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Robert Mugabe

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Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe May 2015 (cropped).jpg
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 (2013-)
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/; born 21 February 1924) is the current President of Zimbabwe, serving since 22 December 1987. As one of the leaders of the rebel groups in opposition to white minority rule, he was elected Prime Minister in 1980, serving in that office as head of the government, until 1987, when he became the country's first executive head of state. He has led the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) since 1975. As of August 2016, he is the world's oldest and one of the longest serving Head of State. His 36-year rule has been characterised by gross human rights violations, resulting in him joining the world list of dictators.

Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s as the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) during the conflict against the conservative white-minority government of Rhodesia. Mugabe was a political prisoner in Rhodesia for more than 10 years between 1964 and 1974. Upon release Mugabe, along with Edgar Tekere, immediately left Rhodesia with the assistance of Rekayi Tangwena in 1975 to launch the fight during the Rhodesian Bush War from bases in Mozambique. At the end of the war in 1979, Mugabe emerged as a hero in the minds of many Africans. He won the general elections of 1980 after calling for reconciliation between the former belligerents, including white Zimbabweans and rival political parties, and thereby became Prime Minister on Zimbabwe's independence in April 1980.

Soon after independence Mugabe set about creating a ZANU–PF-run one-party state, establishing a North Korean-trained security force, the Fifth Brigade, in August 1981 to deal with internal dissidents.[1] Mugabe attacked former allies ZAPU in which the Fifth Brigade crushed an armed rebellion by fighters loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo, leader of the minority Ndebele tribe, in the province of Matabeleland. Between 1982 and 1985 at least 20,000 people died in ethnic cleansing and were buried in mass graves.[2][3] Mugabe consolidated his power in December 1987, when he was declared executive president by parliament, combining the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with powers to dissolve parliament and declare martial law.

In 2008, Mugabe suffered a narrow defeat in the first round of a presidential election but he subsequently won the run-off election in a landslide after his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew; Mugabe then entered a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai as well as Arthur Mutambara of the MDC-T and MDC-M opposition party. In 2013, the Election Commission said Mugabe won his seventh term as President, defeating Tsvangirai with 61 percent of the vote in a disputed election in which there were numerous accounts of electoral fraud.[4][5] Mugabe was elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) on 30 January 2015.[6] He had previously led the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity in 1997–98.

Early life

Youth: 1924–54

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on 21 February 1961 at the Kutama Mission village in Rhodesia's Zvimba District.[7] His father, Gabriel, was a carpenter, while his mother Bona taught Christianity in the village.[8] They had been trained in their professions by the Jesuits, who had established the mission.[7] The Jesuits were strict-disciplinarians and under their influence Mugabe developed an intense self-discipline.[7] Mugabe was a secretive and solitary child,[9] preferring to read alone rather than playing sport or socialising with other children.[10] He was the third of six children. He had two older brothers, Michael (1919–34) and Raphael. Both his older brothers died when he was young, leaving Robert and his younger brother, Donato (1926–2007), and two younger sisters – Sabina and Bridgette.[11] When Mugabe was ten years old, his father left Kutama in search of employment at Bulawayo.[12] Gabriel never returned to Kutama, instead abandoning Bona and their six children and establishing a relationship with another woman, with whom he had three further offspring.[12]

After completing six years of elementary education, Mugabe was offered a course in teaching at Kutama College, the tuition fees paid for by the Jesuits.[12] The college's headmaster, Father Jerome O'Hea, taught Mugabe more about Christianity but also the events of the Irish War of Independence.[12] Having attained a teaching diploma, Mugabe left Kutama in 1945.[13] He was then employed in teaching posts at a variety of schools.[13] In 1949 he won a scholarship to study at University of Fort Hare in South Africa's Eastern Cape.[13] There he was introduced to Marxist ideas, reading Marxist literature and meeting South African communists.[13] He later related that despite this exposure to Marxism, his biggest influence at the time was the actions of Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian independence movement.[14]

By the time that he returned to Southern Rhodesia in 1952, he stated that he was "completely hostile to the [colonialist] system, but of course I came back to teach within it."[15] He enrolled in a degree by correspondence from the University of South Africa,[15] and ordered a number of Marxist tracts—among them Karl Marx's Capital—from a London mail-order company.[15] Despite these interests in politics, he was not active in any political movement.[15]

He qualified as a teacher, but left to study at Fort Hare in South Africa graduating in 1951, while meeting contemporaries such as Julius Nyerere, Herbert Chitepo, Robert Sobukwe and Kenneth Kaunda. He then studied at Salisbury (1953), Gwelo (1954), and Tanzania (1955–57). Originally graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare in 1951, Mugabe subsequently earned six further degrees through distance learning including a Bachelor of Administration and Bachelor of Education from the University of South Africa and a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Science, and Master of Laws, all from the University of London External Programme.[16] The two Law degrees were earned while he was in prison, the Master of Science degree earned during his premiership of Zimbabwe.[17]

Teaching in Zambia and Ghana: 1955–60

In 1955 Mugabe moved to Northern Rhodesia to work at a teacher training college in Lusaka.[15] There he continued his education by working on a second degree by correspondence, this time from London University.[15] In 1958 he moved to Ghana to work at the teacher training college in Takoradi.[15] 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 his time in this environment.[18] In later years, Mugabe claimed that it was during his time in Ghana that he finally embraced belief in Marxism.[19] He also began a relationship with a Ghanaian woman, Sally Hayfron, who shared his political interests.[19]

In addition, Mugabe and some of his Zimbabwe African National Union party cadres received instruction at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, then at Winneba in southern Ghana.[20][21]

Revolutionary activity

Early political career: 1960–63

During Mugabe's absence, an anti-colonialist African nationalist movement had established itself in Southern Rhodesia, at first led by Joshua Nkomo's African Nationalist Congress, which was banned by the government in February 1959.[22] This was replaced by the more radically oriented National Democratic Party (NDP).[23] In May 1960 Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia, bringing Hey with him.[23] The pair had planned for their visit to be short, however Mugabe's friend, the African nationalist Leopold Takawira, urged them to stay.[23] Not long after, Takawira and two other NDP officials were arrested; in protest, Mugabe joined a demonstration of 7000 people who planned to march from Highfield to the Prime Minister's office in Salisbury. The demonstration was stopped by riot police outside Stodart Hall in Harare township.[23] 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.[23] Following this event, Mugabe decided to devote himself fulltime to activism, resigning his teaching post in Ghana.[24] At the first NDP congress, held in October 1960, he was elected the party's publicity secretary.[24] In February 1961 he then married Hey in a Roman Catholic ceremony conducted in Salisbury.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26] Following the conference, Southern Rhodesia's African nationalist movement fell into disarray.[26] Mugabe spoke at a number of NDP rallies before the party was banned by the government.[27] Many of its members then reformed it as the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) several days later.[27] Racial violence was growing in the country, with aggrieved African nationalists targeting the white minority.[27] 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.[27] Nine months after it had been founded, ZAPU was also banned by the government,[27] and in September 1962 Mugabe and other senior party officials were arrested and restricted to their home districts for three months.[27]

