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Mugabe fought Mandela over global relevance

President Robert Mugabe had a strained relationship with the late former South African leader, Nelson Mandela as they silently fought for relevance on the global stage and sought to outdo each other on legacy issues.

Mandela died on Thursday and there has been an avalanche of condolence messages from the region and international community.

But Harare, South Africa’s neighbour geographically, sent its condolence message well after others and the State-owned newspapers have not been very kind to the revered international icon even in death.

But Mugabe’s own condolence message to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma did not show hate.

“Nelson Mandela’s renowned and illustrious political life will forever remain a beacon of excellence. Not only was he a great champion of the emancipation of the oppressed, but he also was a humble and compassionate leader who showed selfless dedication to the service of his people,” Mugabe said in a statement.

“We join the rest of the nation in mourning his departure. The late Nelson Mandela will forever remain in our minds as an unflinching fighter for justice.”

Though both leaders shared revolutionary backgrounds in the fight against racial segregation, they later differed on how they handled the racial issue.

Zimbabwe was one of the countries that Mandela first visited after his release from prison in February 1990 and was showered with honours including the Freedom of the Cities of Harare and Kwekwe the following month.

They both adopted a reconciliation approach with their people’s former oppressors, but Mugabe later changed and chose to “strike fear in the heart of the white man” when he felt that his rule was under threat.

Analysts said Mugabe felt very uncomfortable with Mandela when he was released from prison in 1990 and stole the international limelight from the Zimbabwean leader, who during that time, was viewed as a renowned statesman in the Sadc region.
But Mandela stole that from him.
In one televised interview in May this year, Mugabe labeled Mandela as too much of a “saint” for doing good to whites in South Africa who previously oppressed the black majority.
“Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of [blacks]…,” Mugabe told talk show host Dali Tambo in an interview.
“That is being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.”

International reports and thought leaders opined that Mugabe was somewhat jealous of Mandela’s popularity as a bastion of black people’s rights and a symbol of the fight against racial segregation.

This was confirmed in an interview where Mandela in a meeting with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that an increasingly unpopular Mugabe did not want him released from prison.

In a televised interview Sarkozy in 2008 asked Mandela how he judged what was happening in Zimbabwe.

“Before I was released from prison, he was the most popular African leader, but when I was released the media said this is the end of Mugabe from the point of view of popularity. In fact he himself didn’t want me to come out of jail,” said Mandela.

In another 2010 public address, Mandela took a swipe at Mugabe.

“We have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe,” said Mandela, who was opposed to Mugabe’s sending of his army to the DRC to prop up the late President Laurant Kabila.

While Mandela only served four years as president, and retired when people still wanted him, Mugabe has so far ruled for 33 years and has been accused of sponsoring the Gukurahundi massacres in Midlands and Matabeleland region.

It is estimated that 20 000 people were killed during that era and some human rights organisations want the 89-year-old leader tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for human rights abuses.

These accusations soiled his international reputation as a global statesman.

Political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo concurred that there were no personal problems between both leaders.

“This was essentially a matter of legacy issues. Mandela had a strong legacy, he retired early, was admired as a global statesman whereas Mugabe was increasingly viewed as a dictator,” said Nkomo.

“Mandela was genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of Africans and generally wanted a peaceful solution to the Zimbabwean problem. His legacy is still uncontested and he towers above other African leaders of our time,” he said.

17 Responses to Mugabe fought Mandela over global relevance

  1. bingo wajakata December 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    For Mugabe to even dream of being equated to Nelson Mandela shows a tendency of day dreaming and hallucinating of grand proportions. Mugabe does not and will never receive such a global send off. Picture this, Mugabe is dead, soldiers and the so called police round up people at Mbare and rural areas and frog much then to board buses and lorries to go to hero’s acre. In the mean time people celebrate the demise of the dear leader secretly for fear of the CIO, the so called police (militia in police uniforms) and bare footed soldiers. I will stay at home and get some chicken and rice and lots of beer to celebrate the death of a selfish and murderous evil man.

  2. Shyline December 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Mandela is an icon of democracy who worked for the good of South Africans regardless of race or colour of skin,he is totally different from Mugabe a tyrant.Who dares to weep when he dies?

  3. zwenyika December 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    the have their difference,but they fought for the same fate ,blackmen redemption.

