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Robert Mugabe

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Robert Mugabe
Mugabe on a visit to Moscow in May 2015
President of Zimbabwe
Assumed office
22 December 1987
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (2009–2013)
Vice President Joshua Nkomo (1987–1999)
Simon Muzenda (1987–2003)
Joseph Msika (1999–2009)
Joice Mujuru (2004–2014)
John Nkomo (2009–2013)
Emmerson Mnangagwa (2014–)
Phelekezela Mphoko (2014–)
Preceded by Canaan Banana
Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
In office
18 April 1980 – 22 December 1987
President Canaan Banana
Deputy Simon Muzenda
Preceded by Abel Muzorewa (Zimbabwe Rhodesia)
Succeeded by Morgan Tsvangirai (2009)
13th Chairperson of the African Union
In office
30 January 2015 – 30 January 2016
Preceded by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Succeeded by Idriss Déby
Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
6 September 1986 – 7 September 1989
Preceded by Zail Singh
Succeeded by Janez Drnovšek
Personal details
Born Robert Gabriel Mugabe
(1924-02-21) 21 February 1924 (age 92)
Kutama, Southern Rhodesia
(now Zimbabwe)
Political party National Democratic Party (1960–1961)
Zimbabwe African People's Union (1961–1963)
Zimbabwe African National Union (1963–1987)
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (1987–present)
Spouse(s) Sally Hayfron (1961–1992; her death)
Grace Marufu (1996–present)
Children Nhamodzenyika (deceased)
Robert Peter
Bellarmine Chatunga
Education Kutama College
Alma mater University of Fort Hare
University of South Africa
University of London
Religion Roman Catholicism

Robert Gabriel Mugabe (/mˈɡɑːb/; Shona IPA: [muɡaɓe]; born 21 February 1924) is a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who has governed the Republic of Zimbabwe as its President since 1987, having previously governed as its Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987. Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he has led the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) party since 1975.

A Shona, Mugabe was born in Kutama, Southern Rhodesia. Following an education at Kutama College and the University of Fort Hare he worked as a teacher in Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Ghana. Angered that Southern Rhodesia was a British colony governed by a white elite, Mugabe embraced Marxism and joined African nationalist protests calling for an independent state with a black-led government. After making anti-government comments he was convicted of sedition and imprisoned between 1964 and 1974. On release he fled to Mozambique, established his leadership of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and oversaw ZANU activities during the Rhodesian Bush War to overthrow the white-minority Rhodesian government of Ian Smith. He reluctantly took place in the peace negotiations brokered by the United Kingdom that resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement. The agreement dismantled white-minority rule and resulted in the 1980 general election, at which Mugabe led ZANU-PF to victory and became Prime Minister. Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe and despite Mugabe's professed Marxist desire to create a socialist society, his administration adhered to conservative economic policies.

Mugabe's initial calls for racial reconciliation failed to stem deteriorating race relations and growing white flight. Relations between ZANU-PF and Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) also declined, with Mugabe crushing ZAPU-linked opposition in Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi between 1982 and 1985; at least 10,000 people, mostly Ndebele civilians, were killed. Mugabe's government emphasised the redistribution of land controlled by white farmers to landless blacks, initially on a "willing seller-willing buyer" basis. Frustrated at the slow rate of redistribution, from 2000 Mugabe encouraged the violent seizure of white-owned land. The unrest severely impacted food production and brought international sanctions, heavily damaging Zimbabwe's economy. Opposition to Mugabe grew, particularly through the Movement for Democratic Change, although he was re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2013 through campaigns dominated by electoral fraud and nationalistic appeals to his rural Shona voter base. Internationally, Mugabe sent troops to fight in the Second Congo War and chaired the Non-Aligned Movement from 1986 to 1989, the Organisation of African Unity from 1997 to 1998 and the African Union from 2015 until 2016.

As of August 2016, Mugabe is the world's oldest and one of the longest serving heads of state. He has remained a divisive figure. He has been praised as a revolutionary hero of the African liberation struggle who helped to free Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism, and white-minority rule. Conversely, critics view him as a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement and widespread corruption whose regime has perpetrated anti-white racial discrimination, human rights abuses, and crimes against humanity.

Early life

Childhood: 1924–1945

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 at the Kutama Mission village in Southern Rhodesia's Zvimba District.[1] His father, Gabriel, was a carpenter, while his mother Bona taught Christian catechism to the village children.[2] They had been trained in their professions by the Jesuits, the Roman Catholic apostolic order which had established the mission.[3] Bona and Gabriel had six children: Miteri (Michael), Raphael, Robert, Dhonandhe (Donald), Sabina, and Bridgette.[4] They belonged to the Zezuru clan, one of the smallest branches of the Shona tribe.[5] The Jesuits were strict disciplinarians and under their influence Mugabe developed an intense self-discipline,[3] while also becoming a devout Catholic.[6] Mugabe excelled at school,[7] where he was a secretive and solitary child,[8] preferring to read alone rather than playing sport or socialising with other children.[9] He was taunted by many of the other children, who regarded him as a coward and a mother's boy.[10]

Circa 1930, Gabriel had an argument with one of the Jesuits, and as a result he and his family were expelled from the mission village by its French leader, Father Jean-Baptiste Loubiere.[11] They settled in a village about seven miles away, although the children were permitted to remain at the mission primary school, living with relatives in Kutama during term-time and returning to their parental home at weekends.[7] Around the same time, Robert's older brother Raphael died, likely of diarrhoea.[7] In early 1934, Robert's other older brother, Michael, also died, after consuming poisoned maize.[12] Later that year, Gabriel left his family in search of employment at Bulawayo.[13] He subsequently abandoned Bona and their six children and established a relationship with another woman, with whom he had three further offspring.[14]

Loubiere died shortly after and was replaced by the Irishman Father Jerome O'Hea, who welcomed the Mugabe family to return to Kutama.[7] In contrast to the racism that permeated Southern Rhodesian society, under O'Hea's leadership the Kutama Mission preached an ethos of racial equality.[15] O'Hea nurtured the young Mugabe; shortly before his death in 1970 he described the latter as having "an exceptional mind and an exceptional heart".[16] As well as helping provide Mugabe with a Christian education, O'Hea taught him about the Irish War of Independence, in which Irish revolutionaries had overthrown the British imperial regime.[14] After completing six years of elementary education, in 1941 Mugabe was offered a place on a teacher training course at Kutama College; Mugabe's mother could not afford the tuition fees, which were paid in part by his grandfather and in part by O'Hea from his own income.[17] As part of this education, Mugabe began teaching at his old school, thus earning £2 per month, which he used to support his family.[7] In 1944 Gabriel returned to Kutama with his three new children, but died shortly after, leaving Robert to take financial responsibility for both his three siblings and his three half-siblings.[7] Having attained a teaching diploma, Mugabe left Kutama in 1945.[18]

Teaching career: 1945–1960

Over the following years, Mugabe worked in a number of teaching posts at various schools around Southern Rhodesia.[19] While teaching at the Dadaya Mission school he met Ndabaningi Sithole, who would become a longstanding friend in the activist movement.[20] However, there is no evidence that Mugabe was involved in political activity at the time, and he did not take place in the 1948 general strike.[21] In 1949 he won a scholarship to study at University of Fort Hare in South Africa's Eastern Cape.[19] There he joined the African National Congress,[22] and attended African nationalist meetings, where he met a number of Jewish South African communists who introduced him to Marxist ideas.[23] He later related that despite this exposure to Marxism, his biggest influence at the time were the actions of Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian independence movement.[24] He left the university with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English literature.[21] In later years he described his time at Fort Hare as the "turning-point" in his life.[22]

Mugabe was inspired by the example set by Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah

Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia in 1952,[25] by which time—he later related— he was "completely hostile to the [colonialist] system, but of course I came back to teach within it."[26] Here, his first job was as a teacher at the Briefontein Mission near Umvuna.[22] He enrolled in a degree by correspondence from the University of South Africa,[26] and ordered a number of Marxist tracts—among them Karl Marx's Capital and Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England—from a London mail-order company.[27] Despite his growing interest in politics, he was not active in any political movement.[26] He joined a number of inter-racial groups, such as the Capricorn Africa Society, through which he mixed with both black and white Rhodesians.[28] Guy Clutton-Brock, who knew Mugabe through this group, later noted that he was "an extraordinary young man" who could be "a bit of a cold fish at times" but "could talk about Elvis Presley or Bing Crosby as easily as politics".[29]

In 1955 Mugabe moved to Northern Rhodesia to work at a teacher training college in Lusaka.[26] There he continued his education by working on a second degree by correspondence, this time from London University.[26] In 1958 he moved to Ghana to work at St Mary's Teacher Training College in Takoradi.[30] According to Mugabe, "I went [to Ghana] as an adventurist. I wanted to see what it would be like in an independent African state".[31] Ghana had been the first African state to gain independence from European colonial powers and under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah underwent a range of African nationalist reforms; Mugabe revelled in this environment.[32] In tandem with his teaching, from 1958 to 1960 Mugabe attended the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in Winneba.[33] In later years, Mugabe claimed that it was during his time in Ghana that he finally embraced belief in Marxism.[34] He also began a relationship with a Ghanaian woman, Sally Hayfron, who worked at the college and shared his political interests.[35]

Revolutionary activity

Early political career: 1960–1963

During Mugabe's absence, an anti-colonialist African nationalist movement had established itself in Southern Rhodesia, at first led by Joshua Nkomo's Southern Rhodesia African National Congress, which was founded in September 1957 but banned by the government in February 1959.[36] This was replaced by the more radically oriented National Democratic Party (NDP), founded in January 1960.[37] In May 1960, Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia, bringing Hayfron with him.[38] The pair had planned for their visit to be short, however Mugabe's friend, the African nationalist Leopold Takawira, urged them to stay.[39]

Europeans must realise that unless the legitimate demands of African nationalism are recognised, then racial conflict is inevitable.

