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Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s founding father and first post-war leader, died 06 September 2019 aged 95, Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe either as prime minister or president since 1980 when he was first elected into power on a wave of euphoria and hope after leading his liberation army to victory against the country’s white minority rulers. At the time, he was heralded as a revolutionary hero throughout Africa in an era when Zimbabwe’s neighbour South Africa was still living under the divisive apartheid system. But the optimism that marked those early years was soon forgotten as the revolutionary leader turned tyrant, killing opposition supporters in their hundreds and eventually leading his country to the brink of ruin.

Robert Mugabe resigned as president of Zimbabwe on 21 November 2017, ending almost four decades of rule. The announcement came as parliament began an impeachment process to remove the 93-year-old from power.

The military surrounded government offices and the parliament and took control of the state broadcaster. An army spokesman said it was "not a military takeover," but an attempt to bring "justice" to Mugabe's aides who were "causing social and economic suffering."

After the military takeover, Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement saying: "We are paying close attention to developments of the situation in Zimbabwe. Maintaining peaceful and stable development accords with the fundamental interests of Zimbabwe and regional countries.” Geng Shuang, the foreign ministry spokesman who issued the statement continued, saying: "We hope the relevant parties in Zimbabwe appropriately handle their internal matters."

The head of the African Union said on 16 November 2017 that the body “will never accept the military coup d'etat” in Zimbabwe. “We demand respect for the Constitution, a return to the constitutional order and we will never accept the military coup d'etat,” Alpha Conde said.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born in Matibiri village near Kutama Jesuit Mission in Zvimba district on 21 February 1924. His father Robert Matibili (Malawian) was a carpenter left for South Africa and then to Bulawayo to look for work and never came back. Robert's mother Bona Mugabe was left with the burden of taking care of him alone. He is the third born of six children. He has two older brothers Michael and Raphael, young brother Donato and two sisters Bridget and Sabina.

He married Sally Mugabe near Hayfron in 1961 and together they had one son Michael Nhamodzenyika who died in his infancy. Sally died of kidney failure in 1992. Mugabe then married his secretary Grace Mugabe in 1996. The couple had three children who are Bona Mugabe, Robert Mugabe Junior and Bellamine Chatunga. When President Robert Mugabe married Grace she appeared to many people as a trophy wife. She had a life as a farmer, businesswoman and orphanages operator.

Mugabe’s rise from just a herd boy to become president was not an overnight thing but a difficult road punctuated with prison, suffering, hunger, tears and blood. Mugabe’s love for books did not end during his time as a boy as he went on to become a teacher before acquiring a degree from Fort Hare University in South Africa. He also taught in Ghana before returning home to enter politics. During his time in prison between 1964 and 1975, Mugabe also studied and acquired more university degrees.

Although a professed Marxist, Mugabe had a reputation as a political pragmatist whose particular skill was as an organizer. Until his release from prison with Sithole and Nkomo in 1974, however, he was little known outside the inner circles of the nationalist movement. Mugabe had been a teacher in Roman Catholic schools in Rhodesia and later in newly independent Ghana. He became the NDP's public relations officer in 1960 and, as the deputy secretary general of ZAPU, had gone to Dar es Salaam with Nkomo. Aligning himself with Sithole, Mugabe had then become ZANU's secretary general and Sithole's rival for power within the new organization.

In 1980 parliamentary elections Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), party of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, received fifty-seven-seat majority in House of Assembly; Joshua Nkomo's Patriotic Front-Zimbabwe African People's Union (PF-ZAPU) won twenty seats; twenty white seats divided among Ian Smith'; Rhodesian Front (in 1981 renamed Republican Front) and independents; Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANC) attained three seats.

Mugabe, avowed Marxist and early advocate of socialist reform, was asked to form the first government and lead it as prime minister. President Canaan Banana, a Methodist minster who had vigorously opposed Rhodesia's racial injustice, would serve as head of state. Despite ZANU-PF's early reputation as the most radical of the political parties involved in the 1980 elections, white Zimbabweans' fears of a Marxist takeover did immediately materialize during the early years of national independence. Instead the government adhered generally to Mugabe's announced policies of reconciliation, reconstruction, and moderate socioeconomic change.

Many of Mugabe's critics were surprised by the pragmatic manner in which the prime minister has sought to deal with his country's problems. Reconciliation and national unity, however, were difficult to achieve in a state where legacies of diversity and intolerance are still apparent. Political rivalry that has grown out of historical interethnic tension between the population's Shona speakers and Ndebele speakers has not been laid to rest, nor has the distrust that existed between the young black-governed republic.

By 1982 the Mugabe government had become increasingly preoccupied with conspiracy theories, chief of which was a charge that the government in Pretoria had undertaken a determined campaign to destabilize its Zimbabwean counterpart because white South Africans could not tolerate success in a multiracial society so close to its own territory. Concern was also mounting over the perceived domestic threat attributed to "dissidents," the term used to denote disgruntled former ZIPRA soldiers and members of rival Joshua Nkomo's Patriotic Front-Zimbabwe African People's Union.

Mugabe's ailments include periodic convulsions and stroke-like episodes (perhaps eschemia) brought on by diabetes and a lipid disorder which affects the covering of the brain. He apparently suffered one of these episodes in late 2003, although he never left the country. Mugabe reportedly could be revived rather quickly on such occasions but does need to be under constant observation since he can fall or suffocate during the episode. Evidence on the nature of Mugabe's health-related "episode" during the weekend of October 25-26 and whether he left the country for medical treatment remained conflicting and inconclusive.