  4. TT December 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Mugabe and Mandela are both illustrious sons of the soil. Full stop. The fact that at one point they clashed is probably due to media stories that are sometimes unsubstantiated. The two had good relations dating back to their college days. Video clips showing them, which to me is adequate evidence, shows two great buddies together. I am actually disappointed to see how the West to shower praises to Mandela becoz to them he is now humless. Had they pressurised SA enough Madiba would not have spend 27 yrs in jail.

  5. gamba December 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Both are heroes depending on ones worldview. I don’t feel too good about the support from Western countries though, they praise him too much because Mandela protected their interests. Therein lies the problem, did he not overprotect one group over another?

  6. chimwango December 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    There is a very big difference between Mandela and Mugabe if we are to compare.Mandela spent 27yrs in prison Mugabe spent 11yrs in prison,Mandela did not take 2 terms in office Mugabe is still ruling againest the wishes of the people.Mugabe is accused of killing more than 20 000 and Mandela killed no one.The comparison is too big in favour of Mandela.R.I.P Tata Madiba.

    • for the love of zimbabwe December 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      wht President Mugabe did was for the good of all Africans not Zimbabweans only, by d way are u a Zimbabwean
      if u are get reading strategic studies maybe u can think like a Zimbabwe

  7. Menzi December 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Mandela shall be a saint forever, while Mugabe remains an evil tyrant.

  8. pilsener December 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    mugabe is great but mandela is legend

  9. admire December 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Yes Mandela was a great man in the apathied era but not after he was released from prison. when he cam out of prison he was a different person all together. the same white who used to demonize Mandela calling him a terrorist were now praise singing him at the expense of ordinary South Africans who suffered at the hands of the bloody whites whereas Mugabe had a different approach that made the white community hate him. So whether you like it or not Mugabe will forever remain the greatest man of Africa of all times.

  10. Tariro December 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Well both 4t 4 wat iz ryt in d apertheid ere bt after Mandela then knew dat workin alongsyd whites wz a gd idea as dat hz cntry waz nt goun 2 suffer frm western sanction as it wz going 2 affect hz reputatin unlike our legend who don care abt d feelns of d collonisers, the who blvs in black empowerment, Mugabe iz perhaps a true hero 4 real

  11. for the love of zimbabwe December 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    our flag must fly at high mast,

  12. Mr Lawez December 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    the spirit of africa is one no more opression from whites

  13. Kudzi December 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    President Mugabe is a legend to black Zimbabweans and a true hero as for Mandela he is a Legend in White people’s eyes, blacks who are ignorant and the west because he let them control South Africa’s economy but shunning blacks who are the real owners of South Africa.

    Am Proudly Zimbabwean. Robert Mugabe is a true Legend who dared to defy the all powerful western countries.

    • bamatipa December 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      you are seeing what you want to see and believing what you want to believe. the problem here is that comparing the two great men requires people to do so by putting certain issues into perspective. for instance, Mandela was incarcerated for close to 3 decades and Mugabe for slightly more than a decade. secondly, Mandela ruled SA for 4 years while Mugabe so far has 33 years under his belt. so comparing what mandela could not do in 4 years against what Mugabe did in 33 years is a bit unfair. mandela lived his ideals that he stated at the Rivonia trial in the 1960s that he believed in a just society where both black and white lived in harmony and thats what he did when he came to power. to suggest therefore that mandela is a creation of the west is as being insane as dreaming the sun rising from the west and setting in the south. the west, just the rest of all peace loving africans could not resist the madiba magic and here we mourn a phenomenon that we were so priviledged to have experienced it during our own times.

  14. justin muchuwe December 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I believe mandela did a good thing in forgiving and forgetting but now the white people failed to return the favour,instead they continued to enrich themselves @the expense of the black suffering south africans,most of them live in shacks,they are only entitled to general work,there’s still too much nepotism,the judiciary and law enforcement system is so lenient to the white race since a black man is always a suspect,the white man here is always a master and the black man a slave,so al these in the end were the reasons why madiba suffered for 27yrs in prison yet stil these factors are still yet to b addressed,and because of all these I feel mandelas efforts lacked proper execution and so mugabes ideologies are the best,ukaona wabuda varungu bob sa Bob ndokuti African president ka,hapana akaita sa Bob,pamberi nechibhakera

  15. gm December 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    This old man of Zvimba did nothing because his legacy was completely eroded by his own blunders so mathematically its 0/10 while mandela its 8/10. then later Tsvangirai 9/10

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