Robert Mugabe is a former revolutionary and Zimbabwean politician and is best known for his struggles against the British, as and when Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia. From a very young age, he was greatly inspired by Marxist and nationalist views and soon, became the publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party or the ‘NDP’.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924 as the third of the six children to Gabriel Matibili and Bona, both of whom were Roman Catholic. His elder brothers died when he was very young and in 1934, his father deserted the family.
He studied in all-exclusive Jesuit, Roman Catholic schools and also attended the Kutama College, where he is believed to have led a solitary life and preferred to keep company with his books.
He was meant to become a teacher but then decided to study at Fort Hare in South Africa, from where he graduated in 1951. He then went on to study at Salisbury, Gwelo, Tanzania and subsequently earned six more degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Arts degree, which he obtained from the University of Fort Hare.
In 1960, he joined the National Democratic Party and after it was banned in September, he formed the group; Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), which was led by Joshua Nkomo.
In 1963, he left ZAPU and formed the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), established on the basis of Africanist philosophies of the Pan Africanist Congress in South Africa.
Both ZANU and ZAPU were officially banned on August 26, 1964 after a long spell of political unrest. It was during this time that Mugabe was arrested and imprisoned indeterminately.
In 1974, while still in confinement, he was elected, under the influence of Edgar Tekere, to take over ZANU. The same year, he was released from prison along with other separatist leaders, so that he could go to a conference in Lusaka, Zambia.
He fled back to the border of Southern Rhodesia and accumulated a troop of Rhodesian rebel trainees. The struggle continued through the 1970s and the economy of Zimbabwe was in a state of pandemonium.
On March 4, 1980, ZANU won 57 out of 80 Common Roll Seats and Mugabe was elected to lead the first government as prime minister. After his election, he attempted to build Zimbabwe on the foundation of an edgy union with his ZAPU rivals.
In 1981, a war broke out between ZANU and ZAPU. Four years later, Mugabe was re-elected and the fight persisted.
After the murder of two ministers from the groups in 1987, Mugabe and Nkomo decided to merge their unions, for the betterment and quick recovery of the Zimbabwe’s economy.
The position of prime minister was obliterated and Mugabe assumed the new office of the executive President of Zimbabwe in 1987. He chose Nkomo to become one of the senior ministers. Two years later, he implemented a five-year plan, which greatly benefited the economy.
In 1996, political unrest began to surface again and his followers, who deemed Mugabe as their hero, began to resent their decision, because they did not support many of his political strategies.
He passed a revision in 2000, wherein the amendment stated that Britain would have to pay compensations for seizing land from the blacks and if the British failed to do so, Mugabe would in turn, seize theirs.
In 2002, he won the presidential elections at a time when the economy of Zimbabwe was in near ruins with widespread unemployment, famine and AIDS and fought to keep his office through brute force. This led him to win the parliamentary elections also, three years later.
He lost the presidential elections to Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008, but refused to let go of his office and demanded a recount of the votes. In order to gain maximum number of votes, he also went as far as violently attacking or killing members of the opposition party. This sudden outburst by Mugabe and his followers, led to another deadly outbreak, resulting in bloodshed and loss of many lives.
After lots of bloodshed, Tsvangirai and Mugabe came to a mutual agreement that they both would share the power. In 2010, he selected provisional governors for Zimbabwe without consulting Tsvangirai, which proved that he still wanted to have total autocratic control.
The next year, he announced his bid for the 2012 presidential elections, which was for an indefinite period, postponed to 2013.
He displayed his interest to challenge Tsvangirai once again in the elections and in July 2013, when he was asked about his plans to run for the presidential post in future, he mentioned that he would like to rule Zimbabwe till he hit a ‘century’.
Zimbabwe’s election commission declared Mugabe the president in August 2013 after winning a total of 61 per cent of the vote.
When he was elected as the President of Zimbabwe, he decided to implement a five-year plan, starting from 1989. In the course of this five-year plan, he loosened price limits for farmers, allowing them to set their own prices and he also built a number of clinics and schools for the people. By the end of the five year period, the economy had seen drastic positive change in terms of the manufacturing, mining and farming industries.
Awards & Achievements
He holds a number of degrees and doctorates from international universities, all of which were presented to him through the 1980s.
He was elected as a UN ‘Leader of Tourism’.
Personal Life & Legacy
He tied the knot with Sally Hayfron in April 1961. The couple was blessed with a son who died at the age of three after suffering from cerebral malaria.
His wife died of a kidney problem in 1992. At the time of her death, Mugabe was already in a parallel relationship with his former secretary, Grace Marufu, who was married to someone else and was 41 years younger to Mugabe.
The film ‘The Interpreter’ features a deleterious portrayal of a fictional African ruler, which in many ways fits Mugabe’s character in real life. His government later described the film as a ‘CIA-campaign against Robert Mugabe’.
This first prime minister of independent Zimbabwe and the then President won a first prize jackpot of Z$100,000, in 2000. The lottery was accessible for all those clients who had more than Z$ 5,000 in the ZimBank accounts.