Mugabe has openly admitted that he has for years been suffering from cataracts which affected his right eye. For this, he regularly travelled to Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore for medical check ups and treatment. Mugabe has been visiting Singapore for treatment since 2011, but his trips have been increasing with each passing year, suggesting a deteriorating health condition.

There are rumors circulating in local media that Mugabe also suffered from chronic prostate cancer which usually affects people of old age. The rumors began to circulate after his Singapore tour in 2014, where he is said to have visited Parkway Cancer Centre, which offers “comprehensive cancer treatment with a highly skilled, multi-disciplinary team comprising consultant medical specialists, nurses, counsellors and other para-medical professionals to meet the specific needs of cancer patients”.

In April 2016 veterans pledged their loyalty to Mugabe, but also presented a list of grievances and demands for top positions in government and state-owned firms, diplomatic posts and at least a fifth of all farmland and mining concessions. The veterans, 30,000 in total, also want their monthly allowances increased from $260. But Mugabe said the government would only meet such demands if it had the resources.

The last time Mugabe caved into demands from veterans was on Nov. 14 1997 when the Zimbabwean dollar crashed by 72 percent after the government announced unbudgeted allowances for veterans. That day became known as 'Black Friday.' But without balance of payment support or foreign credit, Zimbabwe cannot afford such demands. It already runs its budget hand-to-mouth, leaving it with no money for infrastructure.

At the ZANU-PF annual conference in December 2015, the party once again endorsed Robert Mugabe as its presidential candidate in the 2018 national elections.

A Zimbabwean government spokesman said 14 January 2016 that President Robert Mugabe was in good health, dismissing an online report that he suffered a heart attack. Presidential spokesman George Charamba told reporters that the report by the website ZimEye was false. He said, "This is the way the website seeks to improve its hits in order to get dirty money from Google. There is a financial incentive to the grim lie."

The Zanu PF Youth League said 21 February 2016 that celebrating President Robert Mugabe’s birthday was like celebrating that of Jesus Christ, claiming both were sent to “free” the people. Responding to questions on whether it was proper for the ruling party to take its festivities to Masvingo, where thousands face starvation due to drought, Zanu PF youth league secretary, Pupurai Togarepi said Mugabe’s birthday will be celebrated even in a war situation in recognition of the “great works he has done to free” the people. “We won’t force anyone, people who are paying know how the party operates and no one was forced. The birthday is important, it is like the birth of Jesus, who was born to rescue us, the same way President Mugabe was born in 1924 to free all of us, including you journalists to start writing like you are doing now,” he said.

Zimbabwe's 92-year-old leader returned home 03 September 2016 amid rumors his health is failing. Rumors about Mugabe's health were common. Robert Mugabe's plane touched down at the main airport in the capital, Harare, after Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, went to Dubai to seek medical attention. Zimbabweans were growing increasingly frustrated with Mugabe and his failure to fix the economy. Mugabe, who was a leader in the independence movement, had been in power since 1980.

Robert Mugabe is a Zimbabwean revolutionary and statesman who has been President of the Republic of Zimbabwe since 1987, and the prime minister of Zimbabwe since the attainment of independence until 1980. He is co-founder of the ZANU-PF. Mugabe was viewed as both a ruthless dictator and champion of the previously marginalised interest of the majority black people. Unquestioning loyalty remains more than ever the principal criterion for inclusion in Mugabe's world. The uncritical slavish devotion demanded by his isolated world underlies the ruling party's dysfunctional policy-making and likely assures Zimbabwe's continued political stalemate as long as Mugabe is in charge.

The president, who had ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, had shown signs of age. In 2015, he was caught on camera tripping and falling down a flight of stairs at Harare airport. In September 2015, he read a speech to parliament, apparently unaware he had delivered the same address a month earlier. Mugabe's long tenure and advanced age led to concerns about what will happen to the presidency after his death.

In June 2015 Mugabe left an indelible stamp on the African Union (AU) as he served as its rotating chairman. At the end of the continental body's 25th summit, he showed that yet again. In one rambling, hour-long, seemingly continuous sentence, he spoke about everything from his childhood raising cattle to his feelings about journalists, to his sentiments about women's place in society — as well as his thoughts on international politics. Some critics of Zimbabwe's leader said he was not on top of his game, and that at the age of 91 he should finally retire. But Mugabe, who struggled to not fall asleep mid-sentence during his 1 a.m. soliloquy at the end of the summit, was quick to dispute that — and blamed journalists for depicting him negatively.

Mugabe, who resigned from his post as president 21 NOvember 2017, received immunity and a guarantee of safety as part of a deal that led to his resignation. Mugabe, aged 93, planned to live the rest of his days in Zimbabwe and was stern in saying that he would not live in exile.

Mugabe’s lasting legacy was epitomised by British author Andrew Norman in his book, Robert Mugabe and the Betrayal of Zimbabwe. “Instead of leading his people to the promised land, Mugabe on the one hand amassed a fortune for himself, his family and his followers and on the other hand presided over the deliberate murder, torture and starvation of those who opposed him. In short Mugabe betrayed his people,” Norman wrote.

But even Morgan Tsvangirai, who was eventually appointed as Prime Minister to appease the opposition, admitted judging Mugabe was not a simple task. Speaking in 2010 he said: “You must understand this man has got a split personality - from being a hero to being the villain the international community would like to define him as.” “I cannot defend what he did over the last ten years in terms of violence but there is also a positive contribution to our country that he made. He was a national liberation leader.” But others have been less sympathetic. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was reported as saying Mugabe became the typical African dictator and something of a "cartoon figure".

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Page last modified: 06-09-2019 18:48:59 ZULU