Mandela wanted Mugabe to 'see sense'

President Mugabe had by Friday night not sent a condolence message to South Africa and the Mandela family following the death of former President Nelson Mandela.

While international leaders on Friday quickly reacted to extend grief, Zimbabwe as neighbours remained quiet amid reports that Mugabe spent the day officiating at a graduation ceremony at Midlands State University in Gweru. 

Meanwhile, ex-PM Morgan Tsvangirai made sensational claims that before Mandela’s health deteriorated, he had wanted to meet Mugabe to make the Zanu-PF leader “see sense” over the way he was reportedly running down the country.

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Of late there has been debate in Zimbabwe on Mandela’s legacy. South Africa is our neighbour and Zimbabwe contributed not little to the emancipation of that country and the rise of Mandela to the throne, but in comparison to Robert Mugabe, he has been seen as a great let-down to the African fight against colonial domination.

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Those in power in Harare have been less than charitable in their assessment of him accusing him of having been too lenient with his country’s former oppressors in a way that left the oppressors better off than the black people they enslaved for 500 years.

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Mandela set out to break the perceived image of the African ruler. Not only did he demonstrate that a leader could be compassionate to his own people and his erstwhile enemies as a way of nation building, but he also began to challenge other African leaders to follow his example.

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This did not endear him with the African strongmen who had helped in the anti-apartheid struggle.

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Mandela’s detractors in Harare want the world to think that there cannot be two African heroes living contemporaneously. For them, there can only be one hero, the one who fought against colonialism and gave his country’s natural resources back to the indigenous people.

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That hero is Robert Mugabe. True, Mugabe is a hero to millions of Zimbabweans and to millions others on the African continent disillusioned with their own leaders who succumbed to the trappings of power while their people languish in poverty.

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To these millions of Africans who worship the ground Mugabe walks on, he is a beacon of hope that every African leader has to emulate. To them Mandela falls desperately short in comparison because indigenous South Africans still yearn for land and other resources that their country possesses.

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But does Mandela’s iconic status diminish Mugabe’s heroism? That seems to be the fear in the corridors of power in Harare, hence the reluctance to celebrate Mandela’s indisputable achievement. The truth of the matter is that it’s up to the world to judge.

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Is Mugabe going to have the same international stature that Mandela had as demonstrated by the outpouring of global grief on his death? It’s a stature that one can only command, like Mandela did, not demand, as others would like to do for Mugabe.