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.[28] 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.[28] Mugabe and others rejected Nkomo's proposal that they evacuate to Dar es Salaam and there establish an African nationalist government-in-exile.[29] 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.[30] 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".[30] Her imprisonment was complicated by the fact that she was pregnant.[30]

To attend a ZAPU meeting in Dar-es-Salaam, the Mugabes skipped bail and headed for the city.[30] 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.[30] In August Hey gave birth to Mugabe's son, whom they named Nhamodzenyika, a Shona term meaning "suffering country".[31] Mugabe insisted that she take their son back to Ghana, while he decided to return to Southern Rhodesia.[31] 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.[31] Nkomo responded by forming his own group, the People's Caretaker Council, which was widely referred to as "ZAPU" after its predecessor.[31] ZAPU and ZANU violently opposed one another and soon gang warfare had broken out between their rival memerships.[32][33] ZANU was influenced by the Africanist ideas of South Africa's Pan Africanist Congress.[34]

Imprisonment: 1963–75

On his return to Southern Rhodesia in December 1963, Mugabe was arrested on arrival.[32] Placed on trial, he refused to retract the subversive statements that he had publicly made.[32] In March 1964 he was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment.[32] In August 1964, the government—now under the leadership of Ian Smith—banned both ZANU and ZAPU and arrested all remaining African nationalist leaders.[32][35]

Mugabe was first imprisoned at Salisbury, before being moved to the Wha Wha detention centre and then the Sikombela detention centre.[36] At the latter, he organised study classes for the inmates.[37] In 1966 he was then moved back to Salisbury, where he shared a communal cell with Ndabaningi Sithole, Enos Nkala, and Edgar Tekere.[37] He remained there for eight more years, devoting his time to reading and studying.[37] During this period he gained three further degrees from London University in the fields of law and economics.[37] 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.[38][39]

While Mugabe was imprisoned, Smith's government had made a unilateral declaration of independence from the United Kingdom in 1965, with the UK retaliating by imposing economic sanctions on the newly independent state.[40] In 1972, the African nationalists' guerrilla war against Smith's white minority government began in earnest.[41] ZANU forces based themselves to the north of Southern Rhodesia, in Mozambique, from which they launched attacks on Rhodesian government targets.[41]

Ascendancy to ZANU leadership: 1975–79

Mugabe was freed after eleven years of imprisonment.[42] He was intent on joining the ZANU forces and taking part in the guerrilla war.[42] In March 1975, Mugabe resolved to leave Rhodesia for neighbouring Mozambique, ambitious to take control of ZANU's guerrilla campaign.[43] Before leaving, he visited his mother near Kutama in order to say goodbye.[43] On returning to Salisbury, he found that his close friend Maurice Nyagumbo had been arrested.[43] 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.[44] Mugabe remained in exile in Mozambique for two years.[45]

During the conflict, Mugabe had called for the overthrow of the white minority government, with Smith and his "criminal gang" being tried and executed, all whites losing their land, with Rhodesia itself being converted into a one-party Marxist state.[46] In contrast to other liberation leaders like Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe opposed any negotiated settlement with Smith's government.[47] For him, armed struggle was an essential part of the establishment of a new state.[47]

Mugabe (in a meeting with Romanian communist leaders Nicolae Ceausescu in 1979

In 1974, while still incarcerated, Mugabe was elected—with the powerful influence of Edgar Tekere—to take over the reins of ZANU after a no-confidence vote was passed on Ndabaningi Sithole[48]—Mugabe himself abstained from voting. His time in prison burnished his reputation and helped his cause.[49] Following a South African détente initiative, Mugabe was released from prison in December 1974 along with other Nationalist leaders[35] and having initially travelled to Zambia, where he was ignored by Kenneth Kaunda, returned then left with Edgar Tekere in April 1975 for Mozambique assisted by a Dominican nun, where he was later placed in temporary protective custody by President Samora Machel, the suspicion was duly quelled by Commander Solomon Mujuru, and Mugabe & Tekere were able to provide the leadership to kickstart the armed struggle after the tragic death of Chairman Herbert Chitepo. According to Eddie Cross who participated in interviews of the leadership at that time to determine their views on the "longer term future", Mugabe's political viewpoint was that "a new 'progressive' society could not be constructed on the foundations of the past [and] that they would have to destroy most of what had been built up after 1900 before a new society, based on subsistence and peasant values could be constructed".[50][51][52]

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. Many opposition leaders mysteriously died during this time (including one who allegedly died in a car crash, although the car was rumoured to have been riddled with bullet holes at the scene of the accident).[49] Additionally, an opposing newspaper's printing press was bombed and its journalists tortured.[49]

Lancaster House Agreement: 1979–1979

Mugabe on a visit to the Netherlands in 1979
Prime Minister Mugabe departs Andrews Air Force Base after a state visit to the United States in 1983

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.

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. 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, and second, he agreed to a ten-year moratorium on constitutional amendments. His return to Zimbabwe in December 1979, following the completion of the Lancaster House Agreement, was greeted with enormous supportive crowds.

Mugabe refused to attend the London peace talks.[53] Samora Machel insisted that he must, threatening to end Mozambican support for the ZANU-PF if he did not.[46] Mandela arrived in London in September 1979.[46] Throughout the negotiations, Mugabe did not trust the British and believed that they were manipulating events to their own advantage.[54] The negotiated plan called for all participants in the conflict to agree to a ceasefire, with a British governor, Christopher Soams, arriving in Rhodesia to oversee an election in which the various factions could compete as political parties.[55] Mugabe was opposed to he idea of a ceasefire, but under pressure from Machel he agreed to it.[55] Mugabe signed the agreement, although felt cheated,[55] remaining disappointed that he had never achieved a military victory over the white-minority government.[56]

Electoral campaign: 1980

Mugabe returned to Salisbury on 27 January 1980. He was given a hero's welcome by a large crowd.[57] 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.[57] Accordingly, during his electoral campaign Mugabe avoided the use of Marxist and revolutionary rhetoric.[57] The electoral campaign was marred by widespread voter intimidation, perpetrated by Nkomo's Zapu, Muzorewa's United African National Congress and Mugabe's Zanu-PF.[58] Commenting on Zanu-PF's activities in eastern Rhodesia, Nkomo complained that "the word intimidation is mild. People are being terrorised. It is terror."[58] 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.[59]

During the campaign, Mugabe survived two assassination attempts.[60] 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.[60] In the second, on 10 February, a roadside bomb exploded near his motorcade as he left a Fort Victoria rally. Mugabe himself was unharmed.[60] Mugabe accused the Rhodesian security forces of being responsible for these attacks.[60] Under the terms of the negotiation, Soames had the power to disqualify any political party guilty of voter intimidation.[60] 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.[60] 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.[61]

