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Robert Mugabe - the falling tower of African politics
The continent of Africa is known for its banana republics leaving aside a few exceptions. The coup d'etat by military is a Damocles sword that perennially hangs over the heads of its democratically elected leaders.

And latest to add in this list is Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe has been ruling the country since 1980. In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, an army spokesman said early Wednesday that the military is targeting "criminals" around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.

He remains under detention at his home in Zimbabwe more than 12 hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to "target criminals" around the head of state. The first lady Grace Mugabe was reportedly out of the country, as military said in its statement that it is 'targeting criminals' around the 93-year-old president.

Former Vice President Mnangagwa is reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Tuesday from South Africa. The military takeover comes two days after the army chief had warned that he was prepared to step in to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It is likely to signal the departure from power of the world's oldest leader. And the incident reminds me an Urdu Ghazal:

"Jagah jee laganey ki yeh duniya naheen hai,

Yeh ibrat ki ja hai, tamasha naheen hai.

Miley khak men ahl-e-shan kaisey kaisey,

Makeen ho gayey la-makan kaisey kaisey.

Hue namwar be-nishan kaisey kaisey,

Zameen kha gayee aasman kaise kaise."

(This world is not a place to cultivate deep sentimental ties. It is not a gala or carniwal but a source of awe, shock and fear. Gone to dust the mighty and greats. Rendered homeless the lords of mansions. The lofty titles are unknown now. The Earth has swallowed the sky of sorts.)

The official said that Mugabe would resign later this week and be replaced by Zimbabwe's former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked by President Robert Mugabe this week. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

President Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 in Southern Rhodesia. His father, Gabriel Matibiri, was a carpenter and his mother Bona taught the village children. They had been trained in their professions by the Jesuits, the Roman Catholic apostolic order which had established the mission.

The Jesuits were strict disciplinarians and under their influence the developed an intense self-discipline. He excelled at school. However, in 1930, the family had an argument with one of the Jesuits, and as a result the Mugabe family were expelled from the mission village by its French leader, Father Jean-Baptiste Loubiere. They settled in a village about seven miles away. Father Loubiere died shortly after and was replaced by an Irish Father Jerome O'Hea. He welcomed the Mugabe family to return to Kutama. The new father preached an ethos of racial equality.

Mugabe was a brilliant student and in 1949 he won a scholarship to study at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. There he joined the ANC (African National Congress). He met there with a number of Jewish South African Communists who introduced him to Marxist ideas. However, Mugabe later claimed that despite this exposure to Marxism, his biggest influence at the time were the actions of Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian Independence Movement.

Violence was spreading in Rhodesia as aggrieved black Africans were targeting the white community. Mugabe deemed such conflict a necessary tactic in the overthrow of British colonial dominance and white minority rule. Mugabe was arrested on his return to Southern Rhodesia in December 1963. His trial lasted from January to March 1964, during which he refused to retract the subversive statements that he had publicly made. In March 1964 he was sentenced to 21 months of imprisonment. While Mugabe was imprisoned, Ian Smith became the leader of Rhodesia.

While in prison, his son died of encaphalitis at the age of three. Mugabe was grief-stricken and requested a leave of absence to visit his wife in Ghana. His request was denied. While Mugabe was imprisoned, in August 1964, the Rhodesian Front government arrested all remaining leaders of the country's African nationalist movement.

In 1972, the African nationalists launched a guerrilla war against Smith's government. Under pressure from South African Prime Minister, the Rhodesian white government led by Smith accepted in principle that white minority rule could not be prolonged indefinitely. In the 1979 general election, Abel Muzorewa, a politically moderate black bishop was elected Prime Minister.

Returning to Salisbury in January 1980, Mugabe was greeted by a large crowd. Mugabe took the oath of his office on 17 April 1980. Rhodesia was renamed "Zimbabwe" and in 1982, Salisbury – the Capital was renamed Harare. Mugabe's government continued to make regular pronouncements about converting Zimbabwe into a socialist society. However, he did not take effective and concrete steps in that direction. Mugabe had initially emphasised about the racial reconciliation and he was keen to build a good relationship with white Zimbabweans. But many whites remained uneasy about living under the government of a black Marxist and they also feared that their children would be unable to secure jobs. By 2000, living standards had declined and life expectancy was reduced. The average wages were lower, and unemployment had trebled. Mugabe increasingly blamed the country's economic problems on Western nations and the white Zimbabwean minority, who still controlled most of its commercial agriculture, mines, and manufacturing industry. He called on supporters "to strike fear in the hearts of the white man, our real enemy", and accused his black opponents of being dupes of the whites.

In October 2017, the WHO (World Health Organization) appointed Mugabe as its Goodwill Ambassador. It was an unwelcome development which attracted criticism from both the Zimbabwean opposition and various foreign governments. It was a well known fact that state of the Zimbabwean health system was poorest in the world. WHO revoked Mugabe's appointment a day later.

Rest is very fresh for the intelligent reader.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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