Zimbabwe’s founding leader Robert Mugabe has died in Singapore aged 95, two sources in touch with his family told ZimLive on Friday.
Mugabe had been battling ill-health and President Emmerson Mnangagwa told a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago that doctors had “taken him off life support.”
“There’s nothing more they can do for him,” Mnangagwa told Cabinet, according to a minister who was present.
Mugabe, ousted from power in a military coup in November 2017, was being treated in Singapore since April.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” tweeted Mnangagwa on Friday.
“Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
Once touted internationally as the hope of his nation, Mugabe left office with a grim legacy, after waging a campaign of oppression and violence to maintain power, and driving into poverty a country once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa.
He began his political career as a leader in the quest for the independence of Zimbabwe — then known as Rhodesia — and was regularly compared to South Africa’s venerated freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.
As a revolutionary guerrilla leader, he fought white-minority rule and spent years in jail as a political prisoner.
After 10 years in prison, he earned university degrees in education, economics and law from the University of London. In the mid-70s, he assumed leadership of the political wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), a militant liberation movement based in Mozambique.
From there, he helped orchestrate an armed resistance against white rule, emerging as a war hero both at home and abroad when the conflict ended in 1979.
He became the first prime minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe after elections in February 1980.
Articulate and smartly dressed, Mugabe came to power commanding the respect of a nation. He had a strong head start, inheriting a country with a stable economy, solid infrastructure and vast natural resources.
But the descent into tyranny didn’t take long.
“This is a man who had so much to offer to Zimbabweans, but he didn’t, he focused on himself,” said Trevor Ncube, one of the country’s most powerful publishers.
By 1983, it became clear that Mugabe’s administration would be merciless to anyone opposing his rule.
He presided over forces that carried out a string of massacres in opposition strongholds, and the country’s Fifth Brigade is believed to have killed up to 20,000 people, mostly supporters of Mugabe’s main political rival.