— Mugabe, early 1960s[40]

In July 1960, Takawira and two other NDP officials were arrested; in protest, Mugabe joined a demonstration of 7,000 people who planned to march from Highfield to the Prime Minister's office in Salisbury. The demonstration was stopped by riot police outside Stoddart Hall in Harare township.[41] My midday the next day, the crowd had grown to 40,000 and a makeshift platform had been erected for speakers. Being a teacher who possessed three degrees and had travelled elsewhere in Africa, Mugabe was among those invited to speak to the crowd.[42] Following this event, Mugabe decided to devote himself full-time to activism, resigning his teaching post in Ghana.[43] At the first NDP congress, held in October 1960, he was elected the party's publicity secretary.[44] Mugabe consciously injected emotionalism into African nationalist thought in order to win broader support among the wider population, appealing to traditional emotional and cultural values, and encouraging black Africans to value their heritage.[45] He was involved in the formation of the NDP Youth Wing, encouraging its meetings to include ancestral prayers, traditional costume, and ululation by women.[46] In February 1961 he married Hayfron in a Roman Catholic ceremony conducted in Salisbury; she had converted to Catholicism to make this possible.[47]

The British government held a conference in Salisbury in 1961 to determine the future of Southern Rhodesia. Nkomo led a delegation from the NDP, which hoped that the British would allow for the creation of an independent state governed by the black majority. The country's white minority, who then controlled the Southern Rhodesian government, was opposed to this, calling for continued white minority rule.[48] As a result of negotiations, Nkomo agreed to a proposal which would allow the black population representation through 15 of the 65 seats in the country's parliament. Mugabe and others in the NDP were furious at this.[49] Following the conference, Southern Rhodesia's African nationalist movement fell into disarray.[50] Mugabe spoke at a number of NDP rallies before the party was banned by the government.[51] Many of its members then reformed it as the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) several days later.[52] Racial violence was growing in the country, with aggrieved African nationalists targeting the white minority.[53] Mugabe was of the view that such conflict was necessary to overthrow British colonial dominance and white minority rule. This contrasted with Nkomo's view that they should focus on international diplomacy to encourage the British government to grant the African nationalists' demands.[53] Nine months after it had been founded, ZAPU was also banned by the government,[52] and in September 1962 Mugabe and other senior party officials were arrested and restricted to their home districts for three months.[52]

The flag of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)

The rise of African nationalist generated a white backlash in Southern Rhodesia, with the right-wing Rhodesian Front winning the election in December 1962. In power, they moved to tighten security and establish independence from the UK.[54] Mugabe met with colleagues at his house in Salisbury's Highbury district, where he argued that as political demonstrations were simply being banned, it was time to move towards armed resistance.[55] Mugabe and others rejected Nkomo's proposal that they evacuate to Dar es Salaam and there establish an African nationalist government-in-exile.[56] Both Mugabe and his wife were in trouble with the law; he had been charged with making subversive statements in a public speech and awarded bail before his trial.[57] Hey had been sentenced to two years imprisonment – suspended for 15 months – for a speech in which she declared that the British Queen Elizabeth II "can go to hell".[58] Her imprisonment was complicated by the fact that she was pregnant.[59]

To attend a ZAPU meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Mugabes skipped bail and headed for the city.[60] There the party leadership met with President Julius Nyerere, who urged against establishing a government-in-exile and suggested that they needed to organise their resistance to white minority rule within Southern Rhodesia itself.[61] In August, Hayfron gave birth to Mugabe's son, whom they named Nhamodzenyika, a Shona term meaning "suffering country".[62] Mugabe insisted that she take their son back to Ghana, while he decided to return to Southern Rhodesia.[63] There, African nationalists opposed to Nkomo's leadership had established a new party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), in August, appointing Mugabe to be the group's secretary-general in absentia.[63] Nkomo responded by forming his own group, the People's Caretaker Council, which was widely referred to as "ZAPU" after its predecessor.[64] ZAPU and ZANU violently opposed one another and soon gang warfare had broken out between their rival memberships.[65][66] ZANU was influenced by the Africanist ideas of South Africa's Pan Africanist Congress.[67]

Imprisonment: 1963–75

On his return to Southern Rhodesia in December 1963, Mugabe was arrested on arrival.[68] His trial lasted from January to March 1964, during which he refused to retract the subversive statements that he had publicly made.[69] In March 1964 he was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment.[65] Mugabe was first imprisoned at Salisbury Maximum Security Prison, before being moved to the Wha Wha detention centre and then the Sikombela detention centre.[70] At the latter, he organised study classes for the inmates.[71] In 1966 he was then moved back to Salisbury, where he shared a communal cell with Ndabaningi Sithole, Enos Nkala, and Edgar Tekere.[71] He remained there for eight more years, devoting his time to reading and studying.[71] During this period he gained several further degrees from London University: an MSc in economics, a bachelor of administration, and two law degrees.[72] While imprisoned he learned that his son had died of encephalitis at the age of three. Mugabe was grief-stricken and requested a leave of absence to visit his wife in Ghana. That the prison authorities refused was something that he never forgot or forgave.[73][74]

While Mugabe was imprisoned, in August 1964, the government—now under the leadership of Ian Smith—banned both ZANU and ZAPU and arrested all remaining African nationalist leaders.[65][75] Smith's government made a unilateral declaration of independence from the United Kingdom in November 1965, using the name Rhodesia; the UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions on the country.[76] In 1972, the African nationalists' guerrilla war against Smith's white minority government began in earnest.[77] Among the revolutionaries, it was known as the "Second Chimurenga".[78] ZANU's military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), consisted largely of Shona, were based in neighbouring Mozambique, and were funded by the People's Republic of China, while ZAPU's military wing, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), consisted largely of Ndebele, were based in Zambia, and were funded by the Soviet Union. [77] Within ZANU itself, senior figures had grown frustrated at Sithole's leadership and in 1974 passed a vote of no confidence in him, selecting the still-imprisoned Mugabe as his successor.[79]

After almost eleven years of imprisonment, Mugabe was released in November 1974.[80] The decision to release Mugabe and other black revolutionaries had been made by the Rhodesian government under pressure from South Africa, which hoped that doing so would aid the process of détente with the politically moderate black governments of Zambia and Tanzania.[79] He then moved in with his sister Sabina at her modest home in Highfield township.[79] He was intent on joining the ZANU forces and taking part in the guerrilla war,[81] recognising that to secure dominance of ZANU he would have to take command of ZANLA.[78]

Guerrilla war: 1975–1979

In March 1975, Mugabe resolved to leave Rhodesia for neighbouring Mozambique, ambitious to take control of ZANU's guerrilla campaign.[82] Before leaving, he visited his mother near Kutama in order to say goodbye.[82] On returning to Salisbury, he found that his close friend Maurice Nyagumbo had been arrested.[82] Fearing that he too would be arrested, he sought help from Roman Catholic priests sympathetic to the liberation movement. One such priest, Father Emmaniel Ribeiro, hid Mugabe in the Rhodesville parish hall. He and fellow revolutionary Edgar Tekere were then taken to Ruwa Farm by a nun, Sister Mary Aquina. There they were joined by a ZANU activist who took them to Nyafaru, and the next night they were smuggled over the border into Mozambique.[83] Mugabe remained in exile in Mozambique for two years.[84] The Marxist Mozambican President Samora Machel was unsure whether to recognise Mugabe as the legitimate leader of ZANU, placing him under house arrest for over three months and taking almost a year before deciding to accept his leadership of the group.[78]

Mugabe in a meeting with Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in 1979

By mid-1976, Mugabe had gained the allegiance of ZANLA's military commanders and achieved dominance over ZANU, establishing himself as the most prominent black guerrilla leader battling Smith's regime.[78] He remained aloof from the day-to-day military operations of ZANLA, leaving these in the hands of Josiah Tongogara.[78] Instead he focused on the propaganda war, making regular speeches and radio broadcasts.[78] In these, Mugabe presented himself as a Marxist-Leninist, speaking warmly of Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries like Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Fidel Castro.[85] He called for the overthrow of Rhodesia'a white minority government, at which point he stated that Smith and his "criminal gang" would be tried and executed, all white-owned land would be expropriated, and Rhodesia would be converted into a one-party Marxist state.[86] He repeatedly made inflammatory statements calling for violence against the country's white minority,[87] referring to white Rhodesians as "blood-sucking exploiters", "sadistic killers", and "hard-core racists".[85] In one typical example, taken from a 1978 radio address, Mugabe declared: "Let us hammer [the white man] to defeat. Lew us blow up his citadel. Let us give him no time to rest. Let us chase him in every corner. Let us rid our home of this settler vermin".[87] In contrast to other liberation leaders like Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe opposed any negotiated settlement with Smith's government.[88] For him, armed struggle was an essential part of the establishment of a new state.[88]

During the war, Mugabe remained suspicious of many of ZANLA's commanders and had a number of them imprisoned.[85] In 1977 he imprisoned his former second-in-command, Wilfred Mhanda, for suspected disloyalty;[85] Mhanda later described Mugabe as "arrogant, paranoid, secretive, and only interested in power".[85] After Tongogara was killed in a car accident in 1979, there were suggestions made that Mugabe may have had some involvement in it.[85] Mugabe unilaterally assumed control of ZANU after the death of Herbert Chitepo on 18 March 1975. Later that year, after squabbling with Ndabaningi Sithole, Mugabe formed a militant ZANU faction, leaving Sithole to lead the moderate Zanu (Ndonga) party.[citation needed] Additionally, an opposing newspaper's printing press was bombed and its journalists tortured.[89]

During the guerrilla war, at least 30,000 people were killed.[90] As a proportion of their wider population, the whites lost a higher number of fatalities.[90]

Lancaster House Agreement: 1979

Under pressure from Henry Kissinger, South African Prime Minister B. J. Vorster persuaded his Rhodesian counterpart Ian Smith to accept in principle that white minority rule could not continue indefinitely. On 3 March 1978 Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and other moderate leaders signed an agreement at the Governor's Lodge in Salisbury, which paved the way for an interim power-sharing government, in preparation for elections. The elections were won by the United African National Council under Bishop Abel Muzorewa, but international recognition did not follow and sanctions were not lifted. The two 'Patriotic Front' groups under Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo refused to participate and continued the war.[citation needed]

Lancaster House in London's West End

The incoming government did accept an invitation to talks at Lancaster House in September 1979. A ceasefire was negotiated for the talks, which were attended by Smith, Mugabe, Nkomo, Zvobgo and others. Eventually the parties to the talks agreed on a new constitution for a new Republic of Zimbabwe with elections in February 1980.[citation needed] The Lancaster Agreement saw Mugabe make two important and contentious concessions. First, he allowed 20 seats to be reserved for whites in the new Parliament,[91] and second, he agreed to a ten-year moratorium on constitutional amendments.[citation needed]

Mugabe refused to attend the London peace talks.[92] Samora Machel insisted that he must, threatening to end Mozambican support for the ZANU-PF if he did not.[93] Mugabe arrived in London in September 1979.[86] Throughout the negotiations, Mugabe did not trust the British and believed that they were manipulating events to their own advantage.[94] The negotiated plan called for all participants in the conflict to agree to a ceasefire, with a British governor, Christopher Soames, arriving in Rhodesia to oversee an election in which the various factions could compete as political parties.[95] The Lancaster Agreement outlined a plan for a transition to formal independence under black-majority rule, also maintaining that Rhodesia would be renamed Zimbabwe, a name adopted from the Iron Age archaeological site of Great Zimbabwe.[87] The agreement also ensured that the country's white minority retained many of its economic and political privileges.[96] Mugabe was opposed to the idea of a ceasefire, but under pressure from Machel he agreed to it.[95] Mugabe signed the agreement, although felt cheated,[95] remaining disappointed that he had never achieved a military victory over the white-minority government.[97]

Electoral campaign: 1980

Mugabe returned to Salisbury on 27 January 1980. He was given a hero's welcome by a large crowd.[98] There, he settled into a new house in Mount Pleasant, a wealthy white-dominated suburb.[99] Machel had cautioned Mugabe not to alienate Rhodesia's white minority, cautioning him that any white flight after the election would cause economic damage as it had in Mozambique.[100] Accordingly, during his electoral campaign Mugabe avoided the use of Marxist and revolutionary rhetoric.[98] Predictions were made that ZANU-PF would win the election on the basis of the country's ethnic divisions; Mugabe was Shona, a community that made up around 70% of the country's population, while Nkomo was Ndebele, a tribal group who made up only around 20%.[101] For many in the white community and in the British government, this outcome was a terrifying prospect due to Mugabe's avowed Marxist beliefs and the inflammatory comments that he had made about whites during the guerrilla war.[87]

Mugabe on a visit to the Netherlands in 1979

During the campaign, Mugabe survived two assassination attempts.[102] In the first, which took place on 6 February, a grenade was thrown at his Mount Pleasant home, where it exploded against a garden wall.[102] In the second, on 10 February, a roadside bomb exploded near his motorcade as he left a Fort Victoria rally. Mugabe himself was unharmed.[102] Mugabe accused the Rhodesian security forces of being responsible for these attacks.[102]

