Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for nearly 40 years, carved a legacy of being a strongman.
For years he brutally crushed dissent and his track record in managing the economy was disastrous.
It was on that basis that many Zimbabweans supported a military coup that toppled him in 2017 and propelled his protégé President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power.
Mnangagwa’s ascendancy sparked optimism about Zimbabwe’s renaissance, but on the eve of Mugabe’s death anniversary the new government fuelled debate on who was the better leader between the two.
The government’s decision to allow foreign white farmers to return to their properties led to some critics to suggest that Mnangagwa was now reversing one of Mugabe’s signature policies, which they said made him worse than his mentor.
“A careful perusal of the regime’s statement on land shows beyond reasonable doubt that the regime is now in the process of reversal of the land reform programme,” former Finance minister Tendai Biti said.
“This conscious process started with the land for land compensation Regulations SI 62 2020, then the Global Compensation Deed.”
Biti questioned where the government would get the US$3,5 billion it has pledged to pay the white former commercial farmers.
Norton MP and Mnangagwa ally Temba Mliswa also made the same claims, accusing the Zanu-PF leader of wanting to reverse the land reform programme.
Exiled former Zanu-PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere said the land issue was an emotive one, which needed wide consultations.
“A process like this should be driven through the party, Zanu-PF, which started it,” Kasukuwere warned.
Comparing Mnangagwa and Mugabe, Kasukuwere said the past two years under the Zanu-PF leader had shown that the two leaders were miles apart.
“At least we knew what he (Mugabe) stood for,” he said. “He was clear about that. May his soul rest in peace.”
Jealousy Mawarire, National Patriotic Front spokesperson, the party made up of mainly Mugabe loyalists, said the long-serving Zanu-PF leader would not have approved of the new policies on land.
“The issue of land was always dear to his heart, almost every conversation would ultimately lead to the need for land to remain in the hands of blacks, and it is an ideal he held on until his last breath,” he said.
Former MDC-T vice-president Obert Gutu said Mugabe, though imperfect, would be remembered for his strong stance against neo-imperialism and colonialism.
“If he believed in something, he would stick to that like glue,” Gutu said.
“He will be remembered by generations to come for his strong stance in repossessing land.
“Yes, the land reform programme had a knockdown effect on food security, but 50 years from now, and onwards, Mugabe will be remembered by all future generations for this move.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said it was a paradox that people now missed Mugabe just a year after his death.
“The greatest folly of Mnangagwa is that he has failed to level up to Mugabe in terms of political brilliance, eloquence, benevolence and true statesmanship,” Rusero said.
“On things we remember badly about Mugabe, Mnangagwa has perfectly succeeded in outdoing Mugabe by being worse.
“You talk of human rights abuses, narrowing of democratic space, ruthlessness and the sort of I-do-not-care attitude on issues critical to the necessities of citizens’ lives.”
He added: “Put simply, we were never supposed to miss Mugabe as he remains the architect of all miseries we find ourselves in, but reality is that as opposed to the false alternative parachuted on Zimbabwe by the military in the form of Mnangagwa, we dearly miss the old man – may his soul rest in peace.”
Eldred Masunungure said the developments around the land reform programme raised questions on whether Mugabe and Mnangagwa ever shared the same principles.
“Most think, perhaps, Mnangagwa was never seriously into it and he is now showing his true colours,” Masunungure said.
“The huge amounts of money in the compensation deal and the claims that we are fulfilling constitutional obligations, one wonders, how many constitutional obligations are yet to be fulfilled and why the rush on this one?
“Why going all the distance on something lying in the very heart of Zanu-PF?
“There is a feeling the current regime is selling out.”
Zanu-PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi promised to issue a statement on Mugabe, which had not been done by the time of going to print last night.