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Robert Mugabe dies in Singapore aged 95 – Zimbabwe’s founding leader [Obituary]

Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe died in Singapore on Friday, 6 September 2019 aged 95.

Mugabe led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until he was deposed in a military coup by his vice president and now current leader Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017.

The death of Mugabe in a foreign land (Singapore) where he was probably being taken care of by a Zimbabwean medical professional in the diaspora encapsulates the mixed legacy that Mugabe left.

President Mnangagwa announced Mugabe’s death on twitter saying

It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) on news of Mugabe’s death said

My condolences to the Mugabe family and Africa for the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding President.This is a dark moment for the family because a giant among them has fallen. May the Lord comfort them.

Even though I and our party, the MDC, and the Zimbabwean people had great political differences with the late former President during his tenure in office, and disagreed for decades, we recognise his contribution made during his lifetime as a nation’s founding President.

There’s so much to say for a life of 95 years and national leadership spanning over 37 years but in the true spirit of Ubuntu, we would like to give this moment to mourning but there will be time for greater reflection.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe short-biography (Early life)

  • DOB: 21 February 1924 in Kutama (Zvimba District, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe)
  • Born to Gabriel Matibiri (carpenter) and Bona (teacher)
  • Mugabe had six siblings Michael, Raphael, Robert, Donald, Sabina, and Bridgette
  • In 1934 Mugabe’s father left his family for another woman in Bulawayo
  • Diploma in Education (Kutama College, 1941)

Robert Gabriel Mugabe short-biography (The Teacher)

  • Taught at various schools in Zimbabwe including Dadaya Mission school (Zvishavane)
  • Awarded a scholarship to study for a BA History & English literature at Fort Hare University (1949-1952)
  • Teacher at the Driefontein Roman Catholic Mission School near Mvuma (1952-53)
  • Teacher at Mambo Secondary School in Gweru (1953-55)
  • Studied for his second degree via distance learning whilst teaching in Gweru (BA in Education (UNISA)
  • Teacher at Chalimbana Teacher Training College in Lusaka, Zambia (1955-58)
  • Studied for his third-degree whilst teaching in Zambia (BA from the University of Londo)
  • Taught at St Mary’s Teacher Training College and Apowa Secondary School in Takoradi, Ghan (1958–1960)

Robert Gabriel Mugabe short-biography (The Family Man)

  • Met his first wife Sally Hayfron whilst teaching in Ghana (1958 to 1960)
  • Returned to Zimbabwe with Sally Hayfron in May 1960
  • Married Sally Hayfron in February 1961
  • Firstborn son Michael Nhamodzenyika Mugabe was born 27 September 1963 and died on 26 December 1966 from cerebral malaria in Ghana while Mugabe was in prison
  • Had an extra-marital affair with his secretary Grace Marufu starting in 1987 while his first wife was on the death bed
  • 3 children with Grace Marufu (Bona 1987, Robert Junior 1990 and Chatunga 1997)
  • First wife Sarah Francesca died on 27 January 1992
  • Married Grace Marufu in 1996

Robert Mugabe biography (The Liberation Hero)

  • Classmates with Robert Sobukwe & Leopold Takawira amongst others as a student at Fort Hare University (1949-1952)
  • Decided to join politics after speaking at a protest march over the arrest of Leopold Takawira in July 1960
  • Elected as the publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in October 1960
  • Under 3-month house arrest in September 1962
  • Elected Zanu’s Secretary-General in absentia (August 1963)
  • Arrested on December 1963, and later sentenced to 21 months in prison on March 1964 but only released in November 1974 after almost 11 years behind bars
  • Taught in prison whilst he studied for his fourth (LLB) and fifth university degrees (LLM)
  • Replaced Ndabaningi Sithole as ZANU leader in 1969
  • Exiled to Mozambique for 2 years (March 1975 to 1977)
  • Officially declared ZANU leader in August 1977 (Chimoio, Mozambique)
  • Signed the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979 ending white minority rule in Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe short-biography (The Dictator)

  • Prime Minister of Zimbabwe: 1980–1987
  • In 1983 Mugabe deployed the 5th Brigade in Matabeleland resulting in the death of over 20 000 supporters of ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo forcing him into unity accord in 1987
  • Changed the constitution & introduced an executive presidency in 1985
  • Won successive elections as President of Zimbabwe from 1985 to November 2017 amidst increasing accusations of vote-rigging, violence against opponents and an uneven electoral field.
  • Under Mugabe unemployment reached over 90%, inflation peaked at 89.7 sextillion percent year-on-year, corruption and poverty became endemic
  • A vocal critic of the West especially the US and Britain
  • Lost the 2008 election to MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai & unleashed violence against the opposition leading to the formation of a Government of National Unity (2009 to 2013)

Robert Mugabe short-biography (A bitter end)

  • Fired his VP Emmerson Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017 leaving his wife Grace Mugabe as the only viable successor
  • Forced to resign on 20 November 2017 after a military coup led by his VP Mnangagwa
  • Endorsed opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in the July 2018 general election that was won by Mnangagwa
Robert Mugabe
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