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Mugabe (left) with Mary Robinson. Image Credit: Supplied

I remember former President Robert Mugabe visiting our school 25 years ago, in 1994. It was the same Catholic school he had attended in the 1940s.

During his visit, Mugabe was accompanied by Mary Robinson, who was at that time the president of Ireland. The liberation war icon shook hands with hundreds of students on that day, myself included.

To us, he was Robert Mugabe the pragmatic leader. The country’s economy and currency were doing reasonably well. He had forged unity in a country that was divided by racial and tribal tensions. And yet, only a few years later, the same problems he had set out to fix would return to haunt his government — land issue, economic inequality and racial tensions.

I would go on to witness the chaotic seizure of land from minority white farmers, and the period of record hyperinflation — during which the price of a single loaf of bread shot up to millions of dollars. This time, Mugabe was at the helm, and many fingers pointed at him. Looking back at his rule, I see a man who fought hard to liberate his own people from colonial oppression. However, I also see a man who did not know when to hand over the baton to the next generation.

Writing on Facebook, politician Jameson Timba best summed up my own view: “Robert Mugabe is no more. He ran his race. He started well, fumbled along the way, but his finishing was poor. Be that as it may, may his dear soul rest in peace.”