Mugabe, Robert Gabriel
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Mugabe, Robert

Robert Mugabe

1924—

President of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, decided while in his twenties to help his black countrymen achieve independence from British colonial rule. He fulfilled his goal in 1980, after eleven years in prison and a bloody seven-year guerrilla war. Since 1987 Mugabe has presided over a land whose economy is in shambles, and Amnesty International named Mugabe one of the ten worst dictators in the world.

Learned about Racial Injustice

Robert Mugabe was born in 1924, four months after Southern Rhodesia became a British Crown colony. In a land ruled by a theoretically multiracial Legislative Assembly that was actually overwhelmingly white, life was not easy for the Shona people of Mugabe's native Kutama village. Their freedom was curtailed by laws, their job opportunities were regulated by industry's need for unskilled labor, and their education, in most cases, was limited to the grammar-school level.

Mugabe was one of the few who escaped this fate. His education was supervised by Father O'Hea, the director of the nearby Jesuit mission, who was an unshakably moral and defiantly liberal man. An unabashed iconoclast, O'Hea held the philosophy that all people are equal and should be treated that way and that students should be educated as far as their capabilities can take them. He imbued the intelligent young Mugabe with both of these maxims and encouraged him to pass them on to others by becoming a teacher.

In 1945 Mugabe left O'Hea's guidance behind for a wider Southern Rhodesia, where new settlers were pouring into the country at a rate of ten thousand each year. Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins, intent on providing security for them, was firmly in favor of racial separation, a method of administration that had been buttressed by the Land Apportionment Act. Implemented in 1930, the act decreed that much of the nation's unincorporated land should be divided evenly between blacks and whites despite a huge demographic imbalance of only 50,000 whites and 650,000 blacks. The growing population and the increasing industrialization of the country forced more and more blacks to move. By the time Mugabe returned home to start his teaching career in 1946, about three hundred thousand black families had been displaced from their homes and packed into already overcrowded areas. It was a situation destined to fester into open warfare.

Southern Rhodesia was still seething in 1949, when Mugabe won a scholarship to the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. Because South Africa was also part of the British Commonwealth, he found little change in the external society, though life was different inside the all-black university. For the first time since he had left the mission, he saw active protest against segregation and an eagerness to explore different political philosophies. One that he found attractive was Marxism.

Mugabe's interest in communism grew into admiration after 1957, when he was invited by Kwame Nkrumah to teach in Ghana. Recently independent and proudly Marxist, the Ghanaian government was intent on bringing universal education and opportunity to those formerly at the lowest levels of society. Mugabe noted that most Ghanaians gladly seized the chance to better themselves. Enjoying the cheerful public spirit, he plunged eagerly into teaching and working with the country's youth groups, and he took a deep interest in all aspects of Ghanaian politics.

Became Opposition Leader in Zimbabwe

In 1960 he visited his homeland to introduce his mother to his Ghanaian fiancée, Sally Heyfron. The country was no longer the Southern Rhodesia he remembered. The white population had grown to 223,000, a formidable number of whom supported the federation that had been established between Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Malawi. However, no such enthusiasm existed among the country's 450,000-strong black voting force. The federation's government refused to implement black majority rule, so politically aware blacks were adamantly opposed to it. Mugabe was astounded by their bold new vehemence and the protest groups they had formed to express it.

In July of 1960 black fury exploded into a protest later called the March of 7,000. People gathered at the town hall of Salisbury's Harare Township to protest the arrest of their leaders. Mugabe was persuaded to address the gathering. He told his seething audience about the egalitarian new Ghanaian society and its rise from colonialism, and found that he had generated public interest that outlasted the day of the protest. He ignored the threatening, almost unlimited police power of the Law and Order Act that was enacted after the march and began to give many speeches about Ghanaian pride in its Marxist independence. He also decided to stay and help achieve the same status for Southern Rhodesia.

