Mugabe: Mandela was great friend

Nelson Mandela with Joshua Nkomo
The disingenuous Mandela with Joshua Nkomo

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe described Nelson Mandela as a “great friend” and “a man of real principle”.

Mugabe was among many world leaders who attended the memorial service for Mandela at the FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg on Tuesday. On Wednesday he went to the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, to view Mandela’s body lying in state, Timeslive reported.

Mugabe denied that there had been differences between himself and Mandela. “I don’t know about any feud,” Mugabe said on his return to Harare.

“If anything, there was an alliance. We worked very well with him when he came out of prison. We gave him support.

“We established the principle of national reconciliation at independence in 1980. [South Africa] took it over and used it as a basis to create what [it now has, the] rainbow nation.

In the seven years leading to 1987 Mugabe had ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent Zimbabweans through a “special” brigade that reported directly to him. That unit, named the fifth brigade, trained by experts hired from North Korea, murdered thousands of Zimbabweans under the watch and directives of Robert Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe like Mandela – a tribal Xhosa – are minority leaders who prey on the peaceful nature and reluctance of people to live under chaos and violence.

The terrible wounds the Fifth Brigade inflicted on Matabeleland in the early 1980s still show. The countryside is under-populated, there is even less employment in the towns than there is in the rest of Zimbabwe, and people are scared to talk.

But ample evidence of some of the massacres carried out there between 1982 and 1986 exist. Followers of Mugabe’s rival, Joshua Nkomo, were killed in their thousands.

The Fifth Brigade, like Mr Mugabe’s government and administration, was mostly Shona-speaking. Matabeleland is populated mostly by Ndebeles, the descendants of Zulus who came to the area in the 1830s.

Many in Matabeleland describe the campaign of murder as genocide.

Joseph Buchena Nkatazo co-ordinated an investigation carried out some years ago by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

Mr Nkatazo says in the areas where they had been able to investigate, they had found evidence of more than 20,000 deaths. He was sure there must have been many more elsewhere.

Mandela knew about the massacres at the time, but never spoke out against them.

Mugabe only had praise for Mandela on Thursday. “From our point of view, we have lost a great friend, a revolutionary and a man of real principle. That’s why we went to give him a send-off so that we would be satisfied that the love we had for him, the historical alliance that we created in the fight against imperialism and colonialism, will not have been historically lost by our being absent,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe, who turns 90 in February, secured a seventh term in office in July.

The Zimbabwean leader received an applause on Tuesday at the Mandela memorial service, whereas President Jacob Zuma was booed.

Mugabe will not travel to Qunu, in Eastern Cape, for the burial at the weekend.