It is surprising how the western media and institutions that eulogise war criminals like Ariel Sharon, Bush Snr and Ehud Olmert are the ones now condemning Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe may not be perfect. He has his faults like other men, but he loved his people and country and sacrificed a lot for their freedom.

If Zimbabwe is today an economic mess, it is not only because of Mugabe’s mismanagement. It was mainly the result of economic sanctions imposed by western countries on Zimbabwe over Mugabe’s controversial land redistribution program.

Robert Mugabe, late President of Zimbabwe

It is the sanctions that led to the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy and the crunching political and economic crises that followed.

Mugabe’s land redistribution program was a conscious attempt to right the wrongs of past centuries when Cecil Rhodes and his descendants conducted their cruel usurpation of indigenous land through bogus agreements with local chiefs and other treacherous schemes.

Anybody with a faint history of Rhodesia will understand that Zimbabwe’s – nay Southern Africa’s – white prosperity was built on the occupation, exploitation and subjugation of indigenous black tribes.

The Lancaster House Agreement that led to Zimbabwe’s independence acknowledged the needs for land reforms in order to correct Zimbabwe’s colonial injustices.

Under the agreement, the UK was expected to shoulder the cost of compensating white farmers. Mrs. Thatcher formally ensured the delay of the implementation of the land reform by 10 years.

By the time Blair’s Labour came to power in 1997, they made it clear they are not going to be bound by that agreement, forcing Mugabe to introduce a new constitution and pave the way for the forceful seizure of white-owned lands in Zimbabwe.

There’s no political power without economic power. That’s why, 24 years after apartheid, the economic and social conditions of black South Africans are no better than they were under apartheid.

This is because the major reforms post-apartheid only addressed the political imbalance without radically addressing the even more important issue of economic imbalance. That’s a discussion for another day.

Mugabe’s real faults are limited to his refusal to step aside even in the face of real health and age challenges and his selfish attempt to impose his wife as his successor.

Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace

These faults, as damning as they appear, cannot overshadow his great contributions to Zimbabwe’s independence and black liberation struggle in Africa, legacies that are so strong that even the military junta that overthrew him had to render its coup d’etat with respect, negotiating with Mugabe instead of just brushing him aside.

While he has left the stage, the effects of crippling sanctions imposed by the west will continue to bite for years. In truth, Mugabe’s past his time.

Gone is the era of African solidarity and anti-colonial unity that birthed the likes of Mugabe and his generation of pan-African leaders whose memory is past fading beyond recall. He’s the last of his kind!

By Ahmed Musa Husaini