Many Zimbabweans have mixed feelings about the death of Robert Mugabe

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Mugabe’s death has been widely reported and talked about. On Saturday, his death was raised with me in Dunn’s, Scarecrow and the Clocktower grocer’s all before noon. People asking what I thought, how I felt and what it means. In many ways, we shouldn’t be surprised. North London, and more specifically the London Borough of Haringey, has been home to a large and vibrant Southern Africa diaspora for a very long time indeed.
By London Cllr Adam Jogee

Who could forget that former ANC President Oliver Tambo lived with his family in an area of Muswell Hill once represented by my comrade Liz McShane; the large community of Zimbabweans who moved to Haringey in the late 1970s and early 1980s; or the fact that the people of Noel Park were served by the late Zimbo, Narendra Makanji, and that there are now three Zimbabweans on Haringey Council – me and my two colleagues, Cllr Mike Hakata and Cllr Eldridge Culverwell. Together, we form an unofficial Zimbo caucus!

Like many who love Zimbabwe – through family and heritage, like me, or simply its natural beauty like many here in North London – I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to feel. Nobody can, or should, celebrate the death of another human being, at least that’s how I was brought up. That said, I was soon consumed by weird, anti climatic feeling of confusion and nonchalance.

I have been hopelessly in love with Zimbabwe, my father’s homeland, for as long as I can remember. The jacaranda trees can brighten up any day, the taste of fresh and sweet mangos, the warm and hot sun simply asking you to bask in it and the people. Zimbabweans, or Zimbos, are warm, considerate, decent and generous. They are – or certainly were – well educated, respectful, welcoming.

My siblings and I spent many happy summers with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and many (many!!) more extended relations. But for all the safety of my grandparents’ suburban Harare home, as we grew older and spent more time there, the political situation continued to deteriorate.

People remember dates and events that mean something to them. Well, April 18, 1980, was a momentous day and meant a great deal to many people on the continent of Africa and across the world. The Smith regime was gone, the people had spoken at the ballot box and Zimbabwe was free at last.

Prince Charles, as representative of the Crown, was in Salisbury, the capital of Rhodesia, to lower the Union flag and to witness the transfer of power to the new multi racial, non racist, inclusive Zimbabwe led by the new prime minister, Robert Mugabe. These were momentous times for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans: investment flowed into the country, tourism went through the roof (if you read this and you haven’t been to Victoria Falls, the Chimanimani Mountains or Hwange National Park – go visit now), and Mugabe managed to stop “white flight” by seemingly sticking to his promise to build a Zimbabwe for all Zimbabweans, black and white. Who could disagree?