OBITUARY: The Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: ‘Power of Zimbabwe’ (1924 – 2019)
Born to a carpenter on February 21, 1924, in the then Rhodesia, Robert Mugabe was brought up and trained to be a teacher at Roman Catholic Mission School.
He later won a scholarship at Fort Hare University in South Africa, where he took the first of his seven academic degrees before teaching in Ghana.
At Ghana, late Mugabe was influenced by the pan-Africanist ideas of Ghana’s post-independence leader, Kwame Nkrumah.
This led to him to marry Sally, his first wife from Ghana. He returned to Rhodesia in 1960 where he worked with an African nationalist, Joshua Nkomo.
They later drifted apart as Mugabe became the founding member of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu).
In 1964, after making a speech in which he called Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and his government “cowboys”, Mugabe was arrested and detained without trial for a decade.
As part of the pain of struggle, he lost his son while still in prison and was not even allowed to take part in the funeral.
Known for his radicalism, Mugabe was chosen as president of Zanu even though he was in prison in 1973 and upon his release from prison, he went to Mozambique and directed guerrilla raids into Rhodesia.
His organisation formed an alliance with Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) and while negotiation for Rhodesia independence was ongoing, Mugabe was perceived as the most militant of the black leaders and the most uncompromising in his demands.
Soon, the Lancaster House agreement of 1979 set up a constitution for the new Republic of Zimbabwe, as Rhodesia was to be called, and set February 1980 for the first elections to the new government.
He ran separately against Nkomo and Mugabe had unexpected victory. Zanu secured a comfortable majority even though the polls were marred by accusations of vote-rigging and intimidation from both sides”
Upon his victory, he vowed that there won’t be victimisation and nationalisation of private property.
He initially promised a programme of reconciliation. Later that year, he outlined his economic policy, which mixed private enterprise with public investment.
Meanwhile, he reportedly championed a one-party system which led to him trying to stifle political opposition.
In the mid-80s, there was a massacre of thousands of ethnic Ndebeles seen as Nkomo’s supporters in his home region of Matabeleland and Mugabe was linked to the killings committed by the Zimbabwean army’s North Korean-trained 5th Brigade.
Being the power of Zimbabwe, he was never tried.
Instead, the opposition, Nkomo agreed for his Zapu to be merged with – or taken over by – Zanu to become the virtually unchallenged ZANU-PF.
From Prime Minister to President
Late Mugabe would later become Zimbabwe president in 1987 and was elected for a third term in 1996.
After his first wife died of cancer, he married Grace Marufu. He gave birth to three children.
In 1992, he introduced the Land Acquisition Act, permitting the confiscation of land without appeal.
Most of the affected persons were the white farmers, who still owned the bulk of the country’s best land.
This led to criticism from the public who alleged that the president was giving out farms to his cronies, rather than the intended rural poor.
In early 2000, Mugabe again won the presidential election with 56.2 per cent of the vote compared with Mr Tsvangirai’s 41.9 per cent.
Following this, the US, UK and the EU failed to recognise the election result. They said Mugabe victory was marred with violence and allegations of fraud.
The Commonwealth also suspended Zimbabwe from participating in its meetings until it improved its record as a democracy.
Mugabe in 2005 led Operation Restore Order, a crackdown on the black market which reportedly led to arrest of about 30,000 street vendors and whole shanty towns demolished leaving an estimated 700,000 Zimbabweans homeless.
He lost the first round of the presidential elections in March 2008 but won the run-off in June after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out.
Mugabe in February 2009 later appointed Tsvangirai as prime minister.
Back in the saddle
Again in 2013, Mugabe won as president with 61 per cent of the votes.
As expected, there was again allegations of rigging.
At 89, he was still fighting tirelessly to remain president with increasing health challenges.
In 2015, there were speculations that his wife, Grace, was poised to take control in the event of his death in office but Mugabe would not allow these speculations to come true when he declared interest in 2018 again by which time he would be 94.
In February 2016, the power of Zimbabwe, Mugabe announced that he would be in power “until God says ‘come’”.
Tired of his autocracy, the Zimbabwe National Army on November 15, 2017, placed Mugabe under house arrest and, four days later, was replaced by his former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe would not resign until November 21 of 2018 when a motion to impeach him was being debated in the Zimbabwean parliament.
The speaker House of Assembly announced that Robert Mugabe had finally resigned.
The Power of Zimbabwe was never tried. Rather he got granted a house, servants, vehicles and full diplomatic status.
He died on September 6, 2019.
By: Adejumo kabir of Premium Times