3:55 PM CST, December 6, 2013
A black activist who went to prison for opposing a white supremacist government, only to end white rule and become leader of the nation? That's the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela. It's also the ignoble one of Robert Mugabe, whose terrible example in neighboring Zimbabwe may have steered Mandela in a better direction.
Mugabe was the leader of one of the insurgent movements fighting the government of what was then called Rhodesia. When that regime finally was dismantled, he became prime minister in 1980, after the first free election.
He could have built a genuine, multi-racial democracy. Instead, Mugabe established a brutal tyranny that evicted whites from farm land, persecuted political opponents, generated hyperinflation, wrecked the economy and drastically reduced life expectancy.
He likened himself, approvingly, to Hitler. Most important, he kept a death grip on power that today, at age 89, he still holds.
When Mandela succeeded in ending apartheid and becoming president of South Africa, Mugabe's example was the one that provoked fear. It was a mistaken worry. Mandela could not have been more different. And when Mugabe dies, the reaction at home and abroad will make an equally sharp contrast. ¿
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