Childhood & Early Life
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.
After graduation, he became a lecturer at Chalimbana Teacher Training College in Northern Rhodesia between the years 1955 to 1958. It was around this time he was highly influenced by Marxist works and by the-then Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nikrumah.
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In 1960, he joined the National Democratic Party and he formed the group 'Zimbabwe African Peoples Union' (ZAPU), after it was banned in September. ZAPU 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 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 went in a state of pandemonium.
In 1979, the British colonies agreed to observe the switch to black majority rule and the UN raised sanctions. The subsequent year, Southern Rhodesia gained independence from the British and became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe.
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 in 1987, Mugabe and Nkomo decided to merge their unions, for the betterment and quick recovery of Zimbabwe’s economy.
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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 helped him 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 more votes, he 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 did not want to share power.
The next year, he announced his bid for the 2012 presidential elections, which was 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 as the winner of the presidential elections in August 2013 after he won 61 per cent of the votes.
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On November 15, 2017, the Zimbabwe National Army in an apparent coup d'état placed Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Thereafter on 19 November, he was removed as the leader of ZANU-PF. An impeachment proceeding was started against him. Following the start of impeachment proceedings, Mugabe resigned as President on 21 November 2017.
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.
He married Grace Marufu on 17 August 1996. He already had two children with Grace when he married her. She initially became pregnant when he was still married to his first wife, Sally. His wife is sometimes mockingly called, ‘Gucci Grace’ for her ostentatious ways and lifestyle.
Robert Mugabe died on 6 September 2019 at a hospital in Singapore