In the March election, ZANU-PF secured 63% of the national vote, gaining 57 of the 80 parliamentary seats allocated for black parties.[62] 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.[62]

Prime Minister of Zimbabwe: 1980–1987

Prime Minister Mugabe in 1982

In April 1980, Mugabe gave a speech at Salisbury football stadium in which he announced that Rhodesia would be renamed "Zimbabwe" and pledging racial reconciliation.[63] Soames aided Mugabe in bringing about an orderly transition of power; for this Mugabe remained grateful, describing Soames as "so good a friend".[64] Mugabe tried to convince Soames to remain in Zimbabwe for several more years, although the latter declined and returned to Britain.[64] Mugabe moved into the Premier's residence in Harare, which he left furnished in the same style as Smith had left it.[65] His Harare residences would be heavily fortified.[66]

Across the country, statues of Cecil Rhodes were removed and squares and roads named after prominent white colonialists were renamed after black liberationists.[67] In 1982 Salisbury was renamed Harare.[67] Mugabe employed North Korean architects to design Heroes' Acre, a monument complex in western Harare to commemorate the liberation struggle.[68] 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.[69] The United States provided Zimbabwe with a $25 million three-year aid package.[69] The United Kingdom financed a land redistribution program,[70] and also provided a military assistance team to aid the integration of the guerrilla armies and old Rhodesian army into a new Zimbabwean military.[70] Members of both ZANLA and ZIPRA were integrated into the army, although there remained a strong rivalry between the two groups.[71]

Mugabe's government continued to make regular pronouncements about converting Zimbabwe into a socialist society, although did not take concrete steps in that direction.[72] 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.[67] In office, Mugabe sought a gradual transformation away from capitalism and tried to build upon existing state institutions.[64] 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.[73] 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.[73] 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.[74] Growing corruption among the socio-economic elite generated resentment among the wider population, much of which was living in poverty.[75]

Mugabe in the Netherlands, 1982

ZANU-PF also sought to establish its own business empire, founding the M&S Syndicate in 1980 and the Zidoo Holdings in 1981.[74] By 1992, the party had fixes assets and businesses were worth an estimated Z$500 million (US $75 million).[74] 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.[76] The white editors of these newspapers were sacked and replaced by government appointees.[73] These media outlets subsequently became a source of the party's propaganda.[73]

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.[77] 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.[78] This meant that Mugabe’s government was largely restricted to purchasing land which was of poor quality.[78] 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.[77]

As President, Mugabe retained Walls as the head of the armed forces.[64]

In 1986 Mugabe became chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a position that he retained until 1989.[79] As the leader of one of the Front Line States, the countries bordering apartheid South Africa, he gained credibility within the anti-apartheid movement.[79]

Race relations

On taking the Premiership, Mugabe emphasised a message of racial reconciliation and was keen to build a good relationship with the white Zimbabwean community.[65] Mugabe appointed two white ministers—David Smith and Dennis Norman—to his government.[80] He also met with white leaders in agriculture, industry, mining, and commerce,[81] as well as with senior figures in the previous white administration like Smith and Ken Flowers, impressing them with his apparent sincerity.[82] 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.[81] 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.[70] This continuing domination of the economy brought heavy criticism from various government ministers, with this criticism being publicised through the government-controlled media.[83] One of these ministers, Tekere, angered many whites after he condemned the Anglican Church as "an instrument of oppression".[84] 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.[84] Smith and other whites complained that they were suffering from recrimination.[83]

"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[85]

Prominent white figures made comments critical of the new order; Smith for example stated that black Zimbabweans should be grateful for the benefits of the previous ninety years of white minority rule.[83] 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.[70] There was a growing exodus to South Africa, and in 1980, 1700 whites—approximately a tenth of the white Zimbabwean population—emigrated.[70] 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.[69] To protest apartheid and white-minority rule in South Africa, Mugabe's government banned Zimbabwe from engaging South Africa in any sporting competitions.[69] 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.[86]

In December 1981, a bomb struck ZANU-PF headquarters, killing seven and injuring 124.[87] Mugabe attributed the attack to South African-backed white militants.[87] 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".[87] 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".[88]

Racial mistrust and suspicion continued to grow.[89] 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.[89] 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.[90] Their case generated an international outcry, which Mugabe criticised, stating that the case only gained such attention because the accused were white.[90] His defence of torture and contempt for legal procedures damaged his international standing.[91] White flight continued to grow, and within three years of Mugabe taking power half of all white Zimbabweans had emigrated.[91] In the 1985 election, Smith's Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe won 15 of the 20 seats allocated for white Zimbabweans.[92] 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."[92]

Relations with ZAPU and the Gukurahundi

Main article: Gukurahundi
The flag of ZAPU, which were largely eliminated by ZAPU-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.[93] Despite working with each other in the cabinet, there remained an aura of resentment and suspicion between Mugabe and Nkomo.[93] Nkomo demanded that his ZAPU be permitted more than the four of the 23 cabinet seats that Mugabe had given them.[94] 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.[95] Tekere and Enos Nkala were particularly adamant that there should be a crackdown on ZAPU.[95] 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.[96] In January 1981 Nkomo was then demoted in a cabinet reshuffle; his warnings that this would generate unrest were ignored by Mugabe.[96] 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.[97] An arms cache featuring land mines and anti-aircraft missiles were then discovered at Ascot Farm, which was part-owned by Nkomo. Mugabe claimed that this was evidence that ZAPU were plotting a coup, an allegation that Nkomo denied.[98] Likening Nkomo to "a cobra in the house", Mugabe sacked him from the government, and the businesses, farms, and properties owned by ZAPU were then ceased.[99]

Members of both ZANLA and ZIPRA had deserted their positions and engaged in banditry.[95] 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.[100] These dissidents received support from South Africa through its Operation Mute, by which it hoped to further destabilise Zimbabwe.[100] The government often conflated ZIPRA with the dissenters,[101] although Nkomo denounced the dissidents and their South African supporters.[102] 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.[102] During 1982 he had been organising the creation of the Fifth Brigade, an elite armed force who had been trained by the North Koreans and whose membership was drawn largely from Shona-speaking members of ZANLA.[102] 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.[103] The scale of the violence was greater than that witnessed in the Rhodesian War.[103] Interrogation centres were established where people were tortured.[104]

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.[105] The Bishop of Bulawayo accused Mugabe of overseeing a project of systematic starvation.[104] 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.[106] In 1985, an Amnesty International report on the Gukurahundi was dismissed by Mugabe as "a heap of lies".[107] Over the course of four years, approximately 10,000 civilians had been killed, and many others beaten and tortured.[108] 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".[109] Meredith argued however that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF were solely to blame for the massacres, and that the scenario had been a deliberate attempt to eliminate ZAPU and its Ndebele and Kalanga supporters in order to bring closer Mugabe's desire for a one-party state.[109]

