Robert Gabriel Mugabe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe
Official portrait of Robert Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe
In office:
December 31, 1987 – May 4, 2009
Prime Minister: Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC–T)
Vice President:
Joseph Msika
Joice Mujuru
Preceded by: Canaan Banana
Succeeded by: Gen. Constantine Chiwenga
Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
In office:
April 18, 1980 – December 31, 1987
President: Canaan Banana
Preceded by: Abel Muzorewa (Zimbabwe Rhodesia)
Succeded by: Morgan Tsvangirai (Designate)
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
In office:
September 6, 1986 – 7 September 7, 1989
Preceded by: Zail Singh
Succeded by: Janez Drnovsek
Born: February 21, 1924
Flag of Southern Rhodesia Kutama, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
Died: May 4, 2009 (age 85)
Flag of Zimbabwe State House, Harare, Zimbabwe
Political party: Flag of ZANU-PF ZANU-PF (1987 – 2009)
ZANU (1963 – 1987)
ZAPU (1961 – 1963)
Spouse: Spouse Sally Hayfron (deceased)
Grace Marufu
Alma mater: University of Fort Hare
University of London
University of South Africa
Religion: Roman Catholicism
Signature: Robert Mugabe Signature

Robert Gabriel Karigamombe Mugabe (February 21, 1924 – May 4, 2009) was the President of Zimbabwe from December 31, 1987 until May 4, 2009.

Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s as a Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) leader in guerrilla warfare against white-minority rule in Rhodesia in the Bush War (1964–1979). Emerging from this conflict, Mugabe was hailed by Africans as a hero. As the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, which espoused African socialism, Black Supremacy, and Left-wing nationalism, he held power as the head of government from 1980, as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987, and as the first executive head of state since 1987 until 2009.

Since 1998 Mugabe's policies have elicited domestic and international condemnation. Mugabe's government supported the Southern African Development Community's intervention in the Second Congo War; expropriated thousands of white-owned farms; printed hundreds of trillions of Zimbabwean dollars, causing hyperinflation; and harassed and intimidated such political opponents as the Movement for Democratic Change. The resulting downward spiral in Zimbabwe's economy has been accompanied by oil and food shortages, massive internal displacement and emigration. In July 2008, referring to the Mugabe regime, the Group of Eight released a collective statement saying that they "do not accept the legitimacy of a government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people".

Following an escalation of the internal unrest following two assassination attempts on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as well the increasing problems surrounding the economy, human rights abuses and cholera outbreak, Mugabe was deposed by the CODAMIZ coalition led by the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and their allies during the invasion of Zimbabwe in 2009.

During the early hours of May 4, 2009, as U.S. Rangers and British soldiers were storming the State House in Harare, Mugabe committed suicide.


Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s as the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). For many years in the '60s and '70s Mugabe was a political prisoner in Rhodesia. His goal was to replace white minority-rule with a one-party Marxist regime. He left Rhodesia in 1976 to join the Zimbabwe Liberation Struggle (Rhodesian Bush War) from bases in Mozambique. At the end of the war in 1979, Mugabe emerged as a hero in the minds of many Africans. He won the general elections of 1980, the second in which the majority Black Africans participated in large numbers (though the electoral system in Rhodesia had allowed Black participation based on qualified franchise), amid reports of violent intimidation by the militants he now controlled. Mugabe then became the first Prime Minister after calling for reconciliation between formerly warring parties, including the white people as well as rival parties.

The years following Zimbabwe's independence saw a split between the two key belligerents who had fought alongside each other during the 1970s against the government of Rhodesia. An armed conflict between Mugabe's Maoist-oriented Government and dissident followers of Joshua Nkomo's pro-Marxist ZAPU erupted. Following the deaths of thousands, neither warring faction able to defeat the other, the heads of the opposing movements reached a landmark agreement, whence was created a new ruling party, ZANU PF, as a merger between the two former rivals.

Since 1998 Mugabe's policies have increasingly elicited domestic and international denunciation. His government pursued a costly intervention in the Second Congo War, expropriated thousands of white-owned farms, printed hundreds of trillions of Zimbabwean dollars triggering hyperinflation, and has been accused of harassing and intimidating political opponents, particularly members of the Movement for Democratic Change. Zimbabwe's economy spiraled downward, with food and oil shortages, and with massive internal displacement and emigration. During this period Mugabe's policies have been denounced in the West and at home as racist against Zimbabwe's white minority. Mugabe has described his critics as "born again colonialists", and both he and his supporters claim Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of imperialism, aggravated by Western economic meddling.

