NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 14 – Former Zimbabwean President, the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe has been hailed as a true icon, who worked for unity and emancipation of Africans across the continent.
Several leaders attending his State burial in the capital Harare, Saturday said his death has left an indelible mark, saying his legacy can only be honoured through the unity of Africans.
Speaking during the event, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta described Mugabe as a politically astute and an embodiment of a pan-African spirit, who offered great help to African countries during the fight for independence.
“The onus is now on us, to keep the hope alive, and deliver on the dream of a truly free and prosperous Africa. That is the most befitting tribute we can to departed Africa’s statesman,” he said.
“He spent his lifetime challenging Africa, to find its place and voice, and community of nation and remained faithful to this calling, to his last calling.”
He added that Mugabe “did not shy away from pushing for the ownership and utilization of African resources for the benefit of the African people.”
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa termed Mugabe as an African hero, who played a great role during their struggle against the apartheid regime.
To honour his memory, Ramaphosa issued an apology over the recent deadly xenophobic attacks, saying his Government was working towards ensuring the trend is reversed.
“I stand before you as a fellow African, to express my regret and to apologies for what has happened in our country. What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles of the unity of the African people, that President Mugabe and great African leaders stood for,” he said amidst cheers.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a beneficiary of a 2017 military coup that brought to Mugabe’s 37-year rule to an end, says they will continue drawing inspiration from his leadership.
“He inspired a continent and spoke for the oppressed,” he said.
Born on February 21, 1924 into a Catholic family at Kutama Mission northwest of Harare, Mugabe was described as a loner, and a studious child known to carry a book even while tending cattle in the bush.
After his carpenter father walked out on the family when he was 10, the young Mugabe concentrated on his studies, qualifying as a schoolteacher at the age of 17.
An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, he enrolled at Fort Hare University in South Africa, meeting many of southern Africa’s future black nationalist leaders.
After teaching in Ghana, where he was influenced by founder president Kwame Nkrumah, Mugabe returned to the then Rhodesia where he was detained for his nationalist activities in 1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.
During his incarceration, he gained three degrees through correspondence, but the years in prison left their mark.
His four-year-old son by his first wife, Ghanaian-born Sally Francesca Hayfron, died while he was behind bars. Rhodesian leader Ian Smith denied him leave to attend the funeral.
Mugabe leaves two sons and a daughter by second wife Grace.