Robert Mugabe is in fact, a resounding name in the ears of Africans and people in the entire globe. Popularly known for his sit-tight autocratic government, he is one of the longest-serving African leaders at the moment. Robert Mugabe is the current president of Zimbabwe, serving since 31st December 1987. He was elected as Prime Minister, head of government, in 1980, and served in that office until 1987, when he became the country’s first executive head of state. Though you may have heard and known a lot about this obscure president, I bet there are a whole lot more about him that haven’t crossed your mind. Here are 17 things you never knew about Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president:
1. You Won’t Believe Mugabe is this Old!
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, near Kutama Jesuit Mission in the Zvimba District northwest of Salisbury, in Southern Rhodesia, to a Malawian father, Gabriel Matibili, and a Shona mother, Bona, both Roman Catholic. He is 91 years old! Robert is in fact, the oldest incumbent president in the whole wide world.
2. He was Raised by his Mother
Looking at the tyrannical nature of Mugabe, one may think that he was raised by an autocrat as a father, but that’s far from the truth. Mugabe’s father was a carpenter. He was an unusually disciplined and stern young man. He had a difficult youth after all — by age 10, he had lost both of his two older brothers. One died of poisoning and shortly after, his Malawian father left the family. He went to work at a Jesuit mission in South Africa, and mysteriously never came home. Mugabe’s mother, a teacher, was left to bring up Mugabe and his three siblings on her own. As a child, Mugabe helped out by tending the family’s cows and making money through odd jobs.
3. He has Been the Leader of Zimbabwe Since her Independence
In 1963, he founded ZANU, a resistance movement against British colonial rule. In 1980, when British rule ended, Mugabe became prime minister of the new Republic of Zimbabwe. In 1987, he was elected president of Zimbabwe. Since 2008, Mugabe has shared power with Morgan Tsvangirai.
4. He served a Long Jail Term – Earned Degrees there
Mugabe led conflict against the conservative white-minority government of Rhodesia, and as a result, he was imprisoned. The jail term lasted for more than 10 years between 1964 and 1974. While in prison, Mugabe taught English to his fellow prisoners and earned two Law graduate degrees by correspondence from the University of London.
5. He is the Current Chairman of the AU
Robert Mugabe is currently the chairman of the African Union. He has previously held same position from 1997-1998. Then, the organisation went by the name, Organization of African Unity.
6. He was an Educationist Before he Turned to Politics
Although many people in Southern Rhodesia went only as far as a grammar school, Mugabe was fortunate enough to receive a good education. He attended Marist Brothers and Jesuit schools, including the exclusive Kutama College, headed by an Irish priest, Father Jerome O’Hea, who took him under his wing. He graduated from Katuma’s St. Francis Xavier College in 1945. For the next 15 years he taught in Rhodesia and Ghana and pursued further education at Fort Hare University in South Africa.
7. He Turned Zimbabwe’s Literacy Status Around
Despite all criticisms leveled against the tyrannical Mugabe, there are no doubts about the tremendous transformation he brought about in the education system of his country since he assumed leadership. The literacy level of Zimbabwe has risen as high as 90% under the presidency of Robert Mugabe. This achievement can be traced to his love for education. He has seven different degrees! They cover the areas of education, economics, administration and law.
8. He Proposed Marriage to the US President
Robert is famous for his violent crusades against homosexuality. After the US legalized same-sex marriage, this was his response to Barack Obama.
‘I’ve just concluded – since President Obama endorses the same-sex marriage, advocates homosexual people and enjoys an attractive countenance – thus if it becomes necessary, I shall travel to Washington, DC, get down on my knee and ask his hand.
I can’t understand how this people dare to defy Christ’s explicit orders as our Lord prohibited mankind from sodomy’.
He went on to accuse the U.S. government of being run by ‘perverted Satan-worshipers who insult the great American nation.’
9. He Held One of the Most Extravagant Parties on his 91st Birthday
I call it a wasteful jamboree. His party took place at an exclusive lodge, spa and golf course in Victoria Falls, and it was estimated to have cost $1 million (£648,000). Almost a ‘zoo’ was consumed in the course of the celebration. According to reports, among other outrageous expenses, two elephants, two buffaloes, five impalas, two sables, 40 cows, a lion and a crocodile, were slaughtered. Also, seven mattress-sized cakes were also made available for the celebration. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, UN reports reveal that one out of every three children suffer stunted growth as a result of hunger.
10. He has a Disturbing Habit of Dozing off in Public Occasions
The reputable Zimbabwean president, in all his power and dignity, has been caught several times taking a deep nap in the public. Some attribute this misdemeanor to his age, while some others affirm that he does a lot of thinking! He has this funny ability to comfortably sleep off in different sitting positions. Both the comforting and discomforting ones. It does not matter if it is a local or international conference, the old man just buzzes off, waiting for the end of the whole show in a most peaceful slumber. One of the latest of such behaviors was at the inaugural ceremony of the new Nigerian president, General Muhammadu Buhari where he was well captured by Sahara Reporters. The photo below is a clear evidence. I suggest he goes off the presidential sit entirely, so he can get all the nap due to him.
11. Mugabe has Been Stripped of Many Honors and Awards
In 1994, Mugabe was appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Bath by Queen Elizabeth II, and on 25th 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.
Mugabe also holds several honorary degrees and doctorates from international universities, awarded to him in the 1980s; but 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. 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. In the same vein, on 12th September 2008, Michigan State University revoked an honorary law degree that it awarded Mugabe in 1990.
12. Currently on his 7th Tenure… With no Intention of Stepping Down
After the 2013 presidential elections, Robert Mugabe won the elections for the 7th time. However, it has been repeatedly reported that the elections have been tainted by fraud and voter intimidation.
One may wonder if Mugabe never gets tired of power. The fact is that he does not even have any intention of stepping down. He recently reaffirmed his intention of contesting for the presidency, come 2018! He claims that age has not diminished his strength – saying, ‘I feel as energetic as a nine-year old boy.’
13. Marital Life
Mugabe’s first wife, First Lady Sally Hayfron died in 1992 and on 17 August 1996, Mugabe married a second wife. She was his former secretary, Grace Marufu, 41 years his junior, with whom he already had two children. She first became pregnant by Mugabe while he was still married to his first wife, Sally, and while Grace was married to another man, Stanley Goreraza, who is now a diplomat in China.
14. Mugabe had a Child at the Age of 73
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.The last son was born in 1997, when Mugabe was already 73 and his wife 38.
15. He is a Writer
Robert Mugabe has written a number of books which include:
- The Third Chimurenga: Inside the Third Chimurenga (2001).
- War, Peace, and Development in Contemporary Africa (1987)
- The Role of the University in the Process of Social Transformation (1983)
- Our War of Liberation (1983)
16. He Claims to have Died Severally
Several rumours about the presidents’ state of health has been on over the years but he continues to live on. His constant medical care, exercise routine, guided diet and so on has helped to keep him in shape despite his age. “I have died many times – that’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once,” he said when he turned 88.
17. He was Once Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize
Robert Mugabe was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 after his election victory as Zimbabwe’s first democratically elected president following the country’s independence. His initial rhetoric based on reconciliation garnered him much positive regard and undivided attention at first, but a series of deaths in Zimbabwe at the time took him off the list.