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 was one of the longest-serving leaders in African and was in fact, the oldest president in the whole wide world.
Robert Mugabe’s Biography
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.
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.
Annoyed that Southern Rhodesia was a British colony ruled by a white minority, Mugabe took interest in politics and was eventually imprisoned following anti-government comments he made. The jail term lasted for more than 10 years between 1964 and 1974.
On his release, he founded Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), a resistance movement against British colonial rule. In 1980, when British rule ended, Mugabe was elected as Prime Minister, head of government of the new Republic of Zimbabwe and served in that office until 1987 when he became the country’s first executive head of state. He was the president of Zimbabwe, serving from 31st December 1987 to 21st November 2017 when he finally resigned. His resignation, however, did not happen without a fight.
Robert Mugabe had fired his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the path for his wife, Grace, to succeed him as leader of Zimbabwe. This was totally unacceptable to the people! Consequently, the ruling party turned against him and the military intervened by seizing control in the capital, Harare. They placed Mugabe under house arrest while negotiations for his departure went on with the military. One week after, precisely on Tuesday afternoon, November 21, 2017, he resigned. His resignation letter came as parliament kicked off an impeachment process after the former president resisted pressure to step down for one week. Mugabe’s resignation sparked off a wild jubilation by Zimbabweans who have long been tired of his autocratic reign.
Before the ex-president relinquished power, he made sure that military officials agreed to his demand for immunity, for himself and his wife, and allowed him to keep several of his properties, among other conditions.
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 wings. 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 under scholarship. He graduated from the institution in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English literature. While teaching in Ghana, Mugabe enrolled at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in Winneba.
As a result of his love for education, the former Zimbabwean leader also bagged a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of South Africa, by correspondence. Still, by correspondence, he also added another feather to his academic cap by acquiring a second bachelor’s degree in administration from the University of London International Programmes through distant learning.
Also, while serving his term in prison between 1964 and 1974, Mugabe taught English to his fellow prisoners and earned two Law graduate degrees by correspondence from the University of London.
A cable written ten years earlier by the U.S. embassy in Harare was published by Wikileaks in 2011. According to the report, the full extent of Mugabe’s assets was not known but was rumoured to be more than $1 billion in value, the majority of which are likely invested outside Zimbabwe.
The report further said that the overseas assets, according to rumours, was made up of everything from the Channel Islands, the secret accounts in Switzerland, and the Bahamas to castles in Scotland.
However, more recent reports have it that Mugabe amassed a net worth of $10 million (£7.5 million) which majorly came from the fortunes he made from the nation’s diamond deposits.
Opposition politicians have alleged that the Mugabe’s own 14 farms in the country. The best known is the Omega Dairy farm, one of the largest dairy farms in southern Africa.
Family – Wife and Children
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.
Mugabe fathered 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.
Robert Mugabe House
Having made a lot of money from being the leader of Zimbabwe, Mugabe had much to show for it. In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe’s are said to have six residences including his abode known as ‘The Blue Roof’ which is said to be extraordinarily opulent and worth more than about $10 million (Sh1 billion). The house has 25-bedrooms, 2 lakes, one massive dining room that can accommodate over 30 guests, a large outdoor pool, and an oversized master bedroom with a super king-size bed. It is situated on a 44-acre grounds fenced off from the public and protected by a multimillion-dollar radar system.
In 2013, Robert Mugabe also acquired a mansion worth more than $5 million (£4 million) in Hong Kong. According to media reports, the house was purchased a few months before Bona Mugabe, the daughter of Robert Mugabe, started studying at the University of Hong Kong.
The former president also owns Hamilton Palace in Sussex, which had an estimated value of about $40million (£30 million) before it was turned to a construction site.
In addition, the Guardian reported real estate purchases in Malaysia, Singapore and possibly Dubai, all in Mugabe’s name.
Is Robert Mugabe Dead?
Several rumours about the presidents’ state of health spread over the years but he continued to live on. His constant medical care, exercise routine, guided diet and so on, helped to keep him in shape despite his age. Speaking when he turned 88, Robert Mugabe said he had died many times” that’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once.”
However, you can’t beat death forever. The legendary leader died on 6th September 2019 at the age of 95.
Other Interesting Facts About Robert Mugabe
1. He was the Chairman of the AU
Robert Mugabe served as the chairman of the African Union from 30 January 2015 to 30 January 2016. He had previously held the same position from 1997-1998. Then, the organisation went by the name, Organization of African Unity.
2. He Turned Zimbabwe’s Literacy Status Around
Despite all criticisms levelled against the tyrannical Mugabe, there are no doubts about the tremendous transformation he brought about in the education system of his country within the period he was in power. The literacy level of Zimbabwe rose as high as 90% under the presidency of Robert Mugabe. This achievement can be traced to his love for education.
Read More: Top 15 Unforgettable Robert Mugabe Quotes
3. He Proposed Marriage to the US President
Robert was 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 these 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.
4. 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 made available for the celebration. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, UN reports reveal that one out of every three children suffers stunted growth as a result of hunger.
5. He had a Disturbing Habit of Dozing off in Public Occasions
The reputable former Zimbabwean president, in all his power and dignity, was caught several times taking a deep nap in the public. Some attributed this misdemeanour to his age, while some others affirm that he does a lot of thinking! He had this funny ability to comfortably sleep off in different sitting positions. Both the comforting and discomforting ones. It did not matter if it was 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 behaviours, before he stepped down, was at the inaugural ceremony of the Nigerian president, General Muhammadu Buhari, where he was well captured by Sahara Reporters. The photo below is clear evidence. No wonder his people wanted him out of power, so he can get all the nap due to him.
6. Mugabe was 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 was taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which Mugabe had 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 was the first time one of its honorary degrees was revoked. In the same vein, on 12th September 2008, Michigan State University revoked an honorary law degree that it awarded Mugabe in 1990.
6. Served 7 Tenures With no Intention of Stepping Down Until…
After the 2013 presidential elections, Robert Mugabe won the elections for the 7th time. However, it was repeatedly reported that the elections were tainted by fraud and voter intimidation.
One may wonder if Mugabe never got tired of power at any point. The fact is that he did not even have any intention of stepping down. In 2015, he reaffirmed his intention of contesting for the presidency, come 2018! He claimed that age had not diminished his strength – saying, ‘I feel as energetic as a nine-year-old boy.’
8. He was a Writer
Robert Mugabe wrote 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)
9. 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.