The nearly four-decade-long reign of terror at the hands of Zimbabwe’s late dictator Robert Mugabe left behind a trail of rampant corruption, death, gross human right abuses, and famine.
Mugabe died on Thursday in Singapore at the age of 95. He ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist from 1980 to 2017.
Mugabe was an “ex-guerrilla chief who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980 and presided over a country whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil and allegations of human rights violations,” the Associated Press (AP) noted.
In November 2017, a coup staged by the military forced the Zimbabwean strongman to resign. He was the oldest head of state and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders at the time.
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party remains in power under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of the late dictator’s former vice-presidents.
Below are five of the horrors experienced by Zimbabweans during Mugabe’s tenure.
Known as the darkest stain of his legacy, Mugabe sanctioned the massacre of as many as 20,000 mostly ethnic Ndebele people in western Zimbabwe. The carnage came soon after he helped end white colonial rule in the African country in 1980.
The genocide came to be known as Gukurahundi, a Shona language word that is loosely translated to mean the “early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.”
On Thursday, Reuters reported:
Just three years after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain, Robert Mugabe sent the army’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade into Matabeleland to crush dissidents and former guerrillas loyal to liberation war rival Joshua Nkomo.
Over the next two years, human rights groups estimate as many as 20,000 people died in western Zimbabwe, most of them ethnic Ndebele.
Many of the victims were executed, often after being forced to dig their own graves. Others were thrown down wells or disused mine shafts.
Rape, torture, mass beatings and wholesale destruction of villages were also commonplace, according to “Breaking the Silence,” a seminal 1997 report on the episode by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Persecution of LGBT Zimbabweans
Mugabe was furiously anti-gay, calling tolerance for gay rights “unnatural” and “filth.”
He criminalized homosexuality and dismissed demands that the government must treat it as a human rights issue.
In 2013, he threatened to decapitate homosexuals.
Human Rights Watch acknowledged Thursday:
[In 2013], amidst attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Mugabe cemented his long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions by reiterating his 1995 statement that LGBT people were “worse than dogs and pigs” and threatened to behead them.
The former autocrat’s anti-gay legacy “lives on,” Pink News reported Thursday, adding:
When Zimbabwe first gained independence in 1980 it had a flourishing gay scene in urban areas. Then Robert Mugabe took power, and after nearly four decades of demonizing and persecuting the LGBT+ community, the country now has one of the worst LGBT+ rights records on the African continent.
LGBT+ Zimbabweans have absolutely no legal protections from discrimination, violence and harassment. Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and gay men and women have faced extortion, arrest, and physical torture under Mugabe’s rule.
Mugabe once said he was the “Hitler” of his time.
Mugabe has a history of giving away or eating endangered animals, one of Zimbabwe’s most magnificent natural assets, to countries where the animals face certain death.
In 2010, ABC News revealed:
Conservationists and game wardens are alarmed that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has ordered several wild animals, including baby elephants too young to leave their mothers, be sent to North Korea as a gift — and almost certain death.
In the 1980s Mugabe sent two rhinos, which are on the endangered species list, to North Korea. They died after only a few months there. Two other rhinos, sent to the Belgrade Zoo in the former Yugoslavia around the same period, also died.
Pressure by members of Mugabe’s government and international conservationists reportedly prompted the late dictator to cancel the shipment of wild animals to North Korea.
Much to the horror of conservationists, however, Mugabe slaughtered and served some of the country’s imperiled wildlife, including elephants and lions, during his lavish 91st birthday celebration in 20145.
Anti-White Racism Triggers Famine
In 2000, Mugabe launched a campaign to evict white farmers from their land and give it to black Zimbabweans, a move that led to famine.
“Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy,” Mugabe declared in 2002.
Mugabe’s henchmen attacked white farmers, killing many, setting their homes ablaze, looting their property, and confiscating their land. He had no plan to teach the farmers who replaced them how to maintain crop yields to feed the country.
As a result, the Zimbabwean economy descended into chaos with thousands of people suffering from poverty and near-starvation.
Referring to the eviction of white farmers, Metro reported Thursday:
The ‘Fast track land reform’ was meant to redistribute land from wealthy white farmers to black Zimbabweans who had suffered under minority rule, but the vast majority was given to the dictator’s henchmen and political supporters, leading to famine.
White Zimbabweans had no citizenship rights to settle anywhere else in the world and lived in mortal fear of being murdered by members of Mugabe’s regime.
Under his leadership, the economy of the mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty and near-starvation.
Mugabe retained a firm grip over Zimbabwe for 37 years by rigging elections and crushing dissent.
Although he spent more than ten years in prison without trial as a political opponent of British rule, Mugabe cracked down on the opposition once he gained power.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported:
Mr. Mugabe, as elected leader, characterized political opponents as “enemies,” freely used detention without trial and other emergency powers that he inherited from the white regime, and intimidated opponents in his drive for a one-party state.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mugabe’s desire to be the supreme, unchallenged and lifetime leader of Zimbabwe birthed political violence, forced disappearances, tortures, rigged elections, corruption and an economy that collapsed multiple times in one generation, leaving millions desperately poor.
Mugabe also left behind a legacy of where free and fair do not apply to Zimbabwe’s elections.
The dictator also won 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars in a 2010 lottery partly ran by a state-owned bank. Moreover, anti-corruption investigators are investigating whether or not the dictator’s wife, former first lady Grace Mugabe, fraudulently obtained a doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe. The university awarded the doctorate within months.