There was further violence in the build-up to the 1985 election, with ZAPU supporters facing harassment from ZANU-PF Youth Brigades.[110] Despite this intimidation, ZAPU won all 15 of the parliamentary seats in Matabeleland.[110] 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.[111] To avoid further violence, in December 1987 Nkomo signed a Unity Accord in which ZAPU was officially merged into ZANU-PF.[107] The merger between the two parties left ZANU-PF with 99 of the 100 seats in parliament.[112]

According to a report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe's Fifth Brigade killed between 10,000 and 20,000 people.[113]

President of Zimbabwe: 1987–2008

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.[112] This position gave him the power to dissolve parliament, declare martial law, and run for an unlimited number of terms.[112] According to his biographer Martin Meredith, this new position granted Mugabe "a virtual stranglehold on government machinery and unlimited opportunities to exercise patronage".[112] With Mugabe's powers increased, the place of parliament became less relevant and less independent.[114]

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.[115] This measure made it more difficult for any opposition to Mugabe to gain a parliamentary majority.[115] The main opposition party in that election were the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, launched by Tekere in April 1989.[116] 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."[117] 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.[118]

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[119]

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.[120] 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.[121] 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.[122] It was the first major electoral defeat for ZANU-PF in twenty years.[123]

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,[124]

Mugabe increasingly blamed the country's economic problems on the white minority, who still controlled most of its commercial agriculture, mines, and manufacturing industry.[125] He also developed a growing preoccupation with homosexuality, lambasting it as an "un-African" import from Europe.[126] He described gay people as being "guilty of sub-human behaviour", and of being "worse than dogs and pigs".[119] 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.[126] 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.[127]

In January 1992, Mugabe’s wife died.[128] 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.[129] 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.[130] The ceremony caused controversy among the Catholic community because of the adulterous nature of Mugabe and Marufu’s relationship.[130] To house his family, Mugabe then had a new mansion built at Borrowdale.[131]


Main article: Economy of Zimbabwe

During the 1980s Mugabe's policies were largely socialist in orientation. In 1980 and 1981 the Zimbabwean economy showed strong growth of the GDP with 10.6% and 12.5%. From 1982–89 economic growth averaged just 2.7% (1980–89 average 4.47%). The white minority government maintained (with economic sanctions) from 1966–72 a 6.7% average growth rate and overall from 1966 till 1979 a 3.8% average growth rate.[132]

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”.[133] 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”.[133]

In November 2010, the IMF described the Zimbabwean economy as "completing its second year of buoyant economic growth".[134][135]

By 2000, the living standards in Zimbabwe had declined from 1980. Life expectancy was reduced, average wages were lower, and unemployment had trebled.[136] As of 2009, three to four million Zimbabweans—the greater part of the nation's skilled workforce—had left the country.[137] Mugabe claimed that Zimbabwe's economic problems were a result of sabotage by the country's white minority and Western nations.[136] He called on supporters "to strike fear in the hearts of the white man, our real enemy".[136] He accused his black opponents of being dupes of the whites.[138] Amid growing internal opposition to his government, he remained determined to stay in power.[136] He revived the regular use of revolutionary rhetoric and sought to reassert his credentials as an important revolutionary leader.[139] ZANU-PF increasingly equated itself to Zimbabwean patriotism,[139] presenting 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.[140]

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 a group of journalists. The military subsequently illegally arrested the journalists and tortured them.[141] This brought international condemnation, with the EU and seven donor nations issuing protest notes.[142] Lawyers and human rights activists protested outside parliament until being dispersed by riot police,[142] and the country’s Supreme Court judges issued a letter condemning the military's actions.[143] In February, Mugabe gave a public address in which he defended the use of extra-legal arrest and torture.[144]

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".[145]

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".[145] 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.[146] 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".[145]

While Zimbabwe has suffered in many other measures under Mugabe, as a former schoolteacher he has been well known for his commitment to education.[49] As of 2008, Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90%, the highest in Africa.[147] 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".[148]

Prior to its suspension in 2009, the Zimbabwe dollar had suffered from the second-highest hyperinflation rate of any currency in modern times.[149]

Accusations of racism

A number of people have accused Mugabe of having a racist attitude towards white people. John Sentamu, the Uganda-born Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, calls Mugabe "the worst kind of racist dictator," for having "targeted the whites for their apparent riches".[150] Almost thirty years after ending white-minority rule in Zimbabwe, Mugabe accuses the United Kingdom and the United States of promoting white imperialism and regularly accuses opposition figures to his government of being allies of white imperialism.[151][152]

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."[153]

Views on homosexuality

Mugabe has been uncompromising in his opposition to LGBT rights in Zimbabwe. In September 1995, Zimbabwe's parliament introduced legislation banning homosexual acts.[154] In 1997, a court found Canaan Banana, Mugabe's predecessor and the first President of Zimbabwe, guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and indecent assault.[155] He has previously referred to lesbians and gays as being "worse than dogs and pigs".[156]

In 2015, Mugabe was condemned by several United Nations agencies for his remarks on homosexuality.[157]

Second Congo War

In 1996, Mugabe was appointed chair of the defence arm of the SADC.[158] Without consulting parliament, in August 1998 Mugabe ordered Zimbabwean troops into the Congo to side with President Laurent Kabila in the Second Congo War.[159] He initially committed 3000 troops to the operation, although this would gradually rise to 11000.[159] He also persuaded Angola and Namibia to commit troops to the conflict.[159] Involvement in the war cost Zimbabwe an approximate US $1 million a day.[159] Opinion polls demonstrated that it was unpopular among the Zimbabwean population.[159] 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.[159]

Mugabe was criticised for agreeing to Zimbabwe's participation in the Second Congo War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this at time when the Zimbabwean economy was struggling. Zimbabwe was responding to a call by the Southern African Development Community to help the struggling regime in Kinshasa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had been invaded by Rwanda and Uganda, both of which claimed that their civilians, and regional stability, were under constant threat of attack by Rwandan Hutu militiamen based in the Congo.[160]

However, 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.[161][162] The war raised accusations of corruption, with officials alleged to be plundering the Congo's mineral reserves. Mugabe's defence minister Moven Mahachi said, "Instead of our army in the DRC burdening the treasury for more resources, which are not available, it embarks on viable projects for the sake of generating the necessary revenue".[163]

Land reform

When Zimbabwe gained independence, 46.5% of the country's arable land was owned by around 6,000 commercial farmers,[164] and white farmers, who made up less than 1% of the population, owned 70% of the best farming land.[165] Mugabe accepted a "willing buyer, willing seller" plan as part of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, among other concessions to the white minority.[166] As part of this agreement, land redistribution was blocked for a period of 10 years.[167]

