In November 2017, when Robert Mugabe resigned, after decades in power, the word spread through Harare rapidly by text, social media and from the shouts of celebration. People poured onto the streets in spontaneous joy and celebration.
They high-fived the soldiers in armored cars that had helped force Mugabe out in an apparent coup, they climbed on top of vehicles, and cheered in front of the presidential office. Just days before you couldn’t even stand there.
The sentiment was clear -- in the capital at least -- that people wanted him out and hoped for a better future.
Mugabe’s legacy is complicated. In the eyes of many he turned from a liberation icon, likened to Nelson Mandela, into a despot who helped destroy Zimbabwe’s economy.
Already today you see that contrast in reactions. African leaders and liberation movements will praise Mugabe for the icon that he is. Many may gloss over the impact that he had on his people.
Even his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was at his side for decades, but was then intimately involved in pushing him out of power, glossed over the pain that Mugabe’s power had wrought.
Over the past few weeks, there have again been protests brutally suppressed by the police and allegations of kidnapping of opposition activists by shadowy figures.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in tatters and many can’t afford basic goods. Hunger looms because of a drought and a collapsed agricultural sector.
Zimbabwe post-Mugabe is a lot like Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s final years. And that legacy shouldn’t be forgotten.