The Legacy Of Robert Mugabe

Sep 16, 2019
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The body of Robert Mugabe, the longtime leader of Zimbabwe, has yet to reach its final resting spot. His state funeral was Saturday, but it will likely be at least another month until he's buried, and as Mugabe's family and the government work out the details of his burial, Zimbabwean doctors have taken to the streets of Harare. They say one of their leaders was abducted after calling for a pay strike. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in Harare, and he joins us now.

Hi there.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's begin with Mugabe. Where is his body right now, and why is he still not buried and may not be for another month?

PERALTA: So his body is in Zvimba, his rural home. It's there for another viewing, but what's really happening here is a government, a ruling party, trying to make peace with a bitter divorce, and the divorce was the ouster of Robert Mugabe in 2017. It was by the same generals, by the same president that walked him into national stadium on Saturday for a state funeral, and the family has just - they've been very open about how betrayed Mugabe felt and how they felt when the military pushed Mugabe out.

And so they really don't want him buried at Heroes Acre, which is where all the war heroes here in Zimbabwe have been buried. That burial was supposed to happen yesterday. It was canceled last-minute, and now they're saying it'll be 30 days before he's buried.

SHAPIRO: I want to talk a little bit about life in Zimbabwe. I was there just after Mugabe left, and there was such optimism. He led the country for 37 years. Now has his death and the state funeral brought some kind of closure for Zimbabweans?

PERALTA: No, I don't think so, and that's in large part because Mugabe's legacy still looms large here. I spoke to Evan Mawarire. He's a Baptist pastor who led some of the biggest protests against Mugabe, and he says many Zimbabweans always thought that when Mugabe died, Zimbabwe would be better. But it's actually worse, and it's depressing, he says. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVAN MAWARIRE: This person has died with our future. He's died with everything that we had ever hoped to be. He took it all, and the sadness is that we didn't get a chance to interrogate him about it. We didn't get a chance to hear him explain why.

PERALTA: And so he says that the ghost of Mugabe will walk the streets of Zimbabwe for a long time to come.

SHAPIRO: Even as doctors are protesting in the streets - tell us about that.

PERALTA: Yeah. It tells you the story of Zimbabwe. Junior doctors have not been going to work since the beginning of this month because they say they can't afford to. A doctor here in Zimbabwe is getting paid about $130 a month, and that's not enough to pay rent. Today they were protesting because their spokesman was abducted, and they are sure, they say, that it was the government trying to silence them.

SHAPIRO: The hopes that people had when I was in Zimbabwe seems so distant right now. Can you tell us more about what life is like for people just trying to get by day to day?

PERALTA: Yeah. You know, I ask them, how are you getting by? And without fail, they laugh, and they say, God only knows. Salaries haven't risen, but prices have ballooned, so one meal can equal about 10% of someone's monthly salaries. So what's happened is a lot of people, including doctors, have just taken to the streets to try and sell anything to supplement their income.

I met one guy, an engineer by education. He has been trying to sell solar panels, but he says no one has money, and he can't even afford to buy airtime for his phone. And the only thing he wants right now is to leave the country, and even that is hard because the government can't afford enough materials to make new passports.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

Thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.