When Robert Mugabe first gained the leadership of Zimbabwe, (forgive the pun) he was seen as the great white hope on a continent ridden with dictators.

Rob Muldoon was slammed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Sydney for suggesting otherwise, but subsequent events soon proved him right.

Here’s an interesting tale about the Zimbabwean public’s view of Mugabe, as opposed to his much maligned predecessor, Ian Smith.

A few years ago a local woman drove me out to the Harare University, why doesn’t matter. Later, on our return to the CBD I asked her where Mugabe lives. “I’ll show you,” she said. We veered off and eventually came into a pleasant tree‑lined avenue. Along one side for about 100 metres was a high concrete wall, jagged broken bottles set into its top all along, and above them, rows of barbed wire. Machine gun toting soldiers loitered about. Behind was Mugabe’s mansion.

On the opposite side of the avenue, lower walled mansions stood, these my driver said being the homes of Mugabe’s colleagues.

Then came an amazing sight for on the corner, unfenced and open to the road with a grass lawn running to the pavement, sat a bungalow which would not be out of place in any middle‑class New Zealand suburb.

“Ian Smith’s home”, my friend advised.

“Surely, he’s vulnerable to attacks,” I suggested. She laughed. “Never”, she declared, adding, “the people remember him fondly”. Well they might given the horrors of what’s followed.

The current great white hope in that continent of despots is Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Ably Ahmed, serving under the nation’s first ever female President.

To date he’s exceeded all expectations and in a short time has achieved a great deal. Let’s hope he survives. I say that as there’s a park in the centre of the pleasant CBD of Addis Ababa. Last year while addressing a crowd there, a failed bomb attack was launched on him, probably from separationists from an independence seeking province.

One Comment

I also remember that lovely tree lined street in Harare. Locals dare not take a wrong turn and end up down that street after dark. I also remember how Mugabe ‘owned’ the roads. Travelling into the city after a lovely day out, we were forced to park at the side of the motorway for about an hour and wait while Mugabes entourage arrived into city limits and then ‘ not ‘ watch them drive past (all 15 vehicles)

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