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.[168] 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.[169] 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.[169] 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.[170] 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.[169] The US, UK, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund warned that Zimbabwe would forfeit aid packages but Mugabe remained defiant.[171] Responding to the criticisms, the government removed the ban on court appeals from the bill, which was then passed as law.[172] Over the following few years, hundreds of thousands of acres of largely white-owned land were expropriated.[173] 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,[174] and further investigation found that much of the expropriated land had been leased to ministers and senior officials.[175] As a result of the scandal, the UK government ceased providing further funding for the land resettlement program.[175]

"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[176]

In February 2000, the land invasions began as armed gangs attacked and occupied white-owned farms.[177] The government referred to the attackers as "war veterans" although the majority were unemployed youth too young to have fought in the Rhodesian War.[177] 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 to lead the land invasion campaign and ZANU-PF officials, police, and military figures were all involved in facilitating it.[178] 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.[178] Mugabe depicted the invasions as a struggle against colonialism and alleged that the UK was trying to overthrow his government.[179] In May 2000 he issued a decree under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act which empowere the government to seize farms without providing compensation.[180]

Zimbabwe's High Court ruled that the land invasions were illegal but this ruling was ignored.[181] 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.[182] 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.[183] In November 2001 Mugabe then issued a presidential decree permitting the expropriation of virtually all white-owned farms in Zimbabwe without compensation.[184]

After the courts ruled these actions illegal, Mugabe began vilifying Zimbabwe's judiciary.[185] 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.[186] Many 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.[187]

This impacted agricultural development; whereas Zimbabwe had produced over two million tons of maize in 2000, by 2008 this had declined to approximately 450,000 tons.[186] By October 2003, Human Rights Watch reported that half of the country's population were food insecure, lacking enough food to meet basic needs.[188] By 2009, 75% of Zimbabwe's population were relying on food aid, the highest proportion of any country at that time.[188] There were reports that Mugabe was diverting state food supplies to his own supporters and away from those of his opponents.[189] Inflation ensued and created an economic crisis in Zimbabwe.[187] By October 2008, the rate of inflation was at an estimated 231 million per year.[190] 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.[190] This helped to stabilise prices.[190] Increasing numbers of Zimbabweans relied on remittances from relatives abroad.[188] Other sectors of society were negatively affected too. By 2005, an estimated 80% of Zimbabwe's population were unemployed,[191] and by 2008 only 20% of children were in schooling.[191] 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.[190] The ruined economy also impacted the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country; by 2008 the HIV/AIDS rate for individuals aged between 15 to 49 was 15.3%.[192]

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 factor state of warfare" in order to stay in power.[193] A number of Southern African states remonstrated with him at a summit in Harare in September 2001.[194] In 2002, the British Commonwealth expelled Zimbabwe from among its ranks, something Mugabe blamed on anti-black racism.[195] Similarly, South African President Thabo Mbeki claimed that attempts by the British Commonwealth to ostracise Mugabe were "inspired by notions of white supremacy".[196] In 2004, the European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and 94 other Zimbabweans,[195] with British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for tougher sanctions.[195]

Responding to intimidation of MDC activists and supporters, in 2005, South African President Thabo Mbeki embarked on a project of "quiet diplomacy".[197] Mbeki prevented the African Union (AU) from introduction any sanctions against Mugabe.[198] Mugabe's regime was criticised by a number of African states, among them Botswana, Zambia, and Tanzania.[198] In 2005 Mugabe instituted Operation Murambatsvina ("Operation Drive Out the Rubbish"), a project of forced slum clearance.[189][199] In this, the homes and businesses of around 700,000 urban Zimbabweans were destroyed according to a United Nations report.[189][200] 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.[199]

In 2009, the SADC demanded that Western states lift their targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his government.[196]

In 1997, the new British government, led by Tony Blair, unilaterally stopped funding the "willing buyer, willing seller" land reform programme. Britain's ruling Labour Party felt no obligation to continue paying white farmers compensation, or in minister Clare Short's words, "I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers".[201] According to Clare Short's advisor Soni Rajan, in the book Dinner With Mugabe by Heidi Holland, the New Labour government wanted to get rid of Robert Mugabe as early as 1997, even before the Fast Track land reform program: “It was absolutely clear from the attitude of her [Clare Short’s] staff towards my recommendations that Labour's strategy was to accelerate Mugabe's unpopularity by failing to provide him with funding for land redistribution. They thought if they didn't give him the money for land reform, his people in the rural areas would start to turn against him. That was their position; they wanted him out and they were going to do whatever they could to hasten his demise.”[202]

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.[203]

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".[200]

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.[204] These farms were seized forcibly from their previous owners.[205]

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".[206] In 2015 he announced a proposal to return some land to white farmers.[207]

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).[208] 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).[209] 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.[210] "The indigenisation and empowerment drive will continue unabated in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country's resources."[211] 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".[212]


In April 1979, 64% of the black citizens of the newly renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia lined up at the polls to vote in the first democratic election in the history of that southern African nation. Two-thirds of them supported Abel Muzorewa, a bishop in the United Methodist Church. He was the first black prime minister of a country only 4% white.[citation needed] Muzorewa's victory put an end to the 14-year political odyssey of outgoing prime minister Ian Smith, who had infamously announced in 1976, "I don't believe in majority rule ever in Rhodesia... not in 1,000 years. I repeat that I believe in blacks and whites working together. If one day it is white and the next day it is black, I believe we have failed and it will be a disaster for Rhodesia."[213]

Following the 1995 election, Mugabe expanded his cabinet from 29 to 42 ministers while the government adopted a 133% pay rise for MPs.[175]

The June 2000 parliamentary elections attracted international attention and were considered the most important in Zimbabwean history since 1980.[214] Sixteen parties took part, although the new Movement for Democratic Change[disambiguation needed] (MDC) proved particularly successful.[214] During the election campaign, MDC activists were regularly harassed and in some cases killed by ZANU-PF supporters;[215] in May 2000, the Amani Trust recorded 5,070 incidents of political violence and 15 recorded instances of MDC supporters being killed.[216] 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.[217] This marked the first time since independence that ZANU-PF were denied the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to push through constitutional change.[214] ZANU-PF had relied heavily on their support base in rural Shona-speaking areas, and retained only one urban constituency.[217]

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.[218] In the build-up to the election, the government changed the electoral rules and regulations in order to improve Mugabe's chances of victory.[219] New security legislation was introduced making it illegal to criticise the President.[219] The defence force commander, General Zvinavashe, stated that the military would not recognise any election result other than a Mugabe victory.[220] The EU withdrew its observers from the country, stating that the vote was neither free nor fair.[220] The election resulted in Mugabe securing 56% of the vote to Tsvangerai's 42%.[221] 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.[222]

Mugabe in 2011

Mugabe faced Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in presidential elections in March 2002.[223] 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.[224][225] Many groups, such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, and Tsvangirai's party, assert that the result was rigged.[223]

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.[226]

On 6 February 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including five-year veteran finance minister Herbert Murerwa.[227]

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.[228] Mugabe claimed that "Tsvangirai deserved his beating-up by police because he was not allowed to attend a banned rally" on 30 March 2007.[229]

