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Mugabe: Zimbabwe's dream or nightmare leader

Mugabe: Zimbabwe's dream or nightmare leader
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His speech may have slowed down somewhat over 33 years in power but Robert Mugabe seems more strident than ever when it comes to rallying his supporters.

Last week he told Zanu-PF members that winning was crucial for the country’s future: “We have to wage a real, real forceful, vigourous, devastating fight, and this one should be a fight of our lives.”

Robert Mugabe entered politics in the 60s as a member of the National Democratic Party – a movement banned by the minority white regime led by Ian Smith when Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia.

He played a pivotal role in the country’s fight for independence and a constitutional democracy and signed the Lancaster House accord which ended 90 years of British rule.

Mugabe started off as prime minister before becoming executive president after a change in the constitution in 1987.

Celebrations were two-fold as he ended a long-running dispute with ZAPU party leader Joshua Nkomo. The former freedom fighters’ reconciliation led to the birth of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

His long reign of power has earned the admiration of many who view him as an enduring political tactician.

But Mugabe’s critics revile him as cunning and ruthless. They point to his seizure of white-owned commercial farms 13 years ago and now his indigenisation policy to take control of mines and banks for black Zimbabweans.

“The Indigenisation and Empowerment policy will broaden ownership and participation in the economy in a manner that recognises the sovereign right of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Britain, the United States and other Western countries are among his favourite targets for imposing crippling sanctions over charges of vote-rigging and rights abuses. But Mugabe shows no sign of easing his attacks on homosexuals.

“You don’t have the freedom to marry other men or marry other women. There is no such freedom,” he recently told a gathering of party backers.

Rumours persist of his ill-health and treatment for cancer but Harare insists his frequent visits to Singapore are for an eye problem.