Mugabe on Mandela: ‘an unflinching fighter for justice’
ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe at the weekend described former South African president Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday at his Houghton home in Johannesburg aged 95, as "the great icon of African liberation", as the 89-year-old sent his condolences.
Mr Mugabe joined other African and world leaders in honouring Mandela’s contribution to humanity and his relentless pursuit for equal opportunities for all.
"On behalf of the government and people of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Zanu (PF) and indeed on my own behalf, I would like to extend deep condolences to you and, through you to the government and people of the Republic of South Africa, on the death of the great icon of African liberation, freedom fighter and the first president of a free, independent and democratic South Africa," Mr Mugabe said in a letter written to President Jacob Zuma.
"Mr Mandela’s renowned and illustrious political life will forever remain a beacon of excellence," he wrote. "Not only was he a great champion of the emancipation of the oppressed, but he also was a humble and compassionate leader who showed selfless dedication to the service of his people. We join the rest of the nation in mourning his departure. The late Nelson Mandela will forever remain in our minds as an unflinching fighter for justice."
Mr Mugabe, who won a seventh consecutive term in national elections held in July, is widely seen to have been overshadowed in the sunset years of his political career by Mandela, who only served a single term after leading South Africa from apartheid in 1994.
In the decade that followed, Mandela went on to solidify his legacy as a global icon and elderly statesman, while Mr Mugabe presided over the worst period of economic and political turbulence in Zimbabwe’s 33-year-old independence from colonial master Britain.
Ties between the ruling African National Congress in South Africa and Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) have, however, remained strong, dating back to the days of the liberation struggle, when the two parties assisted each other.
Mr Mugabe further extended his condolences to Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, and his children.
"I also would like to take this opportunity ... to convey our deepest condolences to his wife, his children, grandchildren and the entire Mandela family on this sad loss. May his soul rest in eternal peace," said the Zimbabwean leader.
It is likely that Mr Mugabe will attend the state funeral for Mandela, to be held at Qunu in the Eastern Cape on December 15. No flags have been ordered to fly at half-mast in Zimbabwe to mark Mandela’s death.