General elections (GNU) 2008–2013

Mugabe launched his election campaign on his birthday in Beitbridge, a small town on the border with South Africa on 23 February 2008 by denouncing both the opposition MDC and Simba Makoni's candidacy. He was quoted in the state media as saying: "Dr Makoni lacked majority support while Mr Tsvangirai was in the presidential race simply to please his Western backers in exchange for money".[230] These are the charges he has used in the past to describe the leader of the opposition.[citation needed]

In the week Dr. Makoni launched his campaign for the presidency, he accused Mugabe of buying votes from the electorate. This was a few hours after Dumiso Dabengwa had come out and endorsed Dr. Makoni's candidature.[231]

First-round defeat and the campaign of violence

The presidential elections were conducted on 29 March 2008, together with the parliamentary elections. On 2 April 2008, the Zimbabwe Election Commission confirmed that Mugabe and his party, known as ZANU-PF, had lost control of Parliament to the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. This was confirmed when the results were released.[232] Both the opposition and his party challenged the results in some constituencies.[233] According to unofficial polling, Zanu-PF took 94 seats, and the main opposition party MDC took 96 seats.[234] 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.[235][236]

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".[237] 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.[237] On an 8 April 2008 meeting, the military plan was given the code name of "CIBD", which stood for: "Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement."[237]

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".[238]

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.[239] 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.[240]

Between March and June 2008, at least 153 MDC supporters were killed.[241] There were reports of women affiliated with the MDC being subjected to gang rape by Mugabe supporters.[241] Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were internally displaced by the violence.[241]

Mugabe's run-off campaign was managed by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief of the conflict of Gukurahundi.[237] 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".[242] News organisations report that, by the date of the second-round election, more than 80 opposition supporters had been killed, hundreds more were missing, in addition to thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.[237]

Zimbabwean officials alleged that activists of the MDC, disguised as ZANU-PF members, had perpetrated violence against the population, mimicking the tactics of the Selous Scouts during the Bush war. They alleged that there was a "predominance" of Selous Scouts in the MDC.[243]

In addition, at least 100 officials and polling officers of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were arrested after the first round election.[244][245]

Tsvangirai initially agreed to a presidential run-off with Robert Mugabe,[246] but later withdrew (on 22 June 2008), citing violence targeted at his campaign. He complained that the elections were pointless, as the outcome would be determined by Mugabe himself.[247]

Mugabe saw his 2008 defeat as an unacceptable personal humiliation.[248] 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.[248]

The outcome of the run-off election

Mugabe and his wife in 2013

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%).[249] 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,[250] the official tally showed that the total vote had increased, from 2,497,265 votes in the first round[251] to 2,514,750 votes in the second round.[249]

Two legal opinions commissioned by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)[252] declared the run-off election illegal because it occurred outside the 21-day period within which it had to take place under Zimbabwean law. Under item 3(1)(b) of the Second Schedule of the Electoral Act, if no second election is held within 21 days of the first election, the candidate with the highest number of votes in the first election has been duly elected as President and must be declared as such. According to the figures released by Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission, that would mean that Morgan Tsvangirai is the de jure President.

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.[253] 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.[254]

The Zimbabwean military, and not President Robert Mugabe, is now running the troubled country, in the opinion of a South Africa-based NGO called the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) – 10 July 2008.[255]

The United Kingdom announced a policy of seizing foreign assets belonging to Mugabe. Mugabe replied that he has no foreign assets to seize. HSBC proceeded to seize the bank account of Sam Mugabe, a 23-year-old British subject of Zimbabwean origin, no relation to Robert Mugabe. The HSBC bank which carried out the seizure of her account subsequently apologised.[256][257][258]

On 20 December, despite increased criticism and pressure to resign, Mugabe averred during ZANU-PF's tenth annual conference in Bindura, some eighty kilometres north of Harare, that he would brook no such thing.[259]

Presidential election 2013

Mugabe in 2009

Declaring that he would "fight like a wounded animal" for re-election,[248] Mugabe approached the 2013 elections believing that it would be the final electoral campaign of his career.[260] He hoped that a decisive electoral victory would help to secure his legacy, causing irreparable damage to Tsangirai's political credibility and signalling Mugabe's triumph over his Western critics.[260] The opposition parties believed that this election was their best chance for ousting Mugabe.[261]

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.[262] For this reason, in his campaign Mugabe called upon supporters to avoid violence and appealed for peace.[262] 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.[262] 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.[262]

In contrast to 2008, ZANU-PF fully rallied around Mugabe, with no organised dissent against him in the party.[263] 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.[264] His opponents, among them Tsvangerai, portrayed him as a feeble old man who was being told what to do by the military,[265] although at least one academic observer argued that this was not the case.[265] The ZANU-PF offered gifts, including food and clothing, to many members of the electorate to encourage them to vote for the party.[266]

ZANU-PF won a landslide victory, with 61% of the presidential vote and over two-thirds of parliamentary seats.[267] 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.[267] During the campaign, many MDC supporters had remained quiet about their views out of fear of reprisals.[268] 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.[269] 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.[270]

Criticism and opposition

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

Since 1998 Mugabe's policies have increasingly elicited domestic and international denunciation. They have been denounced as racist against Zimbabwe's white minority.[271][272][273] Mugabe has described his critics as "born again colonialists",[274][275] and both he and his supporters claim that Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of imperialism,[276] 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.[256]

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.[277]

Mugabe's critics accuse him of conducting a "reign of terror"[199][278] and being an "extremely poor role model" for the continent, saying his "transgressions are unpardonable".[279] 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".[280]

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.[281] "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".[49]

Between 1999 and 2000, Mugabe's popularity was at a low with an economic recession and war with the Congo. In an effort to regain popularity with the black majority, he devised a plan to seize property of the wealthy white minority and transfer it back to black ownership in a process he described as 're-indigenization'. Mugabe reportedly took little action against use of violence in this process. This process did virtually nothing to benefit the average Zimbabwean, as most of the land was parcelled to Mugabe's friends and allies.[282]

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.[283]

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[284] 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.[285]

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.[286] In 2007, Parade magazine ranked Mugabe the 7th worst dictator in the world.[287] The same magazine ranked him worst dictator of the year 2009 two years later.[288]

With some of the lowest ranked transparency of all nations, Zimbabwe has attracted a widespread loss of confidence in its economy. As a result, conditions have diminished. When the time came for his sixth re-election campaign in 2008, the opposition party, MDC, nominated Morgan Tsvangirai as their candidate. The resulting run-off between the two candidates was the first time in 30 years Mugabe's power was seriously threatened internally. When it became apparent the race would be close, Mugabe suspended the rules and declared himself president once again.[289]

An official from Chatham House suggested that Mugabe was unlikely to leave Zimbabwe, but that if he were to leave, he might go to Malaysia, where some believe that he has "stashed much of his wealth".[290]