Mugabe lost the first round of the 2008 election to prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 43% to 48%, though neither candidate secured the 50% necessary to avoid a runoff election. The MDC claimed that the official results had been altered to force a run-off vote, since their returns suggested that Tsvangirai had received 50.3% of the vote.

Early life

Robert Gabriel Karigamombe Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924 in Matibiri village near Kutama Mission in the Zvimba District north east of Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. He had two older brothers, and one of them, Michael, was very popular in the village. Both his older brothers died, leaving Robert and his younger brother, Donato. His father, Gabriel Mugabe Matibiri, a carpenter, abandoned the Mugabe family in 1934 after Michael died, in search of work in Bulawayo. Mugabe was raised as a Roman Catholic, studying in Marist Brothers and Jesuit schools, including the exclusive Kutama College, headed by an Irish priest, Father Jerome O'Hea, who took him under his wing. Through his youth, Mugabe was never socially popular nor physically active and spent most of his time with the priests or his mother when he was not reading in the school's libraries. He was described as never playing with other children but enjoying his own company. He qualified as a teacher, but left to study at Fort Hare in South Africa graduating in 1951 while meeting contemporaries such as Julius Nyerere, Herbert Chitepo, Robert Sobukwe and Kenneth Kaunda. He then studied at the University of Oxford in 1952, Salisbury (1953), Gwelo (1954), and Tanzania (1955–1957).

Originally graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare in 1951, Mugabe subsequently earned six further degrees through distance learning including a Bachelor of Administration and Bachelor of Education from the University of South Africa and a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Science, and Master of Laws, all from the University of London External Programme. The two Law degrees were earned while he was in prison, the Master of Science degree earned during his premiership of Zimbabwe. After graduating, Mugabe lectured at Chalimbana Teacher Training College, in Zambia from 1955–1958, thereafter he taught at Apowa Secondary School at Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana after completing his local certification at Achimota School (1958 – 1960), where he met Sarah Francesca (Sally) Hayfron, who later became his first wife. During his stay in Ghana, he was influenced and inspired by Ghana's then-Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah. In addition, Mugabe and some of his Zimbabwe African National Union party cadres received instruction at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, then at Winneba in southern Ghana.

Early political career

Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia and joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960. The administration of Prime Minister Ian Smith banned the NDP when it later became Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). Mugabe left ZAPU in 1963 to join the rival Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) which had been formed in 1963 by the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, Edgar Tekere, Edson Zvobgo, Enos Nkala and lawyer Herbert Chitepo. ZANU was influenced by the Africanist ideas of the Pan Africanist Congress in South Africa and influenced by Maoism while ZAPU was an ally of the African National Congress and was a supporter of a more orthodox pro-Soviet line on national liberation. Similar divisions can also be seen in the liberation movement in Angola between the MPLA and UNITA. It would have been easy for the party to split along tribal lines between the Ndebele and Mugabe's own Shona tribe, but cross-tribal representation was maintained by his partners. ZANU leader Sithole nominated Robert Mugabe as his Secretary General.

In 1964 Mugabe was arrested for “subversive speech” and spent the next 11 years in Salisbury prison. During that period he earned three degrees, including a law degree from London and a bachelor of administration from the University of South Africa by correspondence courses. Smith did not allow Mugabe out of prison to attend the funeral of Mugabe's four-year-old son. In 1974, while still in prison, Mugabe was elected — with the powerful influence of Edgar Tekere — to take over the reins of ZANU after a no-confidence vote was passed on Ndabaningi Sithole - Mugabe himself abstained from voting. His time in prison burnished his reputation and helped his cause.

Mugabe unilaterally assumed control of ZANU from Mozambique after the death of Herbert Chitepo on March 18, 1975. Later that year, after squabbling with Ndabaningi Sithole, Mugabe formed a militant ZANU faction, leaving Sithole to lead the moderate Zanu (Ndonga) party. Many opposition leaders mysteriously died during this time (Including one who allegedly died in a car crash, although the car was rumored to have been riddled with bullet holes at the scene of the accident). Additionally, an opposing newspaper's printing press was bombed and its journalists tortured.[8]

See also

Offices held

Political offices
Coat of arms of Zimbabwe Preceded by:
Canaan Banana

President of Zimbabwe
December 31, 1987 – May 4, 2009

Succeeded by:
Gen. Constantine Chiwenga
Preceded by:
Canaan Banana

Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
April 18, 1980 – December 31, 1987

Succeeded by:
Morgan Tsvangirai
Preceded by:
Zail Singh

Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
September 6, 1986 – 7 September 7, 1989

Succeeded by:
Janez Drnovsek

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