Mugabe’s Death Dominates 2019 News

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By Leopold Munhende

THE death of former President Robert Mugabe in September this year dominated the highly-charged political events of 2019 in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe died at the age 95, at a private hospital in Singapore on 6 September, nearly two years after he was deposed by his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa with the help of the military.

His death grabbed global media and public attention with several Heads of State attending a memorial service held at the giant National Stadium in his honour.

Mugabe’s body also became the object of intense haggling between family and government with Mnangagwa battling unsuccessfully to have the former strongman’s remains interred at the National Heroes’ Acre.

However, the late leader’s wife, Grace and the Mugabe family won the battle that saw the once dreaded President finally buried at his rural Zvimba home.

Before his burial, confusion reigned supreme as the Government announced that he would be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre upon the completion of a US$1 million mausoleum.

Mugabe became the third national hero in 2019 to decline interment at the shrine. The second was former ZIPRA intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa.

Dabengwa, who was ZAPU President, died on 23 May in Kenya on his way from treatment in India.

His burial in Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland North province was attended by individuals of high political significance except Mnangagwa.

Also among the mourners was MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa.

A respected statesman, Dabengwa is said to have been working on a book that would have chronicled his life and details of the country’s darkest period, Gukurahundi, that claimed lives of some 20 000 mainly Ndebele speaking people in the early 1980s.

Another national hero who died this year, but also declined to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acres was the legendary musician, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi. Mtukudzi died at the age of 66 in January and was buried at his rural home in Madziva, Mashonaland Central province.

2019 will also go down in history as the year in which opposition MDC President Chamisa ‘legitimised’ his leadership of party by being elected unopposed during the May elective congress held in Gweru.

Chamisa was for more than a year accused of grabbing power from then Vice President Thokozani Khupe following the death of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai in 2018.

Khupe is now the president of a splinter MDC formation.

For his allegations of attempting to topple Chamisa, as he did at the 2014 congress, former MDC secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora was appointed to the lowly position of Deputy Secretary for International Relations under Gladys Hlatshwayo.

Other MDC political heavyweights like former vice presidents, Morgen Komichi and Elias Mudzuri, have fallen by the wayside and are now holding less influential posts in the party.

Having done and dusted his rivals within the MDC, Chamisa finds himself receiving criticism from ZANU PF over his continued stance of claiming that Mnangagwa stole the 2018 presidential election.

ZANU PF is also accusing him of causing the current economic challenges through his reluctance to join the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) – a grouping of the ruling party and other fringe political parties that contested in the 2018 elections.

In January 2019, the economic challenges facing most citizens became a major highlight when citizens shut down most major cities and towns in the country. They were demonstrating against fuel hikes announced by Mnangagwa.

State security agents including members of the military are reported to have shot dead 17 people while cases of the soldiers raping women were recorded.

Hundreds of people, including politicians, opposition activists, labour union and civic society leaders were arrested for taking part in the demonstrations.

However, no members of military have been held to account for the alleged crimes.

Meanwhile, the government continues to ban MDC opposition’s public events.

In November, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) injected new notes into circulation and announced the return of the Zimbabwe dollar. Mnangagwa argued this would help stabilise prices after inflation hit a 10-year high.

But prices of basic commodities continue to rise with most businesses now pegging their goods and services in US$ and using the black market rates to peg for people buying using the Zimbabwe dollar.

Zimbabwe had abandoned its own currency in 2009 after it was wrecked by hyperinflation and adopted the greenback and other currencies, such as the South African Rand and the Botswana Pula.

Also in November, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga returned home from China where he was holed up for over four months, seeking treatment for idiopathic oesophageal stricture.

Last week, the VP sneaked out of the country for China for a medical review.

Early this month, Chiwenga’s wife, Marry, was arrested on charges of attempting to kill the former army general and fraud. She is currently in remand prison after bail was denied.