Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95. The cause of death of the former president of Zimbabwe has not been revealed.
On Friday, the current president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was then vice-president during Mugabe’s term, posted a tweet saying: “It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe.”
“Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” added Mnangagwa.
“He’s a man who believed himself, he’s a man who believed in what he did and he is a man who was very assertive in whatever he said. This was a good man,” said Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi.
There have been rumors of Mugabe’s failing health after reports of his stint at a Singapore hospital. In early August, it was reported that Mugabe was under observation after being at a Singaporean for four months. The details of his ailment were not revealed.
“Unlike in the past when the former President would require just a month for this, his physicians this time around determined that he be kept under observation for much longer,” Mnangagwa said in early August regarding Mugabe’s condition.
For his loyal followers and supporters, he was a revered leader who was an important figure in the country’s independence. However, to his critics, he was a dictator who persecuted his opponents and ran his country to the ground in order to retain power.
Before embarking on his political career, Robert Mugabe focused on his education. He won a scholarship to the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. In 1952, he returned home but he later moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Ghana.
In his return to Rhodesia in 1960, he worked as a public secretary of the National Democratic Party. He quickly gained influence and advocated for violence to be used to end the white rule in the country. He went on to co-found the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) with Ndabaningi Sithole in Tanzania after he had to flee Rhodesia.
After returning to Rhodesia in 1963, he was arrested and he was imprisoned for 11 years. In 1974, Mugabe was released and went on to lead the guerilla movement, Zanu PF. When the war ended in 1979, Mugabe returned home and led the newly independent Zimbabwe. He became its Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987.
“The phase we are entering, the phase of independence should be regarded as a phase conferring upon all of us — the people of Zimbabwe — whether we are black or white — full sovereignty, full democratic rights,” Mugabe said in 1980 when he became the country’s first post-independence prime minister.
During this time, Zimbabwe’s future was looking promising. However, there were still existing divisions. Mugabe strengthened his party’s hold on the country and he violently cracked down on his opponents which resulted in thousands of deaths. He amended the country’s constitution and made himself president in 1987.
Despite the internal conflicts, Zimbabwe’s economy was doing well. However, the government revised the laws and enacted a land reform program that became the catalyst for the country’s decline.
Over the years, the country faced more economic turmoil as a result of political chaos, hyperinflation, and isolation.
In 2000, Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF party lost in the election. This was their first major defeat since coming into power. This drove Mugabe to take extreme measures to stay in power.
In the years that followed, he charged opposition leaders and pushed for tougher laws aimed at suppressing public dissent and independent media.
In 2008, he was forced to power share with the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. As the country’s economy continued to dwindle, Mugabe refused calls for him to step down. He once famously said: “Only God who appointed me will remove me not the MDC, not the British.”
Mugabe was re-elected in 2013 with a solid majority win. The opposition alleged widespread fraud in the elections. In November 2017, he fired then-vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa to make way for his second wife, Grace Marufu, to succeed him.
In the same month, Zimbabwe’s military took control and this forced Mubage to resign as president after ruling the country for 37 years.