mugabe: Africa’s Liberation Icon
November 25, 2017
Zimbabwe Herald

“FOLLOWING my verbal communication with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda at 13:53 hours, 21st November, 2017 intimating my intention to resign as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.”

This was part of the letter written by former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in which he notified the Speaker of the National Assembly about his decision to resign following a week of political tension in which he came under pressure from his political party and parliament to resign, an initiative supported by the population through mass marches and peaceful demonstrations in the capital and other cities.

The resignation marked the end of an era for an African political icon. Admired by many in Africa as a liberation icon, Mugabe offered a message of hope and unity to millions of his compatriots when he became the first black prime minister of newly independent Zimbabwe on April 18 1980.

He did not disappoint on his promise during the greater part of his 37 years in power, delivering a free education system that was the envy of many of Zimbabwe’s neighbours and far afield, as well as announcing a much vaunted policy of reconciliation with the white population of the country soon after independence.

The reconciliation policy endeared him to Western nations which poured in resources into the southern African country, making it one of the jewels of Africa. Under his rule, Zimbabwe remained one of the countries with high literacy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, averaging above 90 percent of the population over the greater part of the past 30 years.

Since independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean government has always prioritised education by giving it one of the highest allocations in its national budgets. Figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency show that the literacy rate has consistently risen over the past 25 years despite economic challenges faced by the country, rising from 80.38 percent in 1992 to 97,6 percent in 2014.

Mugabe is also credited with the programme to give land to landless Zimbabweans that was pursued by the government since 2000. Over 300 000 families benefited from the land reform programme, an exercise Mugabe said was meant to address the historical inequalities in the ownership of natural resources.

Under the economic indigenisation programme, introduced in 2010, Mugabe made sure that indigenous Zimbabweans benefited from the exploitation the natural resources of the country. Widely resisted by some foreign investors but greeted with enthusiasm from locals, the programme required foreigners to surrender at least 49 percent of their shareholding to Zimbabweans.

The programme was, however, abused by some locals, with some – including senior government officials – extorting funds from foreigners for purposes of protection. Mugabe was not only instrumental in influencing policy shift in Zimbabwe. While he was chairperson of Sadc from August 2014 to August 2015 the region developed and adopted a strategy to promote industrialisation.

A harsh critic of western domination of global issues, Mugabe oversaw the process of developing the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, approved in Harare in April 2015. He argued that the policy framework should enable the region to transform its economies from being raw resource-dependent to ones that enjoy beneficiated products and are technology driven, dynamic and diversified.

While he was Sadc chairperson, Mugabe was also chairperson of the African Union. True to principle, he – again – campaigned for the continent to adopt strategies that allow citizens of member states to benefit from their natural resources. Both Sadc and the AU have assisted Zimbabwe during the past two decades. Sadc played a crucial role in the process leading to the creation of a government of national unity in 2009.

Mugabe resigned on November 21 and was replaced by his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa who went into exile following his sacking by Mugabe on November 6. He was however reinstated into the ruling zanu-pf on November 19 and subsequently elected party leader, replacing Mugabe who was fired.

zanu-pf has nominated Mnangagwa as its new leader and he is expected to replace Mugabe as the President of Zimbabwe. According to Section 14(4)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a vacancy in the office of President “must be filled by a nominee of the political party which the President represented when he or she stood for election.”

Mnangagwa was sworn in on November 24 during a ceremony to be attended by several heads of state and government from Sadc and elsewhere.


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