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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Special Report
Robert Mugabe: liberator or heavy-handed ruler of Zimbabwe
    2017-November-17  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

TO his followers and faithful, Robert Mugabe is an African nationalist hero who defied the might of white rule, and won. To his many enemies and detractors, he is a brutal tyrant who ruled by fear and ruined his country.

Mugabe, who ranks alongside Africa’s longest-serving rulers, once quipped that he would rule Zimbabwe until he turned 100. But, aged 93, his grip on power seems to be ebbing after the country’s military seized power Wednesday.

He is best known for his land reform program in the 2000 that involved the seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to black farmers.

After decades of rule, his country is in political and economic turmoil, and claims of government corruption are rife.

Mugabe, insisting that he would be succeeded by his 52-year-old wife, Grace Mugabe, is reluctant to relinquish power but as his physical powers have visibly deteriorated, the battle over his succession has come to the fore.

Born on Feb. 21, 1924 into a poor family at Kutama Mission northwest of Harare, Mugabe was described as a studious child known to carry a book even while tending cattle in the bush.

He became a schoolteacher at the age of 17. After teaching in Ghana, where he was influenced by founder President Kwame Nkrumah, Mugabe returned to Rhodesia where he was detained for his nationalist activities in 1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.

His 4-year-old son by his first wife, Ghanaian-born Sally Francesca Hayfron, died while he was behind bars. Rhodesian leader Ian Smith denied him leave to attend the funeral.

After being released, Mugabe rose to become a leader of one of the guerrilla groups fighting white rule.

When the bush war ended in 1980, Mugabe swept to power. He quickly moved to consolidate his ZANU-PF party’s hold on the country, crushing his opponents in a crackdown in which thousands of people were killed.

He became president of Zimbabwe in 1987. In office, he initially won Western plaudits for his declared policy of racial reconciliation and for extending improved education and health services to the black majority. But his luster faded quickly.

It was the seizure of white-owned farms nearly two decades later that would complete Mugabe’s transformation from darling of the West into an outcast — though his status as a liberation hero still resonates in many parts of Africa.

In 2000, Mugabe — one of the world’s most recognizable leaders with his thin stripe of moustache and thick-rimmed spectacles — ordered his followers to begin seizing white-owned farms — supposedly to re-distribute the land more equitably to blacks.

It was said that the land reform policy, which wrecked the crucial agricultural sector, caused foreign investors to flee and helped plunge the country into economic misery, was aimed largely at placating angry war veterans who threatened to destabilize his rule.

The farming industry that once made Zimbabwe the bread basket of southern Africa has since then collapsed with devastating speed, critics say. Within a few years, much of the population was dependent on food aid.

A new opposition party gained broad support in elections in 2008, but Mugabe held onto power in a coalition.

The economy went into free-fall. Shelves in stores stood empty and unemployment soared.

The Zimbabwe dollar was being printed in denominations of billions.

Tens of thousands of economic refugees fled to neighboring South Africa.

Mugabe has used blistering rhetoric to blame his country’s downward spiral on Western sanctions. “If people say you are dictator ... you know they are saying this merely to tarnish and demean your status, then you don’t pay much attention,” he said in a 2013 documentary.

Zimbabweans, who are suffering through another period of deep economic crisis, are angered by Mugabe’s sons, who are in their 20s and have regularly posted pictures of their lavish lifestyle on social media sites.

Last week, a video emerged showing Mugabe’s younger son, Bellarmine Chatunga, pouring champagne over an expensive watch on his wrist. On his Instagram feed, he wrote, “US$60,000 on the wrist when your daddy run the whole country ya know!!!”

After decades in which the subject of succession was virtually taboo, a power struggle erupted as he reached his 90s.

Though active in politics for only a couple of years, his wife Grace made it increasingly clear that she wanted to succeed her husband. “If you want to give me the job,” she told her husband at a gathering this month, “give it to me freely.”

And it has been an open secret in Zimbabwe for many years that former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa would like to succeed Mugabe as president.

Mugabe had been rumored for years to have prostate cancer, but according to the official account, his frequent trips to Singapore were related to his treatment for cataracts.

Grace said that even in his 80s he would rise before dawn to work out.

“It’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do once I get back to my country. I am real again,” he joked in 2016 after returning from a foreign trip, mocking rumors that he had died.

But in recent years, he has stumbled and fallen more than once and delivered the wrong speech at the opening of parliament in 2016.

Last week, Mugabe sacked his vice president, Mnangagwa, who was backed by the country’s military to succeed Mugabe.

Afraid that they would lose their positions if Grace Mugabe were to succeed her husband, as seemed to be on the cards, the military intervened.

When Mnangagwa’s close ally, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, warned against the “purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background,” it was obviously a reference to Mnangagwa’s sacking.

On Wednesday, Mugabe’s own ZANU-PF insisted there had been no coup, but said Mnangagwa had been named interim leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling party — and by extension, presumably, leader of Zimbabwe.(SD-Agencies)

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