Former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, dies aged 95

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Robert Mugabe, former President of Zimbabwe, dies aged 95

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Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader, has died aged 95.

Confirming his death to Al-Sahawat Times, Mugabe’s family spoke of his achievements as the nation’s first leader after independence from the UK.

Mugabe had been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April.

Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power.

Mugabe’s early years were praised for broadening access to health and education for the black majority – but his later years were marked by allegations of rights abuses and corruption.

He won Zimbabwe’s first election after it secured independence from the UK, becoming prime minister in 1980.

He abolished the office in 1987, becoming president instead.

Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, expressed his “utmost sadness”, calling Mr Mugabe “an icon of liberation”.

Mnangagwa had been Mugabe’s deputy before replacing him.

Who was Robert Mugabe?

Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 in what was then Rhodesia – a British colony, run by its white minority (approximately 0.2% of the population).

Mugabe was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial after criticising the government of British Rhodesia in 1964.

British Rhodesia declared independence from the UK on the 11 November 1965. On the 1 June 1979 the country was recognised as Zimbabwe Rhodesia and on the 18 April 1980 Zimbabwe was formed. The nation’s last constitutional reform was 15 May 2013.

In 1973, while still in prison, he was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), of which he was a founding member.

Once released, he headed to Mozambique, from where he directed guerrilla raids into Rhodesia. But he was also seen as a skilled negotiator.

Political agreements to end the crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe (18 April 1980).

With his high profile in the independence movement, Mugabe secured an overwhelming victory in the republic’s first election.

In 2000, facing serious political opposition for the first time, he seized white-owned farms to resettle black farmers, causing economic disruption but boosting his popularity among supporters.

Around the same time, pro-Mugabe militias used violence to influence political outcomes. In 2008, when he lost the first round of the presidential election, attacks on the opposition resulted in his rival pulling out of the contest.

He famously declared that only god could remove him from office.

Mugabe entered into a power sharing government in 2009 amid economic collapse, installing rival Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.

But in 2017, amid concerns that he was preparing his wife, Grace Mugabe, as his successor, the army – his long-time ally – turned against the president and forced him to step down.

Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi, of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, said the party was “very much saddened” by his death.

“As a government, we are very much with the family members of the Mugabe family,” he said.

“He was a principled man: he could not change easily over his beliefs. 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.”

Robert Mugabe – key dates

1924: Born. Later trains as a teacher.

1964: Imprisoned by British Rhodesian government without trial.

1980: Wins first ever post-independence elections.

1996: Marries Grace Marufu.

2000: Loses referendum – pro-Mugabe militias invade white-owned farms and attack opposition supporters.

2008: Comes second in first round of elections to Tsvangirai, who pulls out of run-off following nationwide attacks on his supporters.

2009: Amid economic collapse, swears in Tsvangirai as prime minister, who serves in government of national unity for four years

2017: Sacks long-time ally Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, paving the way for his wife Grace to succeed him.

November 2017: Army intervenes and forces him to step down.

April 2018: Mugabe starts receiving medical treatment in Singapore.

September 2019: Mugabe dies aged 95.

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About the Author

Omar Bishara
Journalist, Broadcast News Correspondent and Photojournalist