London—Zimbabwe’s controversial President Robert Mugabe was voted the third-greatest African of all time, topped only by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, in a survey for New African magazine announced Wednesday.
Mugabe, widely criticised outside Zimbabwe for stifling dissent and crippling the economy of his once prosperous southern African nation, was an “interesting” choice because “a high-profile campaign in the media has painted him in bad light”, the New African wrote.
The London-based magazine said responses flooded in after the survey was launched last December to nominate the top 100 most influential Africans or people of African descent.
Heroes of independence movements in Africa and African-American figures in the United States figure prominently on the list.
Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first post-colonial prime minister, ranks sixth, followed by US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer star, comes in 17th, followed by Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley, numbering among those called “Diasporans” by New African.
Radical civil rights leader Malcolm X, at ninth, is a rank above United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, from Ghana, who comes just ahead of the US boxer Muhammad Ali.
Few women made the cut. The highest-ranked female, at 12th, is Winnie Mandela, former wife of the South African president. Others include the dynamic duo of tennis, American sisters Venus and Serena Williams (together ranked 73rd), and ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti at number 81.
The magazine noted that most of the top 100 were from Africa’s post-colonial period. “Have people forgotten Africa’s history? Must this worry us, as a people?” it asked.
The list appears in the August-September issue of New African, which has a circulation of roughly 30 000 across dozens of countries. It said this was the first such survey it had carried out in a decade.