The electoral campaign was marred by widespread voter intimidation, perpetrated by Nkomo's ZAPU, Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANC) and Mugabe's ZANU-PF.[103] Commenting on ZANU-PF's activities in eastern Rhodesia, Nkomo complained that "the word intimidation is mild. People are being terrorised. It is terror."[103] Reacting to ZANU-PF's acts of voter intimidation, Mugabe was called before Soames at Government House. Mugabe regarded the meeting as a British attempt to thwart his electoral campaign.[104] Under the terms of the negotiation, Soames had the power to disqualify any political party guilty of voter intimidation.[102] Rhodesia's security services, Nkomo, Muzorewa, and some of his own advisers all called on Soames to disqualify ZANU-PF. After deliberation, Soames disagreed, believing that ZANU-PF were sure to win the election and that disqualifying them was sure to wreck any chance of an orderly transition of power.[102] In an attempt to quell the possibility that Rhodesia's security forces would launch a coup to prevent the election, Mugabe met with Peter Walls, the commander of Rhodesia's armed forces, and asked him to remain in his position in the event of a ZANU-PF victory. At the time Walls refused.[105]

In the March election, ZANU-PF secured 63% of the national vote, gaining 57 of the 80 parliamentary seats allocated for black parties and providing them with an absolute majority.[106] ZAPU had gained 20 seats, and UANC had three.[101] Mugabe was elected MP for the Harare constituency of Highfield.[107] Attempting to calm panic and prevent white flight, Mugabe appeared on television and called for national unity, stability, and law and order, insisting that the pensions of white civil servants would be guaranteed and that private property would be protected.[108]

Prime Minister of Zimbabwe: 1980–1987

Prime Minister Mugabe in 1982

Mugabe took his oath of office on 17 April 1980.[109] In April 1980, Mugabe gave a speech at Salisbury's Rufaro Stadium in which he announced that Rhodesia would be renamed "Zimbabwe" and pledged racial reconciliation.[110] Soames aided Mugabe in bringing about an orderly transition of power; for this Mugabe remained grateful, describing Soames as "so good a friend".[111] Mugabe tried to convince Soames to remain in Zimbabwe for several more years, although the latter declined and returned to Britain.[111] The new Prime Minister had also requested that the UK assume a two-year "guiding role" for his government because most ZANU-PF members lacked any experience in government, however the British declined.[91] Although ZANU-PF's absolute parliamentary majority would allow them to rule alone, Mugabe invited members of rival parties to join his cabinet, thus creating a government of national unity.[112] Mugabe moved into the Premier's residence in Harare, which he left furnished in the same style as Smith had left it.[113] His Harare residences would be heavily fortified.[114]

Across the country, statues of Cecil Rhodes were removed and squares and roads named after prominent white colonialists were renamed after black liberationists.[115] In 1982 Salisbury was renamed Harare.[115] Mugabe employed North Korean architects to design Heroes' Acre, a monument complex in western Harare to commemorate the liberation struggle.[116] Zimbabwe also received much aid from Western countries, who were hoping that a stable and prosperous Zimbabwe would aid the transition of South Africa away from apartheid and minority rule.[117] The United States provided Zimbabwe with a $25 million three-year aid package.[117] The United Kingdom financed a land redistribution program,[118] and also provided a military assistance team to aid the integration of the guerrilla armies and old Rhodesian army into a new Zimbabwean military.[118] Members of both ZANLA and ZIPRA were integrated into the army, although there remained a strong rivalry between the two groups.[119] As President, Mugabe retained Walls as the head of the armed forces.[111]

Mugabe's government continued to make regular pronouncements about converting Zimbabwe into a socialist society, although did not take concrete steps in that direction.[120] In contrast to Mugabe's talk of socialism, his government's budgetary policies were conservative, operating within a capitalist framework and emphasising the need for foreign investment.[115] In office, Mugabe sought a gradual transformation away from capitalism and tried to build upon existing state institutions.[111] From 1980 to 1990, the country's economy grew by an average of 2.7% a year, but this was outstripped by population growth and real income declined.[121] The unemployment rate rose, reaching 26% in 1990.[121] The government ran a budget defecit year-on-year that averaged at 10% of the country's gross domestic product.[121] Under Mugabe's leadership, there was a massive expansion in education and health spending.[121] In 1980, Zimbabwe had 177 secondary schools, but by 2000 this number had risen to 1,548.[121] During that period, the adult literacy rate rose from 62% to 82%, one of the best records in Africa.[121] Levels of child immunisation were raised from 25% of the population to 92%.[121]

A new leadership elite were formed, who often expressed their newfound status through purchasing large houses and expensive cars, sending their children to private schools, and obtaining farms and businesses.[122] To contain their excesses, in 1984 Mugabe drew up a "leadership code" which prohibited any senior figures from obtaining more than one salary or owning over 50-acres of agricultural land.[122] There were exceptions, with Mugabe giving permission to General Solomon Mujuru to expand his business empire, resulting in him becoming one of the Zimbabwe's wealthiest people.[123] Growing corruption among the socio-economic elite generated resentment among the wider population, much of which was living in poverty.[124]

Prime Minister Mugabe departs Andrews Air Force Base after a state visit to the United States in 1983

ZANU-PF also sought to establish its own business empire, founding the M&S Syndicate in 1980 and the Zidoo Holdings in 1981.[123] By 1992, the party had fixes assets and businesses were worth an estimated Z$500 million (US$75 million).[123] In 1980, ZANU-PF used Nigerian funds to set up the Mass Media Trust, through which they bought out a South African company that owned most of Zimbabwe's newspapers.[125] The white editors of these newspapers were sacked and replaced by government appointees.[122] These media outlets subsequently became a source of the party's propaganda.[122]

At independence, 39% of Zimbabwe's land was under the ownership of around 6000 white large-scale commercial farmers, while 4% was owned by black small-scale commercial farmers, and 41% was 'communal land' where 4 million people lived, often in overcrowded conditions.[126] The Lancaster House agreement had maintained that for ten years after the 1980 election, the sale of land could only take place on a "willing seller-willing buyer" basis. The only exceptions that were permitted were if the land was "underutilised" or needed for a public purpose, in which case the government could compulsorily purchase it while the owner with full compensation.[127] This meant that Mugabe's government was largely restricted to purchasing land which was of poor quality.[127] Its targets were to resettle 18,000 black families on 2.5 million acres of white-owned land over three years. This would cost £30 million (US $60 million), half of which was to be paid by the British government as part of the Lancaster House agreement.[126]

In 1986 Mugabe became chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a position that he retained until 1989.[128] As the leader of one of the Front Line States, the countries bordering apartheid South Africa, he gained credibility within the anti-apartheid movement.[128]

Race relations

Mugabe in the Netherlands, 1982

On taking the Premiership, Mugabe emphasised a message of racial reconciliation and was keen to build a good relationship with the white Zimbabwean community.[129] In doing so he hoped to avoid a white exodus and to allay the fears of Western nations that he would nationalise white-owned property.[130] Mugabe appointed two white ministers—David Smith and Denis Norman—to his government.[131] He also met with white leaders in agriculture, industry, mining, and commerce,[132] as well as with senior figures in the previous white administration like Ian Smith and Ken Flowers, impressing them with his apparent sincerity.[133] With an end to the guerrilla war, petrol rationing, and economic sanctions, life for white Zimbabweans improved during the early years of Mugabe's regime.[134] In the economic boom that followed, the country's white minority—who controlled considerable property and personal wealth and who dominated commerce, industry, and banking—were the country's main beneficiaries.[118] This continuing domination of the economy brought heavy criticism from various government ministers, with this criticism being publicised through the government-controlled media.[135] One of these ministers, Tekere, angered many whites after he condemned the Anglican Church as "an instrument of oppression".[136] Tekere was subsequently involved in an incident in which he and seven armed men stormed a white-owned farmhouse, killing an elderly farmer; they alleged that in doing so they were foiling a coup attempt. Tekere was acquitted of murder although Mugabe dropped him from the cabinet.[136]

"The wrongs of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten. If ever we look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequalities that must never find scope in our political and social system. It could never be a correct justification that just because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power. An evil remains an evil whether practised by white against black or black against white."

— Mugabe's speech after his 1980 victory[137]

Prominent white figures made comments critical of the new order; Ian Smith for example stated that black Zimbabweans should be grateful for the benefits of the previous ninety years of white minority rule.[135] Both he and other whites began to complain that they were suffering from recrimination.[135] Many white Zimbabweans remained uneasy about living under the government of a black Marxist and feared that their children would be unable to secure jobs.[118] There was a growing exodus to South Africa, and in 1980, 1700 whites—approximately a tenth of the white Zimbabwean population—emigrated.[118] Mugabe's government had pledged support for the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid forces within South Africa, although did not allow them to use Zimbabwe as a base for their military operations.[117] To protest apartheid and white-minority rule in South Africa, Mugabe's government banned Zimbabwe from engaging South Africa in any sporting competitions.[117] In turn, South Africa tried to destabilise Zimbabwe, blocking trade routes into the country and supporting anti-Mugabist militants among the country’s white minority.[138]

In December 1981, a bomb struck ZANU-PF headquarters, killing seven and injuring 124.[139] Mugabe attributed the attack to South African-backed white militants.[139] He stated that "what baffles my government is that reactionary and counter-revolutionary elements" in the white community, despite having not faced punishment for their actions under the previous regime, "have hardly repented". Instead of trying to aid racial reconciliation, he argued, "they have in practice rejected it and are acting in collusion with South Africa to harm our racial relations, to destroy our unity, to sabotage our economy, and to overthrow the popularly elected government I lead".[139] Increasingly he criticised not only the militants but the entire white community for the economic privilege that they continued to retain, stating that it was necessary to remove their monopoly on "Zimbabwe's economic power".[140]

Racial mistrust and suspicion continued to grow.[141] In December 1981 the elderly white MP Wally Stuttaford was accused of being a South African agent, arrested, tortured, although not charged, generating much anger among whites.[141] In July 1982, South African-backed white militants destroyed 13 aircraft at Thornhill. A number of white military officers were accused of complicity, arrested, and tortured. They were put on trial but cleared by judges, after which they were immediately re-arrested.[142] Their case generated an international outcry, which Mugabe criticised, stating that the case only gained such attention because the accused were white.[142] His defence of torture and contempt for legal procedures damaged his international standing.[143] White flight continued to grow, and within three years of Mugabe taking power half of all white Zimbabweans had emigrated.[143] In the 1985 election, Smith's Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe won 15 of the 20 seats allocated for white Zimbabweans.[144] Mugabe was outraged by this result, stating that most whites had "not repented in any way. They still cling to the past and support the very man [Smith]… who created a series of horrors against the people of Zimbabwe."[144]

Relations with ZAPU and the Gukurahundi

Main article: Gukurahundi
The flag of ZAPU, which were largely eliminated by ZANU-PF in the Gukurahundi

