Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

Picture taken January 31, 1985 of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Robert Mugabe. Mugabe, Zimbabwean first Premier (in 1980) and President (in 1987), was born in Kutama in 1924 (formerly Southern Rhodesia). Largely self-educated, he became a teacher. After a short periods in the National Democratic Party and Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) he co-found, in 1963, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). After a 10-year detention in Rhodesia (1964-74), he spent five years in Mozambique gathering support in preparation for independence in 1980. (Photo by LEHTIKUVA / AFP)

Mugabe — who infamously claimed that “only God” could ever remove him from office — was deposed in a coup in 2017, when members of his own party turned against him after he dismissed then vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa to make way for his wife, Grace.

Mnangagwa would go on to become Zimbabwe’s next president.

“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” tweeted Mnangagwa on Friday.

“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.”

Ex-Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is still under observation after 4 months at a Singapore hospital 

Once touted internationally as the hope of his nation, Mugabe left office with a grim legacy, after waging a campaign of oppression and violence to maintain power, and driving into poverty a country once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa.

He began his political career as a leader in the quest for the independence of Zimbabwe — then known as Rhodesia — and was regularly compared to South Africa’s venerated freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

As a revolutionary guerrilla leader, he fought white-minority rule and spent years in jail as a political prisoner.

After 10 years in prison, he earned university degrees in education, economics and law from the University of London. In the mid-70s, he assumed leadership of the political wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF), a militant liberation movement based in Mozambique.

From there, he helped orchestrate an armed resistance against white rule, emerging as a war hero both at home and abroad when the conflict ended in 1979.

He became the first prime minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe after elections in February 1980.

Articulate and smartly dressed, Mugabe came to power commanding the respect of a nation. He had a strong head start, inheriting a country with a stable economy, solid infrastructure and vast natural resources.

But the descent into tyranny didn’t take long.

FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace Mugabe chant the party’s slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s army said Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, it has Mugabe and his wife in custody and is securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster. (AP Photo/File)

His hardline policies drove the country’s flourishing economy to disintegrate after a program of land seizures from white farmers, and agricultural output plummeted and inflation soared.

By 1983, it became clear that Mugabe’s administration would be merciless to any one opposing his rule. He presided over forces that carried out a string of massacres in opposition strongholds, and the country’s Fifth Brigade is believed to have killed up to 20,000 people, mostly supporters of Mugabe’s main political rival.

As the country was plunged into economic ruin, Mugabe and his wife faced fierce criticism for leading lavish lifestyles.

He celebrated his 85th birthday with a lavish party that cost a reported $250,000, even as the country remained in an economic and health crisis. He continued to hold such birthday events annually, last year spending a reported $800,000 and celebrating in a region suffering drought and food shortages.

He repeatedly rebuffed repeated calls to step down, insisting he would only leave office when his “revolution” was complete.

“This is a man who had so much to offer to Zimbabweans, but he didn’t, he focused on himself,” said Trevor Ncube, one of the country’s most powerful publishers.

 

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