Newly sworn-in president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa played an act of a patriot, when he officially declared February 2, Robert Mugabe’s birthday, a national holiday and tagged that day: “Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day”. It may not have come as a surprise. Mugabe was revolutionary leader and an astute politician in the struggle for an independent Zimbabwe, and remains such in the history of his country.
Mugabe’s was recently removed from office as president by the military and replaced by his former vice-president and strong ally Emmerson Mnangagwe. To the average Zimbabwean 16 million people population, Robert Mugabe is an enigma — equated with late Nelson Mandela of South Africa. He is held in high esteem, with dignity, and with high profile leadership and political record.
Mugabe led an independent Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2017. As prime minister from 1980 to 1987 and president from 1987 to 2017 – a period of 37 years mixed-bag of activities. He was chairman, Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU group from 1975 to 1980. He led the political party that succeeded ZANU group – ZANU-Patriotic Front, ZANU-PF, from 1980 to 2017.
Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper reported that there have been calls for Mugabe’s birthday to be made national holiday. The calls were adopted by the government in August, as a result of intense lobbying by ZANU-PF Youth League. And the decision was officially placed on record, Friday.
President Mnangagwe made no pretense on his position on the former president. During his inauguration, Friday, he said former president Mugabe needed to be given the respect and recognition he deserved as one of the “founders and leaders” of Zimbabwe. His words: “To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader”.
In the 1960s during Mugabe’s early struggles for independent Zimbabwe, according to records, he was quoted to have said: “Europeans must realize that unless the legitimate demands of African nationalism are recognized, then racial conflict is inevitable”.
After Mugabe’s victory in 1980, he said in part of his speech: “The wrongs of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten. If ever we look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequalities that must never find scope in our political and social system. It could never be a correct justification that just because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power. An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or black against while”
Robert Mugabe is a man of many parts. Analysts believe that despite Robert Mugabe’s apparent shortfalls in governance for 37 years in Zimbabwe — as prime minister and president – some said to be “worst atrocities committed under the ruling ZANU-PF, it would be difficult for Zimbabweans to wish-away his achievements and place in the history of the country.