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Unlamented dictator – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

The news leaked out quickly despite the security clampdown. It always does. After all, it was not unexpected. The old tyrant had been felled by a stroke: probably dead, but anyway finished. 

Protests against President Mugabe's government are mounting in Zimbabwe
Protests against President Mugabe’s government are mounting in Zimbabwe

It had been a long time coming. No one was sure what would happen next. Who would take over? There were several obvious candidates but which one would move first? 

Fresh in the memory was the sudden death of Malawi’s President Mutharika in 2012. As the Vigil recorded at the time, his corpse was flown to South Africa, ostensibly for medical treatment but really just to buy time for his inner circle to work out what to do. 

This tyrant left a difficult legacy. Long decades of brutal oppression to elevate him to the status of a near deity. There was talk of opponents being boiled. The country was ruined. 

Well at last he is gone. The official announcement when it came was brief. President Karimov is dead, the only President Uzbekistan has had since independence. 

The Uzbek government described him as a great statesman who had brought ‘peace, stability, prosperity and progress’. Will we soon be hearing similar nonsense about Mugabe? 

Other points

  • After a week of frenzied police violence against demonstrators and passers-by in Harare, the Zimbabwe Action Forum met after the Vigil to discuss the worsening situation. Ephraim Tapa, who has just returned from a clandestine visit, spoke of the worsening corruption he found. He said he had been told that euthanasia was being practiced in hospitals on those too poor to pay for life-saving treatment.
  • The meeting explored ideas for a transitional authority to take over bankrupt Zimbabwe and prepare for free and fair elections. There was discussion about whether this body should includepoliticians as well as members of civil society. People were asked to come up with ideas to discuss further at another meeting on 17th September.
  • The Vigil contributed generously to a collection for Vigil Co-ordinator Rose Benton whose sister Cathy has diedsuddenly in Zimbabwe. Rose was visibly moved and said the money, ‘theCathy Memorial Fund’, would go to the joint ROHR Leicester / ROHR Hwange project which is feeding and paying for school fees for children in Hwange.
  • Thanks to those who came early to help set up: Teclar Bandawe, Elizabeth Chakachaka, Rosemary Guveya, Fungayi Mabhunu, Phillip Mahlahla, Edna Mdoka, Eletha Mpofu, Natash Mubaiwa, Alfredy Mukuvare, Tracy Mupeti, Mandifusa Mushambadope, Mduduzi Ndlovu, Jennipher Sabe, Alice Shimika, Michael Sirewu and Nathan Tanyanyiwa. Thanks to Eletha, Mandifusa and Cathrine Musa for looking after the front table and to Phillip, Alfredy, Mduduzi and Michael for putting up the banners and the tarpaulin. 

For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website. For videos of Vigils and other events, check the ROHR facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/www.rohrzimbabwe.org/videos?fref=photo. 

FOR THE RECORD: 49 signed the register.