On becoming Prime Minister, Mugabe offered Nkomo the Presidency, making him a ceremonial head of state with no real power in government. Nkomo declined, and instead settled for becoming Minister of Home Affairs, giving him responsibility for the police force.[145] Despite working with each other in the cabinet, there remained an aura of resentment and suspicion between Mugabe and Nkomo.[145] Nkomo demanded that his ZAPU be permitted more than the four of the 23 cabinet seats that Mugabe had given them.[146] In contrast, some ZANU-PF figures argued that ZAPU should not have any seats in government, suggesting that Zimbabwe be converted into a one-party state.[147] Tekere and Enos Nkala were particularly adamant that there should be a crackdown on ZAPU.[147] After Nkala called for ZAPU to be violently crushed during a rally in Entumbane, street clashes between the two parties broke out in the city.[148] In January 1981 Nkomo was then demoted in a cabinet reshuffle; his warnings that this would generate unrest were ignored by Mugabe.[148] In February, violence between ZAPU and ZANU-PF supporters broke out among the battalion stationed at Ntabazindune, soon spreading to other army bases, resulting in 300 deaths.[149] An arms cache featuring land mines and anti-aircraft missiles were then discovered at Ascot Farm, which was part-owned by Nkomo. Mugabe cited this as evidence that ZAPU were plotting a coup, an allegation that Nkomo denied.[150] Likening Nkomo to "a cobra in the house", Mugabe sacked him from the government, and ZAPU-owned businesses, farms, and properties were seized.[151]

Members of both ZANLA and ZIPRA had deserted their positions and engaged in banditry.[147] In Matabeleland, ZIPRA deserters who came to be known as "dissenters" engaged in robbery, holding up buses, and attacking farm houses, creating an environment of growing lawlessness.[152] These dissidents received support from South Africa through its Operation Mute, by which it hoped to further destabilise Zimbabwe.[153] The government often conflated ZIPRA with the dissenters,[154] although Nkomo denounced the dissidents and their South African supporters.[155] Mugabe authorised the police and army to crack down on the Matabeleland dissenters, acknowledging that "extra-legal" actions would be necessary and that said state officers would therefore be granted immunity from prosecution for any of their actions.[155] During 1982 he had overseen the creation of the Fifth Brigade, an elite armed force trained by the North Koreans; their membership was drawn largely from Shona-speaking members of ZANLA and were answerable directly to the Prime Minister.[156] In January 1983, the Fifth Brigade were deployed in the region, overseeing a campaign of beatings, arson, public executions, and massacres of those accused of being sympathetic to the dissidents.[157] The scale of the violence was greater than that witnessed in the Rhodesian War.[158] Interrogation centres were established where people were tortured.[159] Mugabe acknowledged that civilians would be persecuted in the violence, claiming that "we can't tell who is a dissident and who is not".[160] The ensuing events became known as the "Gukurahundi", a Shona word meaning "wind that sweeps away the chaff before the rains".[161]

The Gukurahundi took place in Zimbabwe's western provinces of Matabeleland (pictured)

In 1984 the Gukurahundi spread to Matabelelend South, an area then in its third year of drought. The Fifth Brigade closed all stores, halted all deliveries, and imposed a curfew, exacerbating starvation for a period of two months.[162] The Bishop of Bulawayo accused Mugabe of overseeing a project of systematic starvation.[159] When a Roman Catholic delegation provided Mugabe with a dossier listing atrocities committed by the Fifth Brigade, Mugabe refuted all its allegations and accused the clergy of being disloyal to Zimbabwe.[163] In 1985, an Amnesty International report on the Gukurahundi was dismissed by Mugabe as "a heap of lies".[164] According to a report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, the Fifth Brigade killed between 10,000 and 20,000 people.[165] Over the course of four years, approximately 10,000 civilians had been killed, and many others beaten and tortured.[166] Genocide Watch later estimated that approximately 20,000 had been killed.[167]

The UK government of Margaret Thatcher had been aware of the killings but had remained silent on the matter, fearing that if they spoke out it would anger Mugabe and threaten the safety of white Zimbabweans.[168] The United States also did not raise strong objections, with President Ronald Reagan welcoming Mugabe to the White House in September 1983.[169] In October 1983, Mugabe attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in New Delhi, where no participating states raised the question of the Gukurahundi.[169] In 2000, Mugabe acknowledged that the mass killings had happened, stating that it was "an act of madness. We killed each other… it was wrong and both sides were to blame".[170] Meredith argued however that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF were solely to blame for the massacres.[170] Various Mugabe biographers have seen the Gukurahundi as a deliberate attempt to eliminate ZAPU and its support base in order to advance his desire for a ZANU-PF one-party state.[171]

There was further violence in the build-up to the 1985 election, with ZAPU supporters facing harassment from ZANU-PF Youth Brigades.[172] Despite this intimidation, ZAPU won all 15 of the parliamentary seats in Matabeleland.[172] Mugabe then appointed Nkala as the new police minister. Nkala subsequently detained over 100 ZAPU officials, including five of its MPs and the Mayor of Bulawayo, banned the party from holding rallies or meetings, closed all of their offices, and dissolved all of the district councils that they controlled.[173] To avoid further violence, in December 1987 Nkomo signed a Unity Accord in which ZAPU was officially disbanded and its leadership merged into ZANU-PF.[174] The merger between the two parties left ZANU-PF with 99 of the 100 seats in parliament,[175] and established Zimbabwe as a de facto one-party state.[169]

President of Zimbabwe

In late 1987, Zimbabwe's parliament rushed through a number of constitutional amendments.[176] On 30 December 1987, Zimbabwe's Parliament declared Mugabe to be executive President, a new position that combined the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.[177] This position gave him the power to dissolve parliament, declare martial law, and run for an unlimited number of terms.[177] According to his biographer Martin Meredith, this new position granted Mugabe "a virtual stranglehold on government machinery and unlimited opportunities to exercise patronage".[177] With Mugabe's powers increased, the place of parliament became less relevant and less independent.[178]

During the constitutional changes, the twenty parliamentary seats reserved for white representatives were also abolished.[176] In the build-up to the 1990 election, parliamentary reforms increased the number of seats to 120; of these, twenty were to be appointed by the President and ten by the Council of Chiefs.[179] This measure made it more difficult for any opposition to Mugabe to gain a parliamentary majority.[180] The main opposition party in that election were the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, launched by Tekere in April 1989.[181] ZANU-PF propaganda made threats against those considering voting ZUM in the election; one television advert for instance featured images of a car crash with the statement "This is one way to die. Another is to vote ZUM. Don't commit suicide, vote ZANU-PF and live."[182] In the election, Mugabe was re-elected President with nearly 80% of the vote, while ZANU-PF gained a parliamentary majority after securing 116 of the 119 available seats.[183] In the 1995 parliamentary election—which saw a low turnout of 31.7%—ZANU-PF gained 147 out of 150 seats.[184] Following the election, Mugabe expanded his cabinet from 29 to 42 ministers while the government adopted a 133% pay rise for MPs.[185]

By the mid-1990s Mugabe had become an irascible and petulant dictator, brooking no opposition, contemptuous of the law and human rights, surrounded by sycophantic ministers and indifferent to the incompetence and corruption around him. His record of economic management was lamentable. He had failed to satisfy popular expectations in education, health, land reform, and employment. And he had alienated the entire white community. Yet all the while Mugabe continued to believe in his own greatness. Isolated and remote from ordinary reality, possessing no close friends and showing clear signs of paranoia, he listened only to an inner circle of conspiratorial aids and colleagues. Whatever difficulties occurred he attributed to old enemies—Britain, the West, the old Rhodesian network—all bent, he believed, on destroying his "revolution."

— Mugabe biographer Martin Meredith[186]

In January 1992, Mugabe's wife died.[187] In April 1995, Horizon magazine revealed that Mugabe had secretly been having an affair with his secretary Grace Marufu since 1987 and that she had borne him a son and a daughter.[188] With this revealed, Mugabe decided to hold a much-publicised wedding. 12,000 people were invited to the August 1996 ceremony, which took place in Kutama and was orchestrated by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, Patrick Chakaipa.[189] The ceremony caused controversy among the Catholic community because of the adulterous nature of Mugabe and Marufu’s relationship.[189] To house his family, Mugabe then had a new mansion built at Borrowdale.[190]

Growing demand for constitutional reform resulted in Mugabe's government appointing a 400-member Constitutional Commission in April 1999. Its purpose was to draft a new constitution which could then be put to a referendum.[191] The National Constitutional Assembly—a pro-reform pressure group established in 1997—expressed concern that this commission was not independent of Mugabe's government, noting that he had the power to amend or reject the draft as he saw fit.[192] The NCA called for the draft constitution to be rejected, and in a February 2000 referendum it was, with 53% against to 44% in favour; turnout was under 25%.[193] It was the first major electoral defeat for ZANU-PF in twenty years.[194]

Mugabe has been the Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe since Parliament passed the University of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill in November 1990 and is also Chancellor of all state Universities including Bindura University, National University of Science and Technology, Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Science and Technology, Lupane State University, harare Institute of Technology, Great Zimbabwe University and Gwanda State University,[195]

Economic reform

Main article: Economy of Zimbabwe

Mugabe and others in ZANU-PF had long hoped to convert Zimbabwe into a one-party state, however in 1990 Mozambique transitioned from a one-party state into a multi-party one and at the same time many of the one-party states in the Eastern Bloc were collapsing. Many in ZANU-PF began calling for their plans to be reassessed and after the 1990 elections Mugabe declared that any plans for a one-party state were being "postponed".[196] Following the collapse of the Marxist-Leninist regimes in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, in 1991 ZANU-PF removed any references to "Marxism-Leninism" and "scientific socialism" from its material, although Mugabe maintained that "socialism remains our sworn ideology".[196] That year, Mugabe pledged himself to free market economics and accepted a structural adjustment programme provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[121] This economic reform package called for Zimbabwe to privatise state assets and reduce import tariffs; Mugabe's government implemented some although not all of its recommendations.[121] The reforms encouraged employers to cut their wages, generating growing opposition from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.[184] In December 1999, the IMF ended all support for Zimbabwe, citing economic mismanagement and widespread corruption as impediments to reform.[197]

Zimbabwe's economy steadily declined.[198] By 2000, the living standards in Zimbabwe had declined from 1980; life expectancy was reduced, average wages were lower, and unemployment had trebled.[199] By 1998, unemployment was almost at 50%.[198] As of 2009, three to four million Zimbabweans—the greater part of the nation's skilled workforce—had left the country.[200] There were growing demands for pensions from those who had fought for the guerrilla armies in the revolutionary war, and in August 1997 Mugabe put together a pension package that would cost the county ZD 4.2 billion.[198] To help finance this pension scheme, Mugabe's government proposed a number of new taxes, but a general strike was called in protest in December 1997; amid protest from ZANU-PF itself, Mugabe's government abandoned the taxes.[198] In January 1998, riots about lack of access to food broke out in Harare; the army was deployed to restore order, with at least ten killed and hundreds injured.[198]

Mugabe claimed that Zimbabwe's economic problems were a result of sabotage by the country's white minority and Western nations.[199] He called on supporters "to strike fear in the hearts of the white man, our real enemy".[199] He accused his black opponents of being dupes of the whites.[201] Amid growing internal opposition to his government, he remained determined to stay in power.[199] He revived the regular use of revolutionary rhetoric and sought to reassert his credentials as an important revolutionary leader.[202] ZANU-PF increasingly equated itself with Zimbabwean patriotism,[203] with MDC supporters being portrayed as traitors and enemies of Zimbabwe.[204] The party presented itself as being on the progressive side of history, with the MDC representing a counter-revolutionary force that seeks to undermine the achievements of the ZANU-PF revolution and of decolonisation itself.[205]

Mugabe increasingly blamed the country's economic problems on the white minority, who still controlled most of its commercial agriculture, mines, and manufacturing industry.[206] He also developed a growing preoccupation with homosexuality, lambasting it as an "un-African" import from Europe.[207] He described gay people as being "guilty of sub-human behaviour", and of being "worse than dogs and pigs".[186] This attitude may have stemmed in part from his strong conservative values but also from an awareness that militant homophobia would be a popular move that distracted attention from the country's problems.[207] In August 1995 he was due to open a human rights-themed Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare but insisted that the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe be evicted.[208]

