April 18th, 2012
07:33 AM ET

Mandela and Mugabe: Two African legacies

Editor’s note: Jolyon Ford PhD is senior Africa analyst at the consultancy Oxford Analytica, and a senior consultant to the Institute for Security Studies, South Africa.

By Jolyon Ford - Special to CNN

This month marks the anniversaries of the first free general elections in South Africa (April 27, 1994) and independence from white minority rule in neighboring Zimbabwe (April 18, 1980). In coming months, the sun could set in each country on the lives of two major African leaders whom history will remember very differently.

Nelson Mandela is 93 years old. The anti-apartheid icon retired over a decade ago after serving as post-apartheid South Africa’s first democratically-elected president. The contribution his leadership and example have made to that country’s longer-term prospects for racial harmony and social cohesion is generally seen as incalculable. The anxiety following his brief hospitalization in February signalled the levels of respect and affection in which he is held in South Africa and around the world: his death and funeral will undoubtedly be significant global events.

Zimbabwe’s current president Robert Mugabe has been in office, in effect, since 1980. Last week he walked unaided off a flight from Singapore. Reactions to reports in early April that the 88-year old was dying in a foreign hospital provide further proof - if more were needed - of the considerable political uncertainty prevailing in contemporary Zimbabwe. FULL POST

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Topics: Africa