As stated earlier, I am trying not to jump to conclusions on this issue. It one of those where I am learning as we go. Toward that effort, here is an opinion piece from the LA Times pertinent to Alislaws question.
Mugabe could have been a hero, like Mandela. Instead his legacy is violence and greed
(Los Angeles Times) It may be hard to imagine now, but in the late 1970s Robert Mugabe was a revolutionary leader, considered a hero by his people.
As a South African, I couldn’t help but notice the clear similarities between Zimbabwe’s leader and Nelson Mandela. Like Mandela, Mugabe was educated among the black African elite, at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. Like Mandela, he was arrested for sedition and served long years in prison for his political beliefs. And like Mandela, he had a child die while he was in prison and was denied permission to attend the funeral.
Mugabe was elected prime minister of Zimbabwe in 1980; Mandela was elected president of South Africa 14 years later, in 1994. In the run-up to their elections, and in some ways as a precondition, both men made comparable promises. They would institute true democracy in their countries. There would be free elections. White rule would come to an end without retribution against the white minority, and without the wholesale redistribution of white-owned land to a landless black majority.
There ends what the two men had in common.
…Mugabe... held on to power against all odds, and at the age of 93 he was, until Wednesday, the oldest and longest-lasting leader in Africa. He has presided over the economic collapse of his country. He crushed growing opposition to his rule with violence and election fraud. Opponents have been killed or have fled the country. He encouraged the wholesale redistribution of white-owned land, which led to white flight from the country and resulted in massive food shortages. And until the military seized power this week, he appeared ready to install his wife as his successor.