Kenya born British politician says Robert Mugabe went from ‘freedom fighter to evil dictator’

Lord Peter Hain
Peter Hain - UK Parliament official portraits 2017.

British politician Lord Peter Hain has been reacting to the news that former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has passed away aged 95.

The former Neath MP and anti-apartheid campaigner was born in Nairobi in 1950. Hain’s paternal grandparents left Scotland for South Africa in1920 and his South African parents were anti-apartheid activists in the Liberal Party of South Africa, for which they were made “banned persons”, briefly imprisoned, and prevented from working. 

Discussing the life of the former Zimbabwe President, Lord Hain said: “This is a tragic case study of someone who began as a widely admired freedom fighter, bringing his country from repressive racist white minority rule under the old Ian Smith regime of the ’60s and ’70s, into the newly independent Zimbabwe in January 1980, winning a landslide that I welcomed and many anti-apartheid leaders around the world did, too.”

He said Mr Mugabe’s victory “foretold the eventual downfall of the evil tyranny of apartheid in South Africa”. However, he added that the former Zimbabwe leader became an “evil, corrupt dictator”.

This, Lord Hain said “was tragic for his country and tragic for his own reputation in that transformation from what he was before and what he became.”

Lord Hain recalled a meeting Mr Mugabe in November 1999 when he was Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at a time when relations between Zimbabwe and Tony Blair’s government had “deteriorated”. 

After a meeting at a London hotel on the Friday, Lord Hain described relations being “good”. However, they soured the following day after gay rights activist Peter Tatchell attempted a citizens arrest on Mugabe in protest against the leader’s homophobia.

Mugabe blamed Lord Hain for the incident in a phone call from his foreign minister the following Monday, denouncing the politician as “Peter Tatchell’s wife”.

That turned out to be the last proper meeting between the two with Lord Hain saying a war of words developed with Zimbabwe going into a “spiral” of unemployment and deprivation.

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