Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe ex-president, dies aged 95
Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean independence icon turned authoritarian leader, has died aged 95.
Mr Mugabe had been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April. He was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power.
The former president was praised for broadening access to health and education for the black majority.
But later years were marked by violent repression of his political opponents and Zimbabwe’s economic ruin.
▪ Zimbabwe’s ex-president, who was ousted in a coup in 2017, has died
▪ He had ruled the country for 37 years from independence in 1980
▪ His successor has hailed him as ‘an icon of liberation’
▪ During the struggle against white-minority rule he was imprisoned
▪ After independence in 1980 he first ruled as prime minister then as president
▪ Under his rule Zimbabwe became a regional break basket with high literacy rate
▪ But after the seizure of white-owned farms in the 2000s the economy went into freefall
▪ After disputed elections in 2008 he shared power with the opposition for four years
▪ His ousting is partly blamed on political ambitions of his second wife Grace
Mugabe’s legacy: Zimbabwe’s liberator and oppressor
By Shingai Nyoka
BBC Africa, Harare
The son of a carpenter, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe rose to become one of the most prominent African leaders and in the process destroyed a formerly prosperous country.
He cemented his power, winning overwhelmingly at elections in 1980 and as leader of a new nation he set about creating a better country than the one he inherited.
He spent massively on education, creating the most literate country on the continent and a thriving black middle class.
But beneath the veneer, lay a dark side: a crack military unit deployed to contain an insurgency in central and southern Zimbabwe killed thousands of civilians. The world turned a blind eye.
Mugabe was the great hope. But as the economy bottomed out, discontent simmered and he encouraged the restless population to take back their land, which was still largely in the hands of white farmers. They did, often violently.
The West took note, breaking diplomatic ties and imposing economic sanctions, eliciting this response from the veteran leader: “We are not Europeans. We have not asked for any inch of Europe, any square inch of that territory. So [Tony] Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe.”
In 2008, a historic economic meltdown handed Mugabe his first electoral defeat. It led to more violence in second round of voting. The opposition supporters were raped tortured.
Former allies, including South Africa’s first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela, condemned him.
But he remained a cult-like figure among many Africans – for daring to challenge the West’s dominance within the UN.
Within his own party, many believed he had overstayed and needed to hand over power. The medical trips to the far east had increased in his 90s.
Mr Mugabe finally fired Emmerson Mnangagwa, his vice-president, accusing him of trying to topple him. Many believed he wanted to replace him with wife Grace, 40 years his junior.
With the help of the military, Mr Mnangagwa mounted a comeback. Mr Mugabe was put under house arrest in November 2017 and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans marched calling on him to step down. He resigned, after a threat of impeachment.
In his last years, Mr Mugabe had retreated to the seclusion of his mansion.
Many will remember him as gifted orator and visionary who liberated Zimbabwe but later returned her to shackles of oppression.
Robert Mugabe – key dates
Later trained as a teacher
1964: Imprisoned by Rhodesian government
1980: Wins 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 amid nationwide attacks on his supporters
2009: Amid economic collapse, swears in Tsvangirai as prime minister, who served in uneasy 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