The Sunday Mail
Lincoln Towindo and Kuda Bwititi
THE late former President, Cde Robert Mugabe, carved his mark in championing education for all in Zimbabwe and should also be remembered as a freedom fighter, who contributed immensely to promote freedom within Sadc, deputy chair of a group of prominent figures and former statespersons known as The Elders, Mrs Graca Machel, has said.
Speaking to journalists after delivering the group’s condolence message to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House yesterday, Mrs Machel said the late nationalist’s legacy of providing education for all should be treasured.
“(Former) President Mugabe will be remembered as a freedom fighter,” she said.
“He contributed immensely for the freedom of this country; he contributed immensely for the freedom of other people here in the region.
“But I must say also that the first years of development of Zimbabwe, we say Zimbabwe was a beacon in this region, particularly in education.
“Many of you benefited from the policies he championed to make sure that education is available to everyone in this country.
“But, of course the young generation only remember the last years, where there has been hardships.
“We appeal that it is important to have a cool and balanced outlook on his contribution and honouring him, like the President took the initiative to declare him national hero and to give all the honours of a statesman.
“Countries have history and history has to be honoured.”
Elders chair and former Irish president Mrs Mary Robinson, who led the delegation, said the group was saddened by the death of former President Mugabe.
“We came here as Elders to pay our respect to the President following the death of (former) President Mugabe.
“I remember when I came here as President of Ireland on a State visit in 1994, I was very well received by President Mugabe.
“Indeed, he even invited me to go in the car with him to his old school, which was not on the agenda, but we did that.
“I was back here in 2012 in discussions about the Constitution to help to have more gender dimensions, again he hosted a big meeting and I met him at that time.
“But even more so, Mama Graca Machel has strong memories of how supportive President Mugabe was during the early days.
“So, we wanted to present our credentials and our condolences. And we also had a very good discussion with the President.”
Commenting on the 2008 incident, where delegation of the Elders was refused entry into the country by President Mugabe’s government, Mrs Machel said the incident does not put a stain on Cde Mugabe’s record as a statesman.
“I would not want to dwell into some of the tensions.
“But as you know, we did not come to Zimbabwe (at the time), but we did support Zimbabwe from where we were.
“But for me, history is history, it has to be honoured even in times of difficulties.” Meanwhile,
Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga yesterday described Cde Robert Mugabe as an “iconic leader of African emancipation”, who empowered the nation through the land reform programme “at the risk of his own life and position”.
In a condolence message to President Mnangagwa, Cde Mugabe’s family and the people of Zimbabwe, VP Chiwenga, who is presently receiving treatment in China, said the former founding President prosecuted the liberation struggle with distinction after taking over the reins of the party in 1977.
“It is with a deep sense of sorrow and shock that I learnt of the untimely passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President Cde RG Mugabe, on 6 September 2019.
“Cde Mugabe was the liberator of Zimbabwe, who upon taking the reins of leadership of Zanu in 1977, led the prosecution of the liberation struggle with distinction until the attainment of national independence in 1980,” he said.
“He will remain our founding father and iconic leader of African emancipation.”
He applauded Cde Mugabe for leading Zimbabwe to become the country with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, as well as law-abiding people, who respect the Constitution and electoral processes.
Cde Mugabe, he added, was a selfless leader, who put the national interest ahead of his own.
“He leaves behind a legacy of a country with respect for constitutionalism, whereupon elections are held as prescribed in the Constitution and the highest literacy rate in Africa.
“At the risk of his own life and position, Cde Mugabe courageously empowered the nation, through the land reform programme. . .
“As I extend my condolences from China, my heartfelt sympathises are with his beloved family, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E.D Mnangagwa and the nation at large. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace,” said VP Chiwenga.
The VP has been in China since July.
He served as Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces from 2004 to 2017, with the then President Mugabe as his Commander-in-Chief.
Prior to being Commander ZDF, Chiwenga also served Cde Mugabe as Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army from 1994 to 2003.
Before independence, General Chiwenga was one of the celebrated military officers, who signed the revolutionary Mgagao Declaration that was a turning point in the history of the liberation struggle in 1975.
The declaration led to a seismic shift in Zanu as it led to the removal of Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole as president.
He was later replaced by Cde Mugabe. The Zanu congress in Chimoio, Mozambique, in 1977 endorsed the Mgagao declaration and affirmed Cde Mugabe’s leadership.