War and growing internal opposition

In 1996, Mugabe was appointed chair of the defence arm of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).[209] Without consulting parliament, in August 1998 Mugabe ordered Zimbabwean troops into the Congo to side with President Laurent Kabila in the Second Congo War.[210] He initially committed 3000 troops to the operation, although this would gradually rise to 11000.[210] He also persuaded Angola and Namibia to commit troops to the conflict.[210] Involvement in the war cost Zimbabwe an approximate US $1 million a day, contributing to its economic problems.[210] Opinion polls demonstrated that it was unpopular among the Zimbabwean population.[211] However, a number of Zimbabwean businessmen found it to be a profitable venture, having been given mining and timber concessions and preferential trade terms in minerals from Kabila's government.[210] The Congolese government, as well as international commentators, charged that the motive for the invasion was to grab the rich mineral resources of eastern Congo.[212][213]

In January 1999, 23 military officers were arrested for plotting a coup against Mugabe. The government sought to hide this, although it was reported on by journalists from The Standard. The military subsequently illegally arrested the journalists and tortured them.[214] This brought international condemnation, with the EU and seven donor nations issuing protest notes.[215] Lawyers and human rights activists protested outside parliament until being dispersed by riot police,[215] and the country's Supreme Court judges issued a letter condemning the military's actions.[216] In February, Mugabe gave a public address in which he defended the use of extra-legal arrest and torture.[217]

Social programs

According to a 1995 World Bank report, after independence, "Zimbabwe gave priority to human resource investments and support for smallholder agriculture," and as a result, "smallholder agriculture expanded rapidly during the first half of the 1980s and social indicators improved quickly." From 1980 to 1990 infant mortality decreased from 86 to 49 per 1000 live births, under five mortality was reduced from 128 to 58 per 1000 live births, and immunisation increased from 25% to 80% of the population. Also, "child malnutrition fell from 22% to 12% and life expectancy increased from 56 to 64. By 1990, Zimbabwe had a lower infant mortality rate, higher adult literacy and higher school enrolment rate than average for developing countries".[218]

In 1991, the government of Zimbabwe, short on hard currency and under international pressure, embarked on an austerity program. The World Bank's 1995 report explained that such reforms were required because Zimbabwe was unable to absorb into its labour market the many graduates from its impressive education system and that it needed to attract additional foreign investments. The reforms, however, undermined the livelihoods of Zimbabwe's poor majority; the report noted "large segments of the population, including most smallholder farmers and small scale enterprises, find themselves in a vulnerable position with limited capacity to respond to evolving market opportunities. This is due to their limited access to natural, technical and financial resources, to the contraction of many public services for smallholder agriculture, and to their still nascent links with larger scale enterprises."

Moreover, these people were forced to live on marginal lands as Zimbabwe's best lands were reserved for mainly white landlords growing cash crops for export, a sector of the economy favoured by the IMF's plan. For the poor on the communal lands, "existing levels of production in these areas are now threatened by the environmental fragility of the natural resource base and the unsustainability of existing farming practices".[218] The International Monetary Fund later suspended aid, saying reforms were "not on track."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), life expectancy at birth for Zimbabwean men has since become 37 years and is 34 years for women, the lowest such figures for any nation.[219] The World Bank's 1995 report predicted this decline in life expectancy from its 1990 height of 64 years when, commenting on health care system cuts mandated by the IMF structural adjustment programme, it stated that "The decline in resources is creating strains and threatening the sustainability of health sector achievements".[218]

While Zimbabwe has suffered in many other measures under Mugabe, as a former schoolteacher he has been well known for his commitment to education.[89] As of 2008, Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90%, the highest in Africa.[220] However, Catholic Archbishop of Zimbabwe Pius Ncube decried the educational situation in the country, saying, among other scathing indictments of Mugabe, "We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing".[221]

Prior to its suspension in 2009, the Zimbabwe dollar had suffered from the second-highest hyperinflation rate of any currency in modern times.[222]

When Zimbabwe gained independence, 46.5% of the country's arable land was owned by around 6,000 commercial farmers,[223] and white farmers, who made up less than 1% of the population, owned 70% of the best farming land.[224] Mugabe accepted a "willing buyer, willing seller" plan as part of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, among other concessions to the white minority.[225] As part of this agreement, land redistribution was blocked for a period of 10 years.[226]

By 1990, 52,000 black families had been settled on 6.5 million acres but this had not been enough to deal with the country’s overcrowding problem, which was being exacerbated by the growth in the black population.[227] That year, Zimbabwe’s parliament passed an amendment which would allow the government to expropriate land at a fixed price while denying the land-owners’ right to appeal to the courts.[228] The government hoped that by doing so it could settle 110,000 black families on 13 million acres, which would require the expropriation of approximately half of the total land owned by white Zimbabweans.[228] Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union argued that the proposed measures would wreck the country’s economy, urging the government to settle landless blacks on the half-a-million acres of land owned by the state or on unproductive land rather than on expropriated farms.[229] This proposed measure raised concerns, particularly for denying the right of legal appeal, which were voiced by the UK, US, and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.[228] The US, UK, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund warned that Zimbabwe would forfeit aid packages but Mugabe remained defiant.[230] Responding to the criticisms, the government removed the ban on court appeals from the bill, which was then passed as law.[231] Over the following few years, hundreds of thousands of acres of largely white-owned land were expropriated.[232] In April 1994, a newspaper investigation found that not all of this was then redistributed to landless blacks; a 3000-acre farm in Hwedza had been leased to the minister Witness Mangwende,[233] and further investigation found that much of the expropriated land had been leased to ministers and senior officials.[185] As a result of the scandal, the UK government ceased providing further funding for the land resettlement program.[185]

Land reform and growing condemnation: 2000–2008

In February 2000, the land invasions began as armed gangs attacked and occupied white-owned farms.[234] The government referred to the attackers as "war veterans" although the majority were unemployed youth too young to have fought in the Rhodesian War.[234] Mugabe initially claimed that the attacks were a spontaneous uprising against white land owners, although the government had paid Z$20 million to Chenjerai Hunzvi's War Veterans Association to lead the land invasion campaign and ZANU-PF officials, police, and military figures were all involved in facilitating it.[235] Some of Mugabe's colleagues described the invasions as retribution for the white community's alleged involvement in securing the success of the 'no' vote in the recent referendum.[236] For Mugabe, the seizure of white-owned farms was justified by the fact that this land had first been seized by white settlers from the indigenous African population in the 1890s.[237] He portrayed the invasions as a struggle against colonialism and alleged that the UK was trying to overthrow his government,[238] erroneously claiming that the British Royal Navy was intercepting oil tankers bringing fuel to Zimbabwe and that the UK had amassed an invasion force in neighbouring Botswana.[239] In May 2000 he issued a decree under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act which empowered the government to seize farms without providing compensation, insisting that it was the British government who should make these payments.[240]

"The courts can do whatever they want, but no judicial decision will stand in our way... My own position is that we should not even be defending our position in the courts. This country is our country and this land is our land... They think because they are white they have a divine right to our resources. Not here. The white man is not indigenous to Africa. Africa is for Africans, Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans."

— Mugabe on the land seizures[241]

In March 2000, Zimbabwe's High Court ruled that the land invasions were illegal but this ruling was ignored.[242] After the courts ruled these actions illegal, Mugabe began vilifying Zimbabwe's judiciary.[243] After the Supreme Court also backed this decision, the government called on the Supreme Court judges to resign, successfully pressuring chief justice Anthony Gubbay to do so.[244] The government then appointed ZANU-PF member Godfrey Chidyausiku to replace him, and expanded the number of Supreme Court judges from five to eight, giving the three additional seats to pro-Mugabe figures. The first act of the new Supreme Court was to reverse the previous declaration that the land seizures were illegal.[245] In November 2001 Mugabe then issued a presidential decree permitting the expropriation of virtually all white-owned farms in Zimbabwe without compensation.[246]

The farm seizures were often violent, and by 2006 a reported sixty white farmers had been killed, with many of their employees having been intimidated and tortured.[247] A large number of the seized farms remained empty, while many of those redistributed to black peasant-farmers were unable to engage in production for the market because of their lack of access to fertiliser.[248]

The farm invasions severely impacted agricultural development.[249] Whereas Zimbabwe had produced over two million tons of maize in 2000, by 2008 this had declined to approximately 450,000 tons.[247] By October 2003, Human Rights Watch reported that half of the country's population were food insecure, lacking enough food to meet basic needs.[250] By 2009, 75% of Zimbabwe's population were relying on food aid, the highest proportion of any country at that time.[250] There were reports that Mugabe was diverting state food supplies to his own supporters and away from those of his opponents.[251] Inflation ensued and created an economic crisis in Zimbabwe.[248] By October 2008, the rate of inflation was at an estimated 231 million per year.[252] In early 2009, Mugabe's government declared that it would recognise U.S. dollars as legal tender and would pay government employment in this currency.[252] This helped to stabilise prices.[252] Increasing numbers of Zimbabweans relied on remittances from relatives abroad.[250] Other sectors of society were negatively affected too. By 2005, an estimated 80% of Zimbabwe's population were unemployed,[253] and by 2008 only 20% of children were in schooling.[253] The breakdown of water supplies and sewage systems resulted in a cholera outbreak in late 2008, with over 98,000 cholera cases in Zimbabwe between August 2008 and mid-July 2009.[252] The ruined economy also impacted the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country; by 2008 the HIV/AIDS rate for individuals aged between 15 and 49 was 15.3%.[254]

The June 2000 parliamentary elections attracted international attention and were considered the most important in Zimbabwean history since 1980.[255] Sixteen parties took part, although the new Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) proved particularly successful.[255] During the election campaign, MDC activists were regularly harassed and in some cases killed by ZANU-PF supporters;[256] in May 2000, the Amani Trust recorded 5,070 incidents of political violence and 15 recorded instances of MDC supporters being killed.[257] Over the course of the election, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum documented 27 murders, 27 rapes, 2466 assaults, and 617 abductions, with 10,000 people displaced by violence; although some of this was perpetrated by MDC supporters, the majority was carried out by ZANU-PF supporters.[258] As a result of this electoral violence and intimidation, observers from the European Union (EU) ruled that the election was neither free nor fair.[259] The final result gave 48% of the vote to ZANU-PF and 47% to the MDC; the former attained 62 parliamentary seats and the latter 57.[260] This marked the first time since independence that ZANU-PF were denied the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to push through constitutional change.[255] ZANU-PF had relied heavily on their support base in rural Shona-speaking areas, and retained only one urban constituency.[261] One in parliament, the MDC MPs attempted to impeach Mugabe in October 2000, although the proceedings were terminated by the Speaker of the House, Mugabe-loyalist Emmerson Mnangagwa.[262]

Growing condemnation

In 1997, the New Labour government of Tony Blair was elected in the UK. In power, they expressed reticence toward continuing to pay for the land reform programme.[263] In October 1999 Mugabe visited Britain; in London the human rights activist Peter Tatchell attempted a citizen's arrest of him.[264] Mugabe believed that the incident was a stunt deliberately engineered by the British government in order to embarrass him.[265] It damaged Anglo-Zimbabwean relations,[265] with Mugabe expressing scorn for what he called "Blair and company".[266] In May 2000, the UK froze development aid to Zimbabwe.[267]

