Robert Gabriel Mugabe
President (since 1987)
Date of Birth: 21/02/1924
Place of Birth: Zvimba
Ethnicity: Shona - Zezuru
Son of Gabriel Mugabe and Bona Shonhiwa
Career: National Democratic Party (NDP), 1960; Acting Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) formed after ban of NDP 1961-62; Founding Member and Secretary General of the Zimbabwe African
National Union (ZANU) following split from ZAPU, 1963-75; detained 1964-74; leader of external wing of ZANU, 1975; ZANU President, 1977 to
date; Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, 1980-87; President of Zimbabwe, 1987 to date; Chairman, Non-Aligned Movement, 1986; Chairman, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, 1991; Chairman, Frontline States, 1992; Chairman, G15 group of countries, 1995; Chairman, World Solar Summit, 1995; Chairman, Southern African Development Community's Organisation on Defence, Politics and Security, 1996-2001; Chairman, Organisation of African Unity (now African Union), 1997; Chairman, Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa COMESA), 2009.
Commentary: Robert Mugabe is the only ruler Zimbabweans have
known since Independence in 1980. His reign saw the country prosper in
the first decade, slip in the second and collapse in the third. Calls
for him to step down were made as early as 1992, soon after the
introduction of the International Monetary Fund-sponsored Economic
Structural Adjustment Programme, which saw subsidies lifted and
thousands of workers laid off amid one of the worst droughts in
Zimbabwe’s history, but Mugabe has miraculously survived, surprising
even his own lieutenants.
President Mugabe has ruled the country with an iron fist, using
violence as part of his election campaign, from the first
post-Independence elections in 1985 when opposition Zimbabwe African
People’s Union (ZAPU) supporters were beaten up and made to vote for
his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Thousands of
innocent civilians were killed in Matebeleland and Midlands in the
five-year civil strife from 1982-87, which is now commonly known as Gukurahundi, meaning to wipe the country of 'dissidents'.
There was more widespread and systematic violence at the 2000
parliamentary elections, and again at the 2002 presidential elections
after the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, led by
former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.
Surprisingly the crucial 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections
were very peaceful until Mugabe lost, with 43 percent of the vote
against Tsvangirai’s 48 percent; ZANU-PF also lost its parliamentary
majority (99 seats to 110 for the opposition). The run-up to the second
round of elections was a bloody campaign, which left close to 200
people dead, forcing Tsvangirai to pull out of the race.
Initially regarded as a revolutionary who wanted to keep the party
leadership youthful (and as a man who would not tolerate corruption
when ZANU-PF introduced a leadership code in 1984), Mugabe slowly
turned into a dictator. Die-hard opponents like Edgar Tekere, his former Secretary General, and later Eddison Zvobgo
were got rid of. Mugabe has retained power by rewarding loyalists and
making sure that there is no logical successor at any one time.
There are now two major factions within ZANU-PF, one led by former army commander, Solomon Mujuru, and the other by former intelligence chief Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa seems to have the upper hand, but Tsvangirai's popularity
raises doubts about his chances of leading the nation. Mujuru, once
considered a king-maker, lost favour when he openly opposed Mugabe at
the 2006 ZANU-PF annual conference at Goromonzi and called for a
special congress to elect a new leadership.
A highly educated man with seven degrees under his belt, Mugabe saw
Zimbabwe slip from being the Jewel of Africa to a basket case with the
highest inflation in the world. Inflation was officially at 231 million
percent in July 2008. The United States academic Steve Hanke put it at 89.7 sextillion percent (21 zeroes) in November 2008.
Mugabe's downfall is attributed to three major blunders: the granting
of packages to war veterans in 1997 when this was not budgeted for;
military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
and the fast-tracking of land reform in 2000, when he grabbed land from
almost all white commercial farmers, after which the European Union and
the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. Though these
have been dubbed 'smart' sanctions targeted at individuals, their
effect was considerable as Zimbabwe could not receive balance of
payments support from international organisations like the IMF and the
Backed by hardliners led by Mnangagwa and the military and service
chiefs, Mugabe refused to hand over power to Tsvangirai following his
March 2008 defeat. He was forced to sign a power-sharing agreement on
15 September after the country took an unprecedented downhill slide.
Mugabe was to remain President but with reduced powers, while
Tsvangirai became Prime Minister. Arthur Mutambara,
the leader of the smaller MDC faction, became Deputy Prime Minister.
Another four months went by before Tsvangirai was sworn in on 11
Mugabe is now widely expected to retire at ZANU-PF's National Congress
in December. This should pave the way for his successor, who, under the
Global Political Agreement, will automatically become the country’s
president. Whispers say he may seek re-election because of infighting
among his lieutenants, but this is very unlikely. Word is that Mugabe
has already vacated State House, his official residence, and has been
staying at his Borrowdale mansion for the past year.
Vol 55 N0 7
EUROPEAN UNION | AFRICA
The run-up to the summit was marked by debate over which presidents were not coming, such as South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (enraged that his wife, Grace Mugabe, was denied an invitation) and invalids such as Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Côte d’Ivoire’s Alassane Dramane Ouattara...
Vol 55 N0 7
A fresh wave of farm expropriation led by President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace Marufu Mugabe, has unsettled the few external lenders still supporting Zimbabwe’s fragile economy...
Vol 55 N0 7
The factions supporting the two main contenders to succeed President Robert Mugabe – Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa – are fighting for control of the state airline, compounding its problems of poor service and corporate debts...
The government did not make any allocation to it in the 2014 budget and there have been suggestions that support for the carrier, which President Robert Mugabe uses for his international trips, has often come from diamond mining firms (AC Vol 53 No 2, Positions pending)...
Vol 55 N0 7
EUROPEAN UNION | AFRICA
Recent summits have been undermined by bargaining over whether Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gets an invitation...
Vol 55 N0 6
In different ways, President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are currently demonstrating this truth...
Vol 55 N0 5
Zimbabwe has confiscated the platinum and copper interests of Hsieh Ping-sung without compensation after he fell out with President Robert Mugabe and his family, Africa Confidential has learned...
Vol 55 N0 4
ZIMBABWE | CHINA
President Robert Mugabe had to cut short his annual leave and return from the Far East when his sister Brigid Zvenhamo Mugabe died; she had been in a coma for three years...
Vol 55 N0 3
The pressure from Belgium to accommodate Zimbabwean business – especially its gems – may yet clash with the British government’s historic enmity with President Robert Mugabe and the governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in the context of the European Union...
Vol 55 N0 1
The only certainty for Zimbabwe in 2014 is that the succession issue will not be resolved so long as President Robert Mugabe is still in control...
Vol 55 N0 1
The Mashonaland West provincial capital, Chinoyi, got all dressed up for the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front conference on 13-14 December but the deliberations produced no breakthroughs – either on the worsening economic problems or the stalemate over the successor to President Robert Mugabe...