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16 Things You Need To Know About Mugabe

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the first post-independence president of Zimbabwe, has died.

He died on Friday in Singapore, where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

His successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, described him “an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people”. 

Read Also: Zimbabwe’s Ex-president, Robert Mugabe, Dies

In the aftermath of his death, Newsbreak presents 15 things readers need to know about the late Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe attends a meeting of Rhodesian fighters in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, with George Silundika (C), deputy secretary of information in the ANC, and Joshua Nkomo (R), leader of Zapu


1. His father, Gabriel Matibiri, was a carpenter.


2. Despite being born into a poor family, Mugabe acquired seven degrees in history and English literature, education, economics, administration and law. He was a trained teacher who taught in then Rhodesia and Ghana.


3. His first wife, Sally Hayfron, who died of a terminal disease in 1992, was a Ghanaian.


4. He was convicted of sedition and imprisoned between 1964 and 1974. After his release, he fled to Mozambique, established the ZANU Party, and oversaw the party’s role in the Rhodesian Bush War that fought against the country’s white government.


British-brokered all-party talks at Lancaster House in London lead to a peace agreement and new constitution, facilitated by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo (left). The pair later fell out.


5. His first son, Michael Nhamodzenyika Mugabe, died of cerebral malaria in Ghana in 1966 while he was imprisoned by the white-led Rhodesian government.


6. Mugabe had an extra-marital affair with his secretary, Grace Marufu, whom he later married. Grace, who was 41 years his junior, bore three children for him.


7. He dressed conservatively during his lifetime and never drank alcohol.


8. He identified as a Marxist-Lennist. He later became a socialist after the 1990s.


Robert Mugabe addresses a press conference after winning the prime ministerial election in 1980


9. Upon his election as Prime Minister, Mugabe changed the name of the country from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.


10. He abolished the office of prime minister and became president in 1987.


11. During his time as Zimbabwe’s president, he expanded education and healthcare for black Zimbabweans. He also taught state house illiterate workers to pass exams.


12. Mugabe emphasised the redistribution of land controlled by white farmers to black Zimbabweans who did not have land, and began land expropriation in 2000.


Robert Mugabe and first wife, Sally Hayfron


13. Mugabe entered a power-sharing agreement with the late Morgan Tsvangirai, his long-time rival and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in February 2009, after he lost the first round of the March 2008 presidential election.


14. In 2017, members of his own party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), removed him in a coup, replacing him with his estranged former vice president, Emerson Mnangagwa. 


15. Mugabe was in power for 37 years – outlasting his greatest enemies and rivals such as Tony Blair (Britain), George W Bush (US), Joshua Nkomo and Morgan Tsvangirai (Zimbabwe) and Nelson Mandela (South Africa).


16. He was a huge fan of US country singer, Jim Reeves.

Mugabe marries Grace Marufu on August 17, 1996


Photo credit: Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images/Sipa Press/AP/Reuters

About Oluwafemi Ashaolu

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