Mugabe's actions in the land reform issue brought strong criticism. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches accused him of plunging the country into "a de facto state of warfare" in order to stay in power.[268] A number of Southern African states remonstrated with him at a summit in Harare in September 2001.[269] In 2002, the British Commonwealth expelled Zimbabwe from among its ranks, something Mugabe blamed on anti-black racism.[270] Similarly, South African President Thabo Mbeki claimed that attempts by the British Commonwealth to ostracise Mugabe were "inspired by notions of white supremacy".[271] In 2004, the European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and 94 other Zimbabweans,[270] with British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for tougher sanctions.[270] The Africa-Europe Summit, scheduled to take place in Lisbon in April 2003, was deferred repeatedly because African leaders refused to attend while Mugabe was banned. It eventually took place in 2007 with Mugabe in attendance, although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted it as a result.[272]

Responding to intimidation of MDC activists and supporters, in 2005, South African President Thabo Mbeki embarked on a project of "quiet diplomacy".[273] Mbeki prevented the African Union (AU) from introduction any sanctions against Mugabe.[274] Mugabe's regime was criticised by a number of African states, among them Botswana, Zambia, and Tanzania.[274] In 2005 Mugabe instituted Operation Murambatsvina ("Operation Drive Out the Rubbish"), a project of forced slum clearance.[251][275] In this, the homes and businesses of around 700,000 urban Zimbabweans were destroyed according to a United Nations report.[251][276] Since the inhabitants of the shantytowns overwhelmingly supported the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party in the previous election, many alleged that the mass bulldozing was politically motivated.[275]

In 2009, the SADC demanded that Western states lift their targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his government.[271] ZANU-PF presented the sanctions as a form of Western neo-colonialism and were accused of being responsible for Zimbabwe's economic problems.[277]

On 8 December 2003, in protest against a further 18 months of suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations (thereby cutting foreign aid to Zimbabwe), Mugabe withdrew his country from the Commonwealth. Mugabe informed the leaders of Jamaica, Nigeria and South Africa of his decision when they telephoned him to discuss the situation. Zimbabwe's government said the President did not accept the Commonwealth's position, and was leaving the group.[278]

Mugabe in Ethiopia, 2009

In 2008 the EU extended its sanctions against Zimbabwe,[270] while the G8 expressed "grave concern" about the situation in the country.[279] That year the U.S. government of President George W. Bush tightened a travel ban of 250 senior Zimbabwean figures and banned Americans from doing business with them.[279] Bush's successor, Barack Obama, refused to lift those sanctions and although pledging $73 million of aid for the country, insisted that it go through aid organisations and UN agencies rather than through the government.[279] In 2008, the US and UK had introduced a resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling for an arms embargo of Zimbabwe alongside an asset freeze and travel ban of Mugabe and other government figures.[279] It was vetoed by Russia and China, who argued that UNSC could only take measures against a state if it was a threat to peace and stability, which Zimbabwe was not.[279]

After EU observers were barred from examining Zimbabwe's 2002 elections, the EU imposed sanctions on Mugabe and 94 members of his government, banning them from travelling to participating countries and freezing any assets held there. The United States instituted similar restrictions. The EU's ban has a few loopholes, resulting in Mugabe taking a few trips into Europe despite the ban. Mugabe is permitted to travel to UN events within European and American borders.[280][281] The EU travel ban did not apply to Vatican City, and in April 2005 Mugabe attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II.[282][283]

The United Nations provoked anger when its Food and Agriculture Organisation invited Mugabe to speak at a celebration of its 60th anniversary in Rome. Critics of the move argued that since Mugabe could not feed his own people without the support of the UN, he was an inappropriate speaker for the group, which has a mission statement of "helping to build a world without hunger".[276]

As of September 2006, Mugabe's family owns three farms: "Highfield Estate" in Norton, 45 km west of Harare, "Iron Mask Estate" in Mazowe, about 40 km from Harare, and "Foyle Farm" in Mazowe, formerly owned by Ian Webster and adjacent to Iron Mask Farm and renamed "Gushungo Farm" after Mugabe's own clan name.[284] These farms were seized forcibly from their previous owners.[285]

In November 2010 the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University in England released a comprehensive study on the effects of Zimbabwean land reform. The study suggested that the consequences were mixed but that previous claims that the reform was a failure, that its primary recipients were political "cronies" or that it caused rural collapse were unfounded. One of the study's authors, Professor Ian Scoones, stated: "What comes through from our research is the complexity, the differences in experience, almost farm by farm; there is no single, simple story of the Zimbabwe land reform as sometimes assumed by press reports, political commentators, or indeed much academic study".[286] In 2015 he announced a proposal to return some land to white farmers.[287]

Indigenisation and Black Economic Empowerment

On 9 March 2008, Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe signed the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill into law. After many years of lobbying for Black Economic Empowerment similar to the Affirmative action initiative undertaken in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela under the advise of Nthato Motlana, Cyril Ramaphosa & others. Prominent Indigenous Businessmen such as Ben Mucheche, Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo, John Mapondera, James Makamba, Enoch Kamushinda, Saviour Kasukuwere & Peter Pamire with strong backing from Lobby Groups as IBDC (founded by Strive Masiyiwa), IBWO (founded by Jane Mutasa) & AAG (founded by Phillip Chiyangwa).[288] The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill was passed through parliament in September 2007 by President Mugabe's party, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Emmerson Mnangagwa was in charge of representing the Bill. In spite of resistance by the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).[289] President Robert Mugabe said his drive to give black Zimbabweans greater control of the southern African economy will continue "unabated" following his "resounding" endorsement in the 31 July elections.[290] "The indigenisation and empowerment drive will continue unabated in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country's resources."[291] Mugabe said that giving black Zimbabweans control of the business sector is the next step and said the election result had given him a "resounding mandate" to do so. "We will do everything in our power to ensure our objective of total indigenisation, empowerment, development and employment is realised," he told a public rally to mark the annual Defence Forces Day. He said the policy was the "final phase of the liberation struggle" and "final phase of total independence".[292]


Mugabe claimed that the build-up to the 2002 presidential election represented "the third Chimurenga" and that it would set Zimbabwe free from its colonial heritage.[293] In the build-up to the election, the government changed the electoral rules and regulations in order to improve Mugabe's chances of victory.[294] New security legislation was introduced making it illegal to criticise the President.[294] The defence force commander, General Zvinavashe, stated that the military would not recognise any election result other than a Mugabe victory.[295] The EU withdrew its observers from the country, stating that the vote was neither free nor fair.[295] The election resulted in Mugabe securing 56% of the vote to Tsvangerai's 42%.[296] In the aftermath of the election Mugabe declared that the state-owned Grain Marketing Board had the sole right to important and distribute grain, with the state distributors giving food to ZANU-PF supporters while withholding it from those suspected of backing the MDC.[297]

Mugabe in 2011

Mugabe faced Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in presidential elections in March 2002.[298] Mugabe defeated Tsvangirai by 56.2% to 41.9% amid violence and the prevention of large numbers of citizens in urban areas from voting. The conduct of the elections was widely viewed internationally as having been manipulated.[299][300] Many groups, such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, and Tsvangirai's party, assert that the result was rigged.[298]

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party won the 2005 parliamentary elections with an increased majority. The elections were said by (again) South African observers to "reflect the free will of the people of Zimbabwe", despite accusations of widespread fraud from the MDC.[301]

On 6 February 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including five-year veteran finance minister Herbert Murerwa.[302]

On 11 March 2007, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten following a prayer meeting in the Harare suburb of Highfields. Another member of the Movement for Democratic Change was killed while other protesters were injured.[303]

Power-sharing with the MDC: 2008–2013

In March 2008, presidential and parliamentary elections were held. The latter were won by the MDC, which had gained the majority of seats.[304] According to unofficial polling, ZANU-PF took 94 seats, and the MDC took 96 seats.[305] On 3 April 2008 Zimbabwean government forces began cracking down on the main opposition party and arrested at least two foreign journalists, who were covering the disputed presidential election, including a correspondent for the New York Times.[306][307]

Mugabe in 2008

On 30 March 2008, Mugabe convened a meeting with his top security officials to discuss his defeat in the elections. According to the Washington Post, he was prepared to concede, but was advised by Zimbabwe's military chief Gen. Constantine Chiwenga to remain in the race, with the senior military officers "supervising a military-style campaign against the opposition".[308] The first phase of the plan started a week later, involving the building of 2,000 party compounds across Zimbabwe, to serve as bases for the party militias.[308] On an 8 April 2008 meeting, the military plan was given the code name of "CIBD", which stood for: "Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement."[308]

The official results for the presidential elections would be delayed for five weeks. When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown attempted to intervene into the election controversy, Mugabe dismissed him as "a little tiny dot on this planet".[309]

When the official results for the presidential elections were finally published by the Zimbabwe election commission on 2 May 2008, they showed that Mugabe had lost in the first round, getting 1,079,730 votes (43.2%) against 1,195,562 (47.9%) collected by Mr. Tsvangirai. Therefore, no candidate secured the final win in the first round, and a presidential run-off will be needed. The opposition called the results "scandalous daylight robbery", claiming an outright victory in the first round with 50.3% of the votes.[310] However, closer analysis of the opposition MDC's own figures, as published on the party's website at time, showed they had secured 49.1% of the vote and not the claimed requisite of more than 50% to avoid a run-off election.[311] Mugabe saw his 2008 defeat as an unacceptable personal humiliation.[312] He saw it as a victory for his Western, and in particular British, detractors, whom he believed were working with Tsvangirai to end his political career.[312]

Between March and June 2008, at least 153 MDC supporters were killed.[313] There were reports of women affiliated with the MDC being subjected to gang rape by Mugabe supporters.[313] Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were internally displaced by the violence.[313] In addition, at least 100 officials and polling officers of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were arrested after the first round election.[314][315]

Mugabe in 2009

Mugabe's run-off campaign was managed by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief of the conflict of Gukurahundi.[308] The Washington Post asserts that the campaign of violence was bringing results to the ruling party, by crushing the opposition party MDC and coercion of its supporters. By 20 June 2008, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights had "recorded 85 deaths in political violence since the first round of voting".[316]

Tsvangirai initially agreed to a presidential run-off against Mugabe,[317] but lwithdrew in June 2008, citing the violence, and claiming that Mugabe would not let him win.[318]

The run-off election was held on 27 June 2008, and Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission released the results two days later. The official results showed that Mugabe had managed to double his votes since the first round, to 2,150,269 votes (85.5%), while his opponent Tsvangirai obtained only 233,000 (9.3%).[319] However Tsvangirai had pulled out previously because of widespread violence from the ZANU-PF's forces. The violence includes beating, rape and others. Many voted because if they did not they could face violence against them. Although witnesses and election monitors had reported a low turnout in many areas of the country,[320] the official tally showed that the total vote had increased, from 2,497,265 votes in the first round[321] to 2,514,750 votes in the second round.[319]

Mugabe's inauguration to his sixth presidential term of office was a hastily arranged ceremony, convened barely an hour after the electoral commission declared his victory on 29 June 2008.[322] None of his fellow African heads of state were present at his inauguration; there were only family members, ministers, and security chiefs in the guests' tent.[323]

In September 2008, the leaders of the SADC witnessed the signing of the power-sharing agreement, brokered by Mbeki. Mugabe, Mutambara and Tsvangirai signed the deal to end the violent political crisis; Mugabe was recognised as president, and Tsvangirai as prime minister.[324] The MDC would control the police, the ZANU-PF the Army, and Arthur Mutambara became deputy prime minister.[325][326] ZANU-PF were anxious to prevent any sweeping political changes.[327] Under the power-sharing agreement, a number of limited reforms were passed.[328] ZANU-PF blogged many of the proposed reforms although a new constitution was passed in March 2013.[328]