In response to Mugabe's critics, former Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda was quoted blaming not Mugabe for Zimbabwe's troubles, but successive British governments.[291] He wrote in June 2007 that "leaders in the West say Robert Mugabe is a demon, that he has destroyed Zimbabwe and he must be got rid of– but this demonising is made by people who may not understand what Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his fellow freedom fighters went through".[292] Similarly, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade responded to his critics by saying that Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of colonialism.[293]

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.[294]

The Times charged that on 12 June 2008, Mugabe's Militia murdered Dadirai Chipiro, the wife of Mugabe's political opponent, Patson Chipiro, by burning her alive with a petrol bomb after severing her hands and feet.[295]

On December 9, 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.[296]


Mugabe in Ethiopia, 2009

In 2008 the EU extended its sanctions against Zimbabwe,[195] while the G8 expressed "grave concern" about the situation in the country.[297] 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.[297] 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.[297] 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.[297] 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.[297]

After the start of the Fast Track land reform program in 2000, the US Senate put a credit freeze on the government of Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001. Signed into law on 21 December 2001, ZDERA froze the Zimbabwean government's lines of credit at international financial institutions through Section 4C, titled Multilateral Financing Restriction. This credit freeze forced the Zimbabwean government to operate on a cash only basis, and caused high inflation in 2001 to turn into hyperinflation in 2002 and beyond. It caused the first export deficit, the first big drop in tobacco exports, and a greater fall of the Zimbabwe dollar against the US dollar than in the previous 6 years, in the year 2002.


(c) MULTILATERAL FINANCING RESTRICTION- ... the Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against--

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or

(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.[298]

ZDERA was sponsored by Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and co-sponsored by then senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Jesse Helms. In 2010, Russ Feingold introduced a new law that would continue the credit freeze on Zimbabwe, called the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2010 (ZTDERA). Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Zimbabwe Sanctions Repeal Act of 2010, specifically to repeal ZDERA through Section 2 article 26.[299]

Robert Mugabe visiting Vatican City in 2008, while in Rome for a UN Food Conference—a permitted exception from his travel ban.

After observers from the European Union 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.[300][301]

On 8 April 2005, Mugabe attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II, a move which could be seen as defiance of a European Union travel ban that does not, however, apply to Vatican City. He was granted a transit visa by the Italian authorities, as they are obliged to under the Concordat. However, the Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe have been very vocal against his rule and the senior Catholic cleric, Archbishop Pius Ncube is a major critic, even calling for Western governments to help in his overthrow.[302][303]

Robert Mugabe and senior members of the Harare government are not allowed to travel to the United States because it is the position of the US government that he has worked to undermine democracy in Zimbabwe and has restricted freedom of the press.[304] Despite strained political relations, the United States remains a leading provider of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, providing roughly US$900 million in humanitarian assistance from 2002–2008, mostly food aid.[305]

Because United Nations events are exempt from the travel bans, Mugabe attended the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) summit in Rome. African leaders threatened to boycott the event if Mugabe were blacklisted; when he was not, the United Kingdom refused to send a representative. British and Australian officials denounced the presence of Mugabe.[306][307]

Health and succession

Because Mugabe is Africa's oldest state leader currently in office, speculation has built over the years related to his succession.

In June 2005, a report that Mugabe had entered a hospital for tests on his heart fuelled rumours that he had died of a heart attack.[308] These reports were later dismissed by a Mugabe spokesman.

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

Joyce Mujuru, was elevated to vice-president of ZANU-PF during the December 2004 party congress and considerably younger than Joseph Msika, the other vice-president, has been touted as a likely successor to Mugabe. Mujuru's candidacy for the presidency was strengthened by the backing of her husband, Solomon Mujuru, the former head of the Zimbabwean army, but his death in mysterious circumstances in August 2011 has reduced her chances.[309] In December 2014, ten years after taking office, Joice Mujuru was accused of wanting to assassinate Mugabe to take office. These accusations were made by Grace Mugabe, Mugabe's young wife and her supporters who then included Christopher Mutsvangwa and youth members of ZANU PF. Mujuru was subsequently dismissed from the party together with several other high ranking ZANU PF officials including Didymus Mutasa, Nicholas Goche and Rugare Gumbo. Mugabe attacked Mujuru and her team strongly. the team went on to form People First party to challenge Mugabe.

In October 2006, a report prepared by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Economic Development acknowledged the lack of co-ordination among critical government departments in Zimbabwe and the overall lack of commitment to end the crisis. The report implied that the infighting in Zanu-PF over Mugabe's successor was also hurting policy formulation and consistency in implementation.[310]

In late 2006, a plan was presented to postpone the next presidential election until 2010, at the same time as the next parliamentary election, thereby extending Mugabe's term by two years. It was said that holding the two elections together would be a cost-saving measure,[311] but the plan was not approved: there were reportedly objections from some in ZANU-PF to the idea.

In March 2007, Mugabe said that he thought that the feeling was in favour of holding the two elections together in 2008 instead of 2010. He also said that he would be willing to run for re-election again if the party wanted him to do so.[312] Other leaders in southern Africa were rumoured to be less warm on the idea of extending his term to 2010.

On 30 March 2007, it was announced that the ZANU-PF central committee had chosen Mugabe as the party's candidate for another term in 2008, that presidential terms would be shortened to five years, and that the parliamentary election would also be held in 2008.[313] Mugabe was chosen by acclamation as the party's presidential candidate for 2008 by ZANU-PF delegates at a party conference on 13 December 2007.[314]

At Zanu-PF's tenth annual conference in Bindura in December 2008, Mugabe spoke of his determination not to follow US president George W. Bush to his "political death"[315] and urged the party to ready itself for new polls. He also took the opportunity once more to cite Britain as the source of Zimbabwe's woes.

At independence celebrations in Ghana in March 2007, South African President Thabo Mbeki was rumoured to have met with Mugabe in private and told him that "he was determined that South Africa's hosting of the Football World Cup in 2010 should not be disrupted by controversial presidential elections in Zimbabwe".[316]

In September 2010 speculation began that Mugabe was dying of cancer.[317][318][319] It is rumoured that his choice of successor would be Simba Makoni.[320] 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.[321][322] This speculation resurfaced in May 2014, when Mugabe was seen visiting a hospital with a well-known cancer clinic.[323]

Reports began to circulate in print and broadcast media over the Easter weekend 2012 that Mugabe had been flown by private jet to a hospital in Singapore and had agreed to transfer presidential power to defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.[324] Reports that Mugabe was seriously ill were denied by the Zimbabwe government which described the visit to Singapore as being related to his daughter's education at a Hong Kong university.[325]

In February 2014, Mugabe's aides reported that he had undergone a cataract operation in Singapore. Upon return, he celebrated his 90th birthday in a football stadium in Marondera and addressed his supporters saying "I am made to feel youthful and as energetic as a boy of nine".[326]

In 2014, speculation began that Mugabe's wife will succeed him in case of the event that he would die while in office.[327][328]