Within weeks of the March of 7,000, he was elected publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party. Seeing his first task as introducing the uninitiated to the possibility of black independence, he organized a semimilitant youth league like those he had worked with in Ghana. Just as he had done in Accra, he attracted Rhodesian teenagers with political discussions and the cultural dancing and music that would give them pride in their heritage. His efforts soon paid off. Even though the party itself was banned by the government on December 9, 1961, it left behind enough supporters to regroup immediately into the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). As Southern Rhodesia's first effective black political movement, it functioned for nine months before it was banned the following September.

The tumultuous events in Southern Rhodesia had not escaped the notice of the British Foreign Office, which in 1959 ordered a comprehensive enquiry under Lord Monckton. The following year the Monckton Commission disclosed its conclusion that there was too much black opposition to the federation for it to continue to exist in its present form. If the federation were to survive, Monckton concluded, a new constitution providing majority rule would have to be enacted. Britain agreed, relinquishing control of Southern Rhodesia's domestic affairs and drawing up a new constitution allowing majority rule.

The new constitution did not appease black Rhodesians, however. It lacked a definite target date for adopting majority rule and it proposed a two-tier electoral system whose upper level was accessible only to voters with a secondary education. Because this effectively excluded most of the black population, blacks received only half the voting power of the better-educated whites, who were also eligible to vote on the lower roll. As a result, the country's far-smaller white population could elect fifty of the Legislative Assembly's sixty-five members. The vociferous opposition of 450,000 blacks spurred ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo to visit the United Nations (UN), which in turn called on Britain to suspend the new constitution and initiate discussions about true majority rule.

At a Glance …

Born Robert Gabriel Mugabe on February 21, 1924, in Kutama, Zimbabwe; son of Gabriel Mugabe and Bona Mugabe; married Sally Heyfron, February 21, 1961; two children; married Grace Marufa, August 16, 1996; three children. Education: University of Fort Hare, South Africa, BA, 1951; University of London, LLB.

Career: Taught at various mission schools in Zimbabwe, 1951-55; taught at Chalimbana Training College, Zambia, 1955-58, and St. Mary's Training College, Takoradi, Ghana, 1958-60; National Democratic Party, publicity secretary, 1960-61; Zimbabwe African People's Union, publicity secretary, 1961-62; Zimbabwe African National Union, founder and leader, 1963-76, president, 1976-80; arrested in 1963 and jailed 1964-74; Republic of Zimbabwe, prime minister, 1980-87, minister of defense, 1985; president, 1987—.

Awards: African Leadership Prize, 1988.

Addresses: Office—Office of the President, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Nkomo's negotiations with the British stalled. Nkomo was perceived by many, including Mugabe, as accept- ing Britain's vague promises of eventual majority rule rather than insisting on a definite timetable. Along with other ZAPU supporters, Mugabe was so furious about these equivocations that he openly began to advocate a guerrilla war. In April of 1961, noted Mugabe's biographers David Smith and Colin Simpson, Mugabe even snapped at a policeman at Salisbury Airport who stopped a party supporter suspected of carrying a weapon: "We are taking over this country, and we will not put up with this nonsense."

Mugabe's defiant attitude made him the target of constant police surveillance, especially after he split from Nkomo's party in 1963. In August of that year he and several other ex-Nkomo supporters formed the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Rhodesian police, aware of these activities, waited for their opportunity to arrest him. Their chance came in December, when Mugabe returned to his homeland. He was jailed for eleven years. In prison, Mugabe was not as isolated as the police hoped. Secret communications networks between him and his supporters brought him the news that the former Nyasaland was now Malawi, that the former Northern Rhodesia was now Zambia, and that the independence of both countries had caused the collapse of the federation. He also knew that an attack on a white Rhodesian farmstead in 1964 had signaled the start of guerrilla operations to liberate Southern Rhodesia.

Watched the Majority Rule Prevail

Mugabe had been in prison for about two years when former Royal Air Force Pilot Ian Smith became Rhodesia's prime minister. An experienced politician, Smith assured white Southern Rhodesians that majority rule would not come to pass during his tenure. He went to London for the constitutional talks, but his stance did not impress the new Labor government. Nevertheless, he stuck obstinately to his agenda, going so far as to issue a unilateral declaration of independence on November 11, 1965, though still professing allegiance to the British Crown. In response, the UN imposed sanctions that quickly damaged the Rhodesian economy. Chrome, copper, asbestos, tobacco, and sugar previously bound for export never left the country, and shipments of badly needed oil were kept out.