In September 2010 speculation began that Mugabe was dying of cancer.[329][330][331] It is rumoured that his choice of successor would be Simba Makoni.[332] These rumours were enhanced later the same month when WikiLeaks reported that Mugabe's close friend, Gideon Gono, had revealed that Mugabe had prostate cancer that would likely kill him by 2013.[333][334] This speculation resurfaced in May 2014, when Mugabe was seen visiting a hospital with a well-known cancer clinic.[335]

Later years: 2013–present

Mugabe and his wife in 2013

Declaring that he would "fight like a wounded animal" for re-election,[312] Mugabe approached the 2013 elections believing that it would be the final electoral campaign of his career.[336] He hoped that a decisive electoral victory would help to secure his legacy, cause irreparable damage to Tsangirai's political credibility, and signal Mugabe's triumph over his Western critics.[336] The opposition parties believed that this election was their best chance for ousting Mugabe.[337]

The ZANU-PF elite had agreed to try and avoid the violence that had marred the 2008 election so as not to undermine the credibility of the election.[328] For this reason, in his campaign Mugabe called upon supporters to avoid violence and appealed for peace.[328] Having examined polling data and embarked on a program of registering ZANU-PF supporters to vote, Mugabe and his party believed that they would be victorious without any need for political violence.[328] He also wanted the 2013 election to be deemed credible in the eyes of the SADC, for this would remove Zimbabwe from the organisation's political crisis agenda, thus allowing Zimbabwe's government to consolidate its rule without interference.[328]

In contrast to 2008, ZANU-PF fully rallied around Mugabe, with no organised dissent against him in the party.[338] During the campaign, Mugabe attended far fewer rallies than in past elections, in part because of his advanced age and in part to ensure that those rallies he did attend were larger, thus enhancing perceptions of his popularity.[339] His opponents, among them Tsvangerai, portrayed him as a feeble old man who was being told what to do by the military,[340] although at least one academic observer argued that this was not the case.[340] The ZANU-PF offered gifts, including food and clothing, to many members of the electorate to encourage them to vote for the party.[341]

Mugabe (centre) attending the Third India-Africa Forum in 2015

ZANU-PF won a landslide victory, with 61% of the presidential vote and over two-thirds of parliamentary seats.[342] The elections were not considered free and fair; there were widespread stories of vote rigging and many voters may have been fearful of the violence that had surrounded the 2008 election.[342] During the campaign, many MDC supporters had remained quiet about their views out of fear of reprisals.[343] The MDC was also negatively impacted by its time in coalition government, with perceptions that it had been just as corrupt as ZANU-PF and that it had failed to make any difference.[344] ZANU-PF had also capitalised on its appeals to African race, land, and liberation, while the MDC was often associated with white farmers, Western nations, and perceived Western values such as LGBT rights.[345]

In February 2014, Mugabe underwent a cataract operation in Singapore; on return he celebrated his ninetieth birthday at a Marondera football stadium.[346] In 2014, speculation began that Mugabe's wife will succeed him in case of the event of his death.[347][348] Mugabe was elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) on 30 January 2015.[349] In 2015, Mugabe attempted to censor photographs of him losing his balance in public.[350] In November that same year, he announced of his intention to run for re-election in 2018, at the age of 94, and has been accepted as the ZANU-PF candidate.[351] In February 2016, Mugabe said he had no plans for retirement and would remain in power "until God says 'come'".[352]

In December 2014 it was reported that Mugabe fired his vice-president, Joice Mujuru, along with several other officials. They were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe's regime, although they deny this allegation. Mugabe, at 90 and in deteriorating health, must consider a successor to his regime. It is speculated that firing Mujuru would give way to either his wife, Grace Mugabe, rising to power, or Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over when he retires or dies.[353]


Mugabe has stated that "socialism has to be much more Christian than capitalism".[15] The English academic Claire Palley met Mugabe in 1962, later noting that "he struck me as not so much a doctrinaire Marxist but an old-fashioned African nationalist".[354] Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni argued that since the mid-1990s, Mugabe's rhetoric and speeches came to be dominated by three main themes: an obsession with a perceived British threat to re-colonise Zimbabwe, to transfer the land controlled by white farmers to the black population, and issues of belonging and patriotism.[355]

David Blair stated that "Mugabe's collected writings amount to nothing more than crude Marxism, couched in the ponderous English of the mission school", remarking that they were heavily informed by Marx, Mao Zedong, and Frantz Fanon, and displayed little originality.[85] Blair noted that Mugabe's writings called for "command economics in a peasant society, mixed with anti-colonial nationalism", and that in this he held "the same opinions as almost every other African guerrilla leader" of that period.[85]

"Mugabeism as form of populist reason is a multifaceted phenomenon requiring a multi-pronged approach to decipher its various meanings. At one level it represents pan-African memory and patriotism and at another level it manifests itself as a form of radical left-nationalism dedicated to resolving intractable national and agrarian questions. Yet, to others, it is nothing but a symbol of crisis, chaos and tyranny emanating from the exhaustion of nationalism."

— Ndlovu-Gatsheni[356]

Ndlovu-Gatsheni characterised "Mugabeism" as a populist movement that was "marked by ideological simplicity, emptiness, vagueness, imprecision, and multi-class character",[357] further noting that it was "a broad church".[358] He also characterised it as a form of "left-nationalism",[33] which consistently railed against imperialism and colonialism.[359] He also argued that it was a form of nativism,[360] and was permeated by a strong "cult of victimisation" by which a binary view was propagated of Africa as a "victim" and the West as its "tormentor".[361] He suggested that it had been influenced by a wide range of ideologies, among them forms of Marxism like Stalinism and Maoism, as well as African nationalist ideologies like Nkrumahism, Nyereirism, Garveyism, Negritude, Pan-Africanism, and African neo-traditionalism.[357] Mugabism sought to deal with the problem of white settler racism by engaging in a project of reverse racism that sought to deny white Zimbabweans citizenship by constantly referring to them as "amabhunu/Boers", thus enabling the removal of their land.[362]

The Zimbabwean scholar George Shire described Mugabe's policies as being "broadly-speaking" social-democratic.[363] ZANU-PF claim to be influenced by Marxism-Leninism although Onslow and Redding stated that it "owes more to a philosophy that sees peasant-based agrarian revolutions as engines of social and economic change."[205] As a result of this pro-rural view, they argued, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF demonstrated an anti-urban bias.[205]

During the 1980s, Mugabe indicated his desire to transform Zimbabwe from a multi-party state into a one-party state.[364] In 1984 he stated that "the one-party state is more in keeping with African tradition. It makes for greater unity for the people. It puts all opinions under one umbrella, whether these opinions are radical or reactionary".[364] The political scientist Sue Onslow and historian Sean Redding stated that Zimbabwe's situation was "more complex than pure venial dictatorship", but that it was an "ideo-dictatorship".[202]

Personal life

The academic Blessing-Miles Tendi stated that Mugabe was "an extremely complex figure, not easily captured by conventional categories".[365] Similarly, the Mugabe biographer David Blair described him as an "exceptionally complex personality".[5] Mugabe's first biographers, David Smith and Colin Simpson, noted that the Zimbabwean leader had been "a serious young man, something of a loner, diligent, hard-working, a voracious reader who used every minute of his time, not much given to laughter: but above all, single-minded."[366] Blair commented that Mugabe's "self-discipline, intelligence and appetite for hard work were remarkable",[367] adding that his "prime characteristics" were "ruthlessness and resilience".[85] Blair argued that Mugabe shared many character traits with Ian Smith, stating that they were both "proud, brave, stubborn, charismatic, deluded fantasists".[368] Meredith described Mugabe as having a "soft-spoken demeanour,... broad intellect, and... articulate manner", all of which disguised his "hardened and single-minded ambition".[81] Ndlovu-Gatsheni described Mugabe as "one of the most charismatic African leaders", highlighting that he was "very eloquent" and was able to make "fine speeches".[33] Tendi stated that although he had a natural wittiness, Mugabe often hid this behind "an outwardly pensive and austere manner and his penchant for ceremony and tradition".[369]

According to Meredith, Mugabe presented himself as "articulate, thoughtful, and conciliatory" after his 1980 election victory.[111] Blair noted that at this period of his career, Mugabe displayed "genuine magnanimity and moral courage" despite his "intense personal reasons for feeling bitterness and hatred" toward the members of the former regime.[370]

Several Mugabe biographers have observed that he had an obsession with accruing power.[371] According to Meredith, "power for Mugabe was not a means to an end, but the end itself."[372] Conversely, Onslow and Redding suggested that Mugabe craved power for "ideological and personal reasons", for he believed that the MDC were not a legitimate opposition movement.[205] Colin Legum, a journalist with The Observer, argued that Mugabe had a "paranoidal personality", in that while he did not suffer from clinical paranoia, he did behave in a paranoid fashion when placed under severe and sustained pressure.[5]

Following his dealing with Mugabe during the 1979 negotiations, Michael Pallister, head of the British Foreign Office, described Mugabe as having "a very sharp, sometimes rather aggressive, and unpleasant manner".[86] The British diplomat Peter Longworth stated that in private conversation, Mugabe was "very charming and very articulate and he's not devoid of humour. It's very difficult to relate the man you meet with the man ranting on television".[367] References to the Zimbabwean liberation struggle featured prominently in Mugabe's speeches.[336]

Mugabe was a short man, measuring a little over 5 feet 7 inches,[367] and exhibited what David Blair described as "curious, effeminate mannerisms".[367] Mugabe took great care with his appearance, typically wearing a three-piece suit.[367] On taking power in 1980, Mugabe's hallmark was his wide-rimmed glasses,[112] and he was also known for his tiny moustache.[367] Unlike a number of other African leaders, Mugabe did not seek to mythologise his childhood.[370] He avoided smoking and drinking,[26] and—according to Smith and Simpson—had "enormous affection for children".[373] He spoke English impeccably and adopted an English accent when pronouncing certain words.[367] He was also a fan of the English game of cricket, stating that "cricket civilizes people and creates good gentlemen".[367] David Blair noted that this cultivation of British traits suggested that Mugabe respected and perhaps admired Britain while at the same time resenting and loathing the country.[5]

Marriages and children

Mugabe's first wife, First Lady Sally Hayfron, in 1983

His first wife, First Lady Sally Hayfron, died in 1992 from a chronic kidney ailment.[374] Their only son, Michael Nhamodzenyika Mugabe, born 27 September 1963, died on 26 December 1966 from cerebral malaria in Ghana where Sally was working while Mugabe was in prison. Sally Mugabe was a trained teacher who asserted her position as an independent political activist and campaigner.[375] She was seen as Mugabe's closest friend and adviser, and some critics suggest that Mugabe began to misrule Zimbabwe after her death.[89]

While married to Hayfron, Mugabe began an extra-marital affair with his secretary, Grace Marufu, who was 41 years his junior. Grace first became pregnant by Mugabe while both were still married (Grace being married to Stanley Goreraza, whom she subsequently divorced). The couple went on to have a second child.[376][377]

As First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace has been the subject of criticism for her lifestyle. Her sometimes lavish international shopping sprees have led to the nickname "Gucci Grace".[378] When she was included in the 2002 EU travel sanctions on her husband, one EU parliamentarian was quoted as saying that the ban "will stop Grace Mugabe going on her shopping trips in the face of catastrophic poverty blighting the people of Zimbabwe".[379]

Reception and legacy

"The story of Robert Mugabe is a microcosm of what bedevils African democracy and economic recovery at the beginning of the 21st century. It is a classic case of a genuine hero — the guerrilla idol who conquered the country's former leader and his white supremacist regime — turning into a peevish autocrat whose standard response to those suggesting he steps down is to tell them to get lost. It is also the story of activists who try to make a better society but bear the indelible scars of the old system. Mugabe's political education came from the autocrat Ian Smith, who had learnt his formative lessons from imperious British colonisers."

