Who Is Robert Mugabe?

Despite mounting criticism, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President since 1980, is credited with leading the former state of Rhodesia out of the colonial age.

Robert Mugabe, President of the sub-Saharan African country of Zimbabwe, was initially hailed as the great liberator of the continent, eradicating colonial rule from then-Rhodesia while other African countries floundered under colonial oppression.

Mugabe was born in Rhodesia, the predecessor in name to the country since rechristened as Zimbabwe, the son of a carpenter. His family impressed upon him the value of education, which led to Robert Mugabe schooling in neighbouring South Africa.

Mugabe attended Fort Hare University in South Africa's Eastern Cape region, an institution whose alumni include Nelson Mandela. Mugabe graduated in the mid-sixties but has since earned a further five degrees in addition to a host of honourary degrees conferred upon him by universities around the world.



It was while studying that Mugabe adopted a Marxist-socialist idealogy, diluted to some extent over the years, but sufficiently entrenched to enable Mugabe to form a number of alliances with communist leaders during the 1980's, primarily from the previous-Eastern European countries and Angola.

Returning to the land of his birth in the late 1960's, Mugabe joined the underground black resistance movement protesting the racist policies of British-mouthpiece Ian Smith. He was subsequently jailed but released in 1975, his popularity had boomed and Mugabe was able to take charge of one of the two guerilla movements.

Numerous wars and border skirmishes ensued with the black liberation struggle recieving support from Rhodesia's liberated northern neighbours including Tanzania and Zambia but also having to counter opposition from Mozambique and apartheid-dominated South Africa, both of whom supported the white colonialists. With a groundswell of support resulting in greater internal agitation, Ian Smith's party was forced to concede defeat in 1980. With whites in the country accounting for only 1-percent of the population, Smith's system based on white-domination was clearly no longer tenable.

Smith negotiated a peace settlement with Mugabe but remained settled in the country. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party was credited as having brought peace to the country and Mugabe was elected President by a landslide in 1980. He ruled unopposed since then to the present day.

Since taking power Mugabe has surprised international political analysts with a number of harsh measures designed to root out opponents and entrench his power. Soon after taking power, Mugabe's "Fifth Brigade" slaughtered thousands of members of the minority Ndebele tribe, supporters of his rival Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe also tacitly supported violent action against the Movement for Democratic Change by his Zanu-PF party, resulting in many deaths in the country.

Mugabe's landgrab policies on white-owned farms resulted in Zimbabwe being suspended from the International Monetary Fund and inflation subsequently reached unprecedented levels. Despite this, his Zanu PF party achieved a majority in the Zimbabwean elections of 2000, edging out the MDC and laying the foundation for a longer period of rule by Mugabe, despite international opposition.

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