Kuda Bwititi, Chief Reporter
The country’s success is inevitable owing to the rich and endearing legacy of “solid education”, the land reform programme and economic empowerment initiatives laid by Cde Robert Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
The onus of the new crop of leaders, he said, was to continue the rich heritage of the continent’s founding fathers through “challenging an unfair world, opposing injustice, racism and all forms of oppression of man by man”.
He also thanked the former First Lady, Grace Mugabe, for taking care of the late icon until his death. In his tribute to the country’s founding father at a State Funeral held in the capital yesterday, the President said Cde Mugabe’s legacy was a springboard for economic development.
“As Zimbabwe, we shall ride on the education and high literacy levels bequeathed to us by our late great teacher and educator. As a visionary, he understood the importance of solid education, as well as science and technology in the future world. As Africa, let us find our niche within the fast unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution, leveraging in our youthful population, abundant, untapped natural resources and expansive combined market.
“As Africa boldly operationalises the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), let us be emboldened by the ideas of the late Cde Mugabe, who was one of the consistent champions of African unity, industrialisation, intra-Africa trade, as well as regional and continental integration.”
While rallying the international community to join the growing advocacy for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe, the President also thanked Sadc and the African Union (AU) for supporting the country in its push to have the embargo lifted.
“There is no place in our modern world for unilateral punitive sanctions imposed in pursuit of selfish interests, undue influence and colonial-time expansionism. As we mourn our revolutionary icon, we call for the unconditional and immediate lifting of the sanctions imposed on us. We invite the world to work and walk with us into a brighter future for our people, our region and the continent. A Zimbabwe free of the albatross of sanctions is indeed of greater benefit to the world,” he said.
In his moving tribute to his predecessor, President Mnangagwa described Cde Mugabe as “giant African tree that has fallen”.
“He taught a generation, led a nation, inspired a continent, spoke for the oppressed and defined the politics and economics of an epoch. The man who lies before us was for years our leader, our commander, mentor and President, both in the party and Government . . . Today, Southern Africa mourns the sad loss of front-liner. Today, Africa weeps, grieving over the loss of a true Pan-African.”
Yesterday, Cde Mugabe was accorded the Last Respect-National Salute, which is a combination of a fly past and a 21-gun salute. It is the highest honour accorded in military tradition. Ninety-five doves were released, signifying the 95 years that Cde Mugabe lived, 37 of which he was leader of Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa said Cde Mugabe will be remembered by future generations for his avid patriotism and Pan-Africanism.
“For years and generations to come, we shall continue to draw inspiration from the life leadership, courage, valour and bravery of this great man we here fondly called Gushungo. A true statesman, who resolutely defended our country throughout his life.”
He said President Mugabe alongside former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia — who is now the only survivor among the crop of the founding fathers — and other former Presidents Augustino Neto (Angola), Sir Seretse Khama (Botswana), Samora Machel (Mozambique), Julius Mwalimu Nyerere (Tanzania) “remain the symbol of Africa’s struggles for independence and statehood”.
President Mnangagwa said he was humbled by the huge presence of several Heads of States and representatives of several countries as this bore testimony to Cde Mugabe’s colossal global influence.
“Among the mourners gathered here are many fellow comrades from the region and continent and the world, who worked and fought alongside our dearly departed father. There are elder Statesmen, Presidents and Prime Ministers; great men and women, young and old, as well as dignitaries from all corners of the world; pulled by the demise of this colossus, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Today, we all grieve together, feeling the void he has left behind.”
President Mnangagwa said during his lifetime, Cde Mugabe was vilified and given “many false names” to present him in bad light, but he remained a true African icon.
“But today, the truth is laid bare and open, we honour and remember our late African icon in our special own way, demonstrating that he had many friends, allies and followers. As he moves on from this life to another, his star rises; it shines high and bright. We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice — which we grew accustomed to on various international platforms — beyond his grave, encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute; always guarding and protecting our freedom, our independence and indeed our God-given resources.”
The land reform programme, President Mnangagwa said, will “never be reversed” and will remain one of Cde Mugabe’s legacies as it benefited more than 365 000 families.
The President also paid tribute to former First Lady Grace Mugabe for standing by the late former President’s side during his illness.
“Allow me to thank the Former First Lady, Her Excellency Amai Grace Mugabe, and the family for looking after and caring for our commander during his illness, right through to the end. The fortitude commitment and love you exemplified is admirable and should forever be emulated . . . Be rest assured that you will continue to have any support and that of my Government in these moments of grief.”