Former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe in 1979.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader, Robert Mugabe, has died at a hospital in Singapore aged 95.

Born on 21 February 1924 in what was then Rhodesia – a British colony, run by its white minority – Mr Mugabe was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial in 1964 after criticising the government.

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.

On his release, he headed to Mozambique, and it was from there that he directed guerrilla raids into Rhodesia.

Political agreements to end the crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

A skilled negotiator, his high profile in the independence movement helped him secure an overwhelming victory in the republic’s first election..

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

His early years of leadership were celebrated for increasing access to health and education for the black majority. However, in later years his reign was marked by rights abuses and corruption. 

In 1987, he abolished the office of Prime Minister and named himself president instead.

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

Around the same time, pro-Mugabe militias used violence to influence political outcomes.

After losing the first round of the presidential elections in 2008, attacks on the opposition resulted in his rival pulling out of the contest but was forced into sharing power in 2009 amid economic collapse, with rival Morgan Tsvangirai installed as prime minister.

In 2017, amid concerns that he was grooming his wife Grace as his successor, the army turned against the president and he was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power. 

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