Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was an “outstanding” leader of his nation’s liberation movement, China says in a tribute.
“Throughout his life, he firmly defended the sovereignty of his country, opposed foreign interference and actively promoted the cooperative relationship between China and Zimbabwe and China and Africa,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman says.
Mugabe died at the age of 95 in Singapore, officials on Friday said, leaving behind a divided legacy in the country he led for nearly four decades.
Zimbabwe’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who announced the death on Twitter, praised Mugabe for his role in the liberation of his country from white-minority rule.
“His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Mnangagwa tweeted.
But one Zimbabwean, Hildah Chivasa, said that she had to leave Zimbabwe for South Africa because of Mugabe’s “brutal” rule.
In spite of being educated, she was unable to get a job in her home country, which is in the midst of an economic crisis.
“I want to respect him because he liberated us from white rule, but I just cannot because I saw with my own eyes what he did to people. He was brutal. He lost his way; power corrupted him,” she said.
Prince Mukukuzvi, a vendor in the capital Harare, said: “It is always sad to hear someone’s death. However, we are in this mess because of his economic policies.”
The differing reactions reflect the chequered legacy Mugabe leaves behind two years after being ousted in a military coup, with many describing him as the hero, who turned villain.
A former liberation fighter, who waged a guerrilla war against white-minority rule in what was then Rhodesia, in later years Mugabe clung to power, becoming one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders.
Still revered by some on the continent for his fight against white domination, he is widely despised by others who see him as responsible for destroying the country’s economy and violently oppressing any opposition.
South Africa’s ANC, others react
A statement from neighbouring South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), said Mugabe epitomised the “new African – who, having shrugged off the colonial yoke, would strive to ensure his country took its rightful place amongst the community of nations: firmly in charge of its own destiny.”
Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa extended his condolences to the Mugabe family on his official Twitter account, saying that even though they had their differences and “disagreed for decades” the party recognised his contribution during his lifetime.
Britain, with whom Mugabe had a tempestuous relationship, did not immediately release an official statement.
Speaking to eNCA News, Zimbabwean government spokesman Nick Mngagwa, said he should be remembered for the good that he did and that his mistakes should not be the “highlight” of his life.
The ex-president had been seeking treatment for an undisclosed illness in Singapore since April this year.
He is survived by his children and his wife Grace.
Mugabe had been regularly seeking medical treatment in Singapore during his 37 years in power and since been deposed in a 2017 coup and replaced by former deputy Mnangagwa.
The country’s once-proud health care system was decimated by Mugabe’s years of misrule and Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.
As a result, the country’s politicians and other wealthy Zimbabweans seek medical attention in South Africa or further abroad.