Researcher: Zimbabwe ‘hasn’t changed’ since Mugabe exited
Q: How would you judge Mugabe’s legacy as leader of Zimbabwe?
Answer: If one is to make a judgement; then they can only be informed by the old wisdom that the good that men do is interred with their bodies, but the evil that they do follows them after life.
Regardless of the good things Mugabe may have done—he was a liberation war hero, he led the struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe—a lot of the things that he did post-independence, especially towards the end of his tenure, continue to linger and fester in the memories of people as bad things.
Even though we can attempt to try and balance his legacy, at the end of the day a lot of the things that are going to define (how we remember) him as a leader are the mistakes that he made, rather than the positive contributions that he made prior to independence and in the early years of independence.
Q: Was his impact on the economy largely detrimental?
A: Mugabe was a long-term leader, he led the country for 37 years, so it depends on which period we are talking about.
We know that Mugabe inherited a State in 1980 whose economic fundamentals were fairly sound and he tried to allow those economic fundamentals and good economic setup to benefit the majority of the people in the early 1980s.
These are some of the things that we can put in the ‘good’ column, that at least he was reasonable enough to try and extend the benefits of the sound economy to the (majority) of the people of Zimbabwe, but that itself also is where you can begin to look at the roots of some of the economic challenges that we faced (later on).
Even though the benefits of the economy were extended to the majority of the people, a debate can be made about to what extent it strained the economic strength of the country, and some would add that it was actually because of these good policies that we actually implemented the economic adjustment programme in the 1990s which contributed, in a large part, to the collapse that then happened in the 2000s.
A lot of it really is about economic decisions that were not judicious, so you cannot talk about his contribution to economic progress more than his contribution to the economic collapse.
Sputnik: Has Zimbabwe changed since he was replaced as the country’s leader?
Zimbabwe has not changed much and what I can say with certainty is that some of the rhetoric that is put out by the Zimbabwean state has changed after Mugabe’s departure, but when you look at it in fundamental terms, you realise that nothing has changed.
Part of the reason is that Robert Mugabe stopped being an individual a long time ago, and became an institution unto himself, so when he was removed, there was no regime change.
So for us to expect fundamental changes over the course of the last two years was a bit optimistic, because the same people who presided over the collapse of the country politically and economically were still in charge of the country, even after Mugabe departed.