However, sanctions were just one of Smith's problems. Far worse was the 1975 independence of Mozambique, a staunch former ally in its days as a Portuguese colony. Mozambique was now a Marxist state, with long, sparsely patrolled borders that were ideal bases of operations for Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Chinese allies eager to help it with training and arms. Neighboring South Africa, Smith's last remaining ally, was now also teetering insecurely. Encouraged by South African leaders, Smith had Mugabe released from prison to attend a 1974 conference in Lusaka. Mugabe seized this opportunity and escaped across the border into Mozambique, stopping on the way to recruit young Rhodesians for guerrilla training.

By the end of the 1970s a savage and stealthy war and a devastated economy had convinced Smith that majority rule was inevitable. Unsuccessfully, he tried to reach a mutually suitable transition schedule with Mugabe, but there was no progress until 1979, when Britain convened a conference at Lancaster House in London. Topics discussed at the conference were the British-monitored transition to black majority rule, the assurance of white minority representation for a specific period after independence, and a new constitution. With all these matters settled, on December 16 the UN lifted the sanctions.

Became Prime Minister

On April 18, 1980, British rule ended in Southern Rhodesia and the nation was renamed the Republic of Zimbabwe. Elected over candidates from ten competing parties, including Nkomo, the ZANU took power, with Mugabe as prime minister. Despite his Marxist leanings, he tried his best not to frighten whites by immediately scrapping the capitalist economy. Instead, he tried to persuade them to stay and share their skills by announcing that the change to socialism would proceed in gradual phases. White Rhodesians were not convinced that they could find security in a country run by a recently murderous enemy, however, and in 1980 alone, over seventeen thousand of them fled from the country.

Mugabe ignored their departure and turned his attention to badly needed reforms. By New Year's Day 1981, the country boasted free primary school education for all students as well as guaranteed admission to secondary school for all who qualified. Free medical care was provided for those with low income levels, and a new housing law granted freehold ownership to home-renters of thirty years' standing. In other innovations, Mugabe had city boundaries reshaped to ensure multiracial political representation and replaced whites with educated blacks in key positions relating to educational institutions.

Nevertheless, problems remained. Fighting broke out in February of 1981 between Mugabe's forces and Nkomo's Zambia-based faction. Most troublesome was Nkomo himself, who was fired from the government in 1982 after his intention to launch an antigovernment coup was revealed. This action touched off a flurry of robberies and led to the murder of several tourists. It also brought retaliation from Mugabe's forces in the form of rapes and murders in Nkomo's stronghold area of Matabeleland.

An atmosphere of resentment smoldered on through the national elections of 1985, when Mugabe tri- umphed a second time over Nkomo. Friction between the ZANU and Nkomo's ZAPU supporters continued until November of 1987, when fifteen Matabeleland missionaries were murdered with axes by Mugabe supporters. This tragedy caused Nkomo and Mugabe to settle their differences.

Became Zimbabwe's President

On December 22, 1987, the ZANU and the ZAPU merged in a unity agreement designed to begin healing the country, which was now split along tribal lines. One week later Mugabe was installed as the country's new president, and Nkomo was named one of three supervising senior ministers. The friction eased, allowing President Mugabe to concentrate on bettering an economy starved for foreign currency as a result of prolonged drought, a worldwide recession, and the lingering effects of sanctions against the Smith government. Despite his efforts, imported spare parts for the mining and manufacturing industries became scarce, and levies on tobacco and alcohol had to be instituted to offset the soaring unemployment rate.

By 1989 the economy required major restructuring. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank helped create a five-year adjustment program that restructured the government, relaxed price controls, and gave farmers the right to set their own prices. Still, shortages of staples such as brake fluid and cooking oil; the drought-induced rises in the cost of maize, wheat, and dairy products; and a new policy of charging for education and medical care overshadowed most of the adjustment programs' benefits and darkened the national mood. By 1994