— Heidi Holland[380]
Mugabe meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015

From the year 2000 onward, Mugabe became one of the world's most controversial political leaders.[381] According to The Black Scholar journal, "depending on who you listen to... Mugabe is either one of the world's great tyrants or a fearless nationalist who has incurred the wrath of the West."[382] He has been referred to as a "dictator", a "tyrant", and a "threat" by many.[383] Mugabe had a considerable following within Zimbabwe,[339] with David Blair noting that "it would be wrong to imply that he lacked genuine popularity" in the country.[184] His strongholds of support were Zimbabwe's Shona-dominated regions of Mashonaland, Manicaland, and Masvingo, while he remained far less popular in the non-Shona areas of Matabeleland and Bulawayo.[184] Most of the Zimbabwean diaspora are anti-Mugabe.[200]

At the time of his 1980 election victory, Mugabe was widely acclaimed as a revolutionary hero who was embracing racial reconciliation.[137] For many in Southern Africa, he remained one of the "grand old men" of the African liberation movement.[271] The scholar Blessing-Miles Tendi stated that "Mugabe is often presented in the international media as the epitome of the popular leader gone awry: the independence struggle hero who seemed initially a progressive egalitarian, but has gradually been corrupted through his attachment to power during a long and increasingly repressive spell in office."[384] Tendi argued that this was a misleading assessment, because Mugabe had displayed repressive tendencies from his early years in office, namely through the repression of ZAPU in Matabeleland.[167] David Blair argued that while Mugabe did exhibit a "conciliatory phase" between March 1980 and February 1982, his rule was otherwise "dominated by a ruthless quest to crush his opponents and remain in office at whatever cost".[385]

Example of foreign criticism: a demonstration against Mugabe's regime next to the Zimbabwe embassy in London (mid-2006).

During the guerrilla war, Ian Smith referred to Mugabe as "the apostle of Satan".[386] George Shire expressed the view that there was "a strong racist animus" against Mugabe within Zimbabwe, and that this had typically been overlooked by Western media representations of the country.[363] Mugabe has himself been accused of racism; John Sentamu, the Uganda-born Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, called Mugabe "the worst kind of racist dictator," for having "targeted the whites for their apparent riches".[387] The United Kingdom once condemned Mugabe's authoritarian policies and alleged racist attitudes as being comparable to those of German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. A response came during the state funeral for a Zimbabwean Cabinet minister in March 2003. Mugabe telling journalists "I am still the Hitler of the time, [...] This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for."[388]

Writing for the Human Rights Quarterly, Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann claimed that there was "clear evidence that Mugabe was guilty of crimes against humanity".[389] In 2009, Gregory Stanton, then President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and Helen Fein, then Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide, published a letter in The New York Times stating that there was sufficient evidence of crimes against humanity to bring Mugabe to trial in front of the International Criminal Court.[390] Australia and New Zealand had previously called for this in 2005,[390] and a number of Zimbabwean NGOs had done so in 2006.[390]

In 1994, Mugabe was appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II.[391] This entitled him to use the postnominal letters GCB, but not to use the title "Sir." In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee called for the removal of this honour in 2003, and on 25 June 2008, the Queen cancelled and annulled the honorary knighthood after advice from the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. "This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided."[392]

Mugabe holds several honorary degrees and doctorates from international universities, awarded to him in the 1980s; at least three of these have since been revoked. In June 2007, he became the first international figure ever to be stripped of an honorary degree by a British university, when the University of Edinburgh withdrew the degree awarded to him in 1984.[393] On 12 June 2008, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Board of Trustees voted to revoke the law degree awarded to Mugabe in 1986; this is the first time one of its honorary degrees has been revoked.[394] Similarly, on 12 September 2008, Michigan State University revoked an honorary law degree that it awarded Mugabe in 1990.[395] He has been appointed as a UN "leader of Tourism".[396]

Criticism and opposition

Since 1998 Mugabe's policies have increasingly elicited domestic and international denunciation. They have been denounced as racist against Zimbabwe's white minority.[397][398][399] Mugabe has described his critics as "born again colonialists",[400][401] and both he and his supporters claim that Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of imperialism,[402] aggravated by Western economic meddling. According to The Herald, a Zimbabwean newspaper owned by the government, the UK is pursuing a policy of regime change.[403]

Due to Mugabe's inaction against allegations, several scandals have come to light through the years. Zimbabwe is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world, ranking 163rd out of 176 countries on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The organisation also estimated that Zimbabwean officials received nearly $2 billion through corruption in 2012, rivalling the economically much larger South Africa and Nigeria.[404]

Mugabe's critics accuse him of conducting a "reign of terror"[275][405] and being an "extremely poor role model" for the continent, saying his "transgressions are unpardonable".[406] In solidarity with the April 2007 general strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), British Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said of Mugabe's regime: "Zimbabwe's people are suffering from Mugabe's appalling economic mismanagement, corruption, and brutal repression. They are standing up for their rights, and we must stand with them." Lela Kogbara, Chair of ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) similarly has said: "As with every oppressive regime women and workers are left bearing the brunt. Please join us as we stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle for peace, justice and freedom".[407]

Robert Guest, the Africa editor for The Economist for seven years, argues that Mugabe is to blame for Zimbabwe's economic freefall. "In 1980, the average annual income in Zimbabwe was US$950, and a Zimbabwean dollar was worth more than an American one. By 2003, the average income was less than US$400, and the Zimbabwean economy was in freefall.[408] "Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades and has led it, in that time, from impressive success to the most dramatic peacetime collapse of any country since Weimar Germany".[89]

In recent years, Western governments have condemned Mugabe's government. On 9 March 2003, US President George W. Bush approved measures for economic sanctions to be levelled against Mugabe and other high-ranking Zimbabwe politicians, freezing their assets and barring Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with them. Justifying the move, Bush's spokesman stated that the President and Congress believe that "the situation in Zimbabwe endangers the southern African region and threatens to undermine efforts to foster good governance and respect for the rule of law throughout the continent." The bill was known as the Zimbabwe Democracy Act.[409]

In reaction to human rights violations in Zimbabwe, students at universities from which Mugabe has honorary doctorates have sought to get the degrees revoked. So far, the University of Edinburgh and University of Massachusetts Amherst have stripped Mugabe of his honorary degree[410] after two years of campaigning from Edinburgh University Students' Association. In addition, the student body at Michigan State University (ASMSU) unanimously passed a resolution calling for this. The issue is now being considered by the university.[411]

Mugabe's office forbade the screening of the 2005 movie The Interpreter – which had as an antagonist a South African dictator widely thought to be modelled after Mugabe – claiming that it was propaganda by the CIA and fearing that it could incite hostility towards him.[412] In 2007, Parade magazine ranked Mugabe the 7th worst dictator in the world.[413] The same magazine ranked him worst dictator of the year 2009 two years later.[414]

Mugabe's supporters characterise him as a true Pan-Africanist and a dedicated anti-imperialist who stands strong against forces of imperialism in Africa. According to Mugabe's supporters, the Western media are not objectively reporting on Zimbabwe, but are peddling falsehoods. Mugabe's supporters accuse certain western governments of trying to eradicate pan-Africanism to deny real independence to African countries by imposing client regimes.[415]

See also



  1. ^ Blair 2002, p. 17; Meredith 2002, p. 19.
  2. ^ Smith & Simpson 1981, p. 11; Blair 2002, p. 17; Meredith 2002, pp. 19, 21.
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Alao, Abiodun (2012). Mugabe and the Politics of Security in Zimbabwe. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 978-0773540446. 
Blair, David (2002). Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe. London and New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0826459749. 
Bourne, Richard (2011). Catastrophe: What Went Wrong in Zimbabwe?. Zed. ISBN 978-1848135215. 
Chan, Stephen (2002). Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1860648731. 
Gallagher, Julia. "The Battle for Zimbabwe in 2013: From Polarisation to Ambivalence". Journal of Modern African Studies. 53 (1): 27–49. doi:10.1017/S0022278X14000640. 
Godwin, Peter (2011). The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe. Picador. ISBN 978-0330507776. 
Holland, Heidi (2008). Dinner with Mugabe: The Untold Story of a Freedom Fighter Who Became a Tyrant. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0141040790. 
Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. (2010). "Mugabe's Zimbabwe, 2000–2009: Massive Human Rights Violations and the Failure to Protect". Human Rights Quarterly. 32 (4): 898–920. 
Meredith, Martin (2002). Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 978-1586481865. 
Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. (2009). "Making Sense of Mugabeism in Local and Global Politics: 'So Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe'". Third World Quarterly. 30 (6). pp. 1139–1158. doi:10.1080/01436590903037424. 
Norman, Andrew (2003). Robert Mugabe and the Betrayal of Zimbabwe. McFarland and Co. ISBN 978-0786416868. 
Onslow, Sue; Redding, Sean (2009). "Wasted Riches: Robert Mugabe and the Desolation of Zimbabwe". Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. 10 (1): 63–72. JSTOR 43134191. 
Shire, George (2007). "The Case for Robert Mugabe: Sinner or Sinned Against?". The Black Scholar. 37 (1): 32–35. JSTOR 41069872. 
Sithole, Masipula (2001). "Fighting Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe". Journal of Democracy. 2 (1): 160–169. doi:10.1353/jod.2001.0015. 
Smith, David; Simpson, Colin (1981). Mugabe. London: Sphere Books. ISBN 978-0722178683. 
Tendi, Blessing-Miles (2011). "Robert Mugabe and Toxicity: History and Context Matter". Representation. 47 (3): 307–318. doi:10.1080/00344893.2011.596439. 
Tendi, Blessing-Miles (2013). "Robert Mugabe's 2013 Presidential Election Campaign". Journal of Southern African Studies. 39 (4): 963–970. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.858537. 

Further reading

  • Mugabeism? History, Politics, and Power in Zimbabwe. Editors: Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. (Ed.)
  • B Raftopoulos, ‘The Zimbabwean crisis and the challenges of the Left’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 32 (2), 2006
  • S Moyo & P Yeros, ‘The radicalised state: Zimbabwe’s interrupted revolution’, Review of African Political Economy, 111, 2007
  • East, R. and Thomas, Richard J. Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders, 2003 ISBN 1-85743-126-X.
  • Mwakikagile, Godfrey. Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, 2006, Chapter Eight: "The Rhodesian Crisis: Tanzania's Role." New Africa Press, South Africa. ISBN 978-0-9802534-1-2.
  • Nolan, Cathal J. Notable US Ambassadors Since 1775: A Biographical Dictionary, 1997 ISBN 0-313-29195-0.
  • The Times (SA) Online. 'The angry little boy who showed them all'. Published: 1 March 2008.
  • Who's Who : African Nationalist Leaders in Rhodesia by Robert Cary and Diana Mitchell, 1977,1980,1994 Reprinted by Mardon Printers (PTY) Ltd, Harare.
  • SAPA-DPA. "Bob vows to hold power". IOL. 21 December 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2009.