Robert Mugabe has been appointed vice-president of the African Union (AU) Executive Council. The 89-year-old was chosen at the AU meeting in Bahir Dar in Ethiopia.
Mugabe has not proven himself to be a popular figure with many of his policies even though he had won people over early in his career. He was born in 1924 in what was then known as Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He came to fame in the 1960s as a political prisoner in the country and served 10 years in jail. He joined and took a prominent role in the revolutionary war for independence. As the war drew to a close in 1979, Mugabe had cemented his place in the hearts of many of the indigenous people.
He contested and won the general elections the following year 1980 on the platform of Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) and became the Prime Minister of the country. He held on to power over multiple terms and held led Zimbabwe through a relative period of calm until the late 1990s.
The year 2000 marked the beginning of a downward spiral as it was the year Mugabe went on his now infamous policy of land reform. The policy was to fast-track the changing of hands of Zimbabwean pieces of land and subsequently economic capital from the white minority to black majority (a move which probably proved popular to what is now the African Union). The white population that had had many years of land for farming and had hitherto prospered and done well with the economy suddenly overnight had their land taken away from them. There was one particular case of one Major Solomon Mujuru taking over Alamein Farm from Guy Watson-Smith which sparked legal action. Though the case was ruled in Guy Watson-Smith’s favor, he could not affect the court orders and Mujuru stayed on the farm till his death in 2011.
As a consequence of the land reforms, food production in the country has dropped. The lack of experience has not had the best of impacts on food production in the country. The country used to be called the bread basket of Southern Africa but it now has 45 percent of the population declared malnourished. Also as a result of the unpopular reforms, there have been economic sanctions against the nation by Western countries. The American government for instance through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 opposed “any extension by the respective instruction of any loan credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe.”
Mugabe has also had opposition internally. He suffered defeat at the general elections of 2008 to Morgan Tsvangirai. Though he ended up winning the run-off by a landslide, it was proof of the growing voice of the opposition within the country.
The EU barred him from attending the EU-AU summit in 2007. Another summit has been scheduled for April 2014. It will be interesting to see if there are any reactions from the international community to Mugabe having been appointed vice president of the African Union Executive Council.
By: Olajide Jatto
SW Radio Africa