Belfast Telegraph

Robert Mugabe leaves a legacy of ruin and corruption, says expat councillor

Critical: Kate Nicholl
Critical: Kate Nicholl
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Belfast councillor born in Zimbabwe has said the legacy of the liberator turned tyrant Robert Mugabe will be one of violence and economic ruin.

Mugabe died at the age of 95, two years after the military ousted him from power.

Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl, who left Zimbabwe for Northern Ireland in 2000, said: "I don't think many people will be mourning his loss.

"He earned a lot of respect for overthrowing colonial rule, before Nelson Mandela did it, but his legacy will remain that of a power-obsessed, corrupt leader and will be remembered for violent, authoritative regime that he had."

Mugabe's successor Emmerson Mnangagwa called him "an icon of liberation" and said his death caused him "utmost sadness".

Ms Nicholl said President Mnangagwa was no better and that he had robbed people of the "jubilation" they felt at the changing of the guard in 2017.

"I just think Zimbabwe has been through a nightmare in the last 20 years," she added.

"Mnangagwa is cut from the same cloth; he was Mugabe's right-hand man and was responsible for the army and security during some of the darkest moments in recent history."

She said the arrest of protesters and stories of torture and oppression were still too common.

"It's very sad because it's a beautiful country and Zimbabweans are a long-suffering, decent people who have been treated abominably and I don't think there's very much hope for them at the moment."

Ms Nicholl last visited in 2017 and said the economic devastation was evident, with roads filled with potholes and seeing her old primary school in ruins.

"It's a very different country from the one I grew up in," she added."I still have friends who live there and they're under no illusion of what state the country is in and why."

While Mugabe's hero status often shielded him from outside pressure, Ms Nicholl said it was unclear if this would change. She said: "It's a pretty bleak political climate right now, but there's always hope when people are still going out to protest and risking their lives on a daily basis."

Lord Hain, the Kenyan-born former Northern Ireland Secretary and anti-apartheid campaigner, met Mugabe in 1999 when he was Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

He said Mugabe was a "tragic case study of a liberation hero who then betrayed every one of the values of the freedom struggle".

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