In 2015, Mugabe attempted to censor photographs of him losing his balance in public.[329] 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.[330] In February 2016, Mugabe said he had no plans for retirement and would remain in power "until God says 'come'".[331]

SADC-facilitated government power-sharing agreement

On 11 September 2008, at the end of the fourth day of negotiations, South African President and mediator to Zimbabwe, Thabo Mbeki, announced in Harare that Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF, Professor Arthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai (both of MDC) finally signed the power-sharing agreement – "memorandum of understanding."[332] Mbeki stated: "An agreement has been reached on all items on the agenda ... all of them [ Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara] endorsed the document tonight, and signed it. The formal signing will be done on Monday 10 am. The document will be released then. The ceremony will be attended by SADC and other African regional and continental leaders. The leaders will spend the next few days constituting the inclusive government to be announced on Monday. The leaders will work very hard to mobilise support for the people to recover. We hope the world will assist so that this political agreement succeeds." In the signed historic power deal, Mugabe, on 11 September 2008 agreed to surrender day-to-day control of the government and the deal is also expected to result in a de facto amnesty for the military and Zanu-PF party leaders. Opposition sources said "Tsvangirai will become prime minister at the head of a council of ministers, the principal organ of government, drawn from his Movement for Democratic Change and the president's Zanu-PF party; and Mugabe will remain president and continue to chair a cabinet that will be a largely consultative body, and the real power will lie with Tsvangirai.[333][334][335]

South Africa's Business Day reported, however, that Mugabe was refusing to sign a deal which would curtail his presidential powers.[336] New York Times said Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, announced: “This is an inclusive government. The executive power would be shared by the president, the prime minister and the cabinet. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara have still not decided how to divide the ministries. But Jendayi E. Frazer, the American assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said: “We don’t know what’s on the table, and it’s hard to rally for an agreement when no one knows the details or even the broad outlines”[337]

On 15 September 2008, the leaders of the 14-member SADC witnessed the signing of the power-sharing agreement, brokered by South African leader Thabo Mbeki. With symbolic handshake and warm smiles at the Rainbow Towers hotel in Harare, Mugabe, Mutambara and Tsvangirai signed the deal to end the violent political crisis. As provided, Robert Mugabe will be recognised as president, Morgan Tsvangirai will become prime minister,[338] the MDC will control the police, Mugabe's Zanu (PF) will command the Army, and Arthur Mutambara becomes deputy prime minister.[339][340]

Violence, however, did not entirely subside with the power-sharing agreement. As the New York Times reported, Mugabe's top lieutenants started "trying to force the political opposition into granting them amnesty for their past crimes by abducting, detaining and torturing opposition officials and activists." Dozens of members of the opposition and human rights activists have been abducted and tortured in the months since October 2008, including Roy Bennett, the opposition's third-highest-ranking official and Tsvangirai's nominee for deputy agriculture minister (arrested just two days after Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister on 11 February 2009) and Chris Dhlamini, the opposition's director of security.[341]

ZANU-PF were anxious to prevent any sweeping political changes.[342] Under the power-sharing agreement, a number of limited reforms were passed.[262] ZANU-PF blogged many of the proposed reforms although a new constitution was passed in March 2013.[262]

Honours and revocations

In 1994, Mugabe was appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II.[343] 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."[344]

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.[345] 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.[346] Similarly, on 12 September 2008, Michigan State University revoked an honorary law degree that it awarded Mugabe in 1990.[347] He has been appointed as a UN "leader of Tourism".[348]


The Zimbabwean scholar George Shire described Mugabe's policies as being "broadly-speaking" social-democratic.[349] 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."[140] As a result of this pro-rural view, they argued, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF demonstrated an anti-urban bias.[140]

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".[139]

Personal life

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".[350] Mugabe avoided smoking and drinking.[15]

Meredith described Mugabe as having an obsession with power, accruing more every year.[351] According to Meredith, "power for Mugabe was not a means to an end, but the end itself."[352] 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.[140]

Meredith described Mugabe as having a "soft-spoken demeanour,... broad intellect, and... articulate manner", all of which disguised his "hardened and single-minded ambition".[42] According to Meredith, Mugabe presented himself as "articulate, thoughtful, and conciliatory" after his 1980 election victory.[64] 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".[46] References to the Zimbabwean liberation struggle featured prominently in Mugabe's speeches.[260]

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.[353] 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.[354] She was seen as Mugabe's closest friend and adviser, and some critics suggest that Mugabe began to misrule Zimbabwe after her death.[49]

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.[355][356]

Following the death of Sally Hayfron, Mugabe was free to marry Grace which he did on 17 August 1996 in a Roman Catholic wedding Mass at Kutama College; a Catholic mission school he had previously attended. The wedding was presided over by the Archbishop of Harara, Patrick Fani Chakaipa. Nelson Mandela and Mugabe's two children by Grace were among the guests. Robert Mugabe has three children (one girl and two boys): Bona Mugabe, Robert Peter Mugabe Jr. and Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe; and one stepson with Grace Mugabe, his second wife: Russell Goreraza.

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".[357] 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".[358]

Reception and legacy

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."[359] He has been referred to as a "dictator", a "tyrant", and a "threat" by many.[360] Mugabe had a considerable following within Zimbabwe.[264] Most of the Zimbabwean diaspora are anti-Mugabe.[137]

Mugabe meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015

At the time of his 1980 election victory, Mugabe was widely acclaimed as a revolutionary hero who was embracing racial reconciliation.[85] For many in Southern Africa, he remained one of the "grand old men" of the African liberation movement.[196]

Ian Smith referred to Mugabe as "the apostle of Satan".[64] 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.[349]

Writing for the Human Rights Quarterly, Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann claimed that there was "clear evidence that Mugabe was guilty of crimes against humanity".[361] 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.[362] Australia and New Zealand had previously called for this in 2005,[362] and a number of Zimbabwean NGOs had done so in 2006.[362]

See also



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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. 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). pp. 27–49. doi:10.1017/S0022278X14000640. 
Godwin, Peter (2011). The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe. Picador. ISBN 978-0330507776. 
Holland, Heidi (2009). Dinner with Mugabe: The Untold Story of a Freedom Fighter Who Became a Tyrant. 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). pp. 898–920. 
Meredith, Martin (2002). Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 978-1586481865. 
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). pp. 63–72. JSTOR 43134191. 
Shire, George (2007). "The Case for Robert Mugabe: Sinner or Sinned Against?". The Black Scholar. 37 (1). pp. 32–35. JSTOR 41069872. 
Sithole, Masipula (2001). "Fighting Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe". Journal of Democracy. 2 (1). pp. 160–169. doi:10.1353/jod.2001.0015. 
Tendi, Blessing-Miles (2013). "Robert Mugabe's 2013 Presidential Election Campaign". Journal of Southern African Studies. 39 (4). pp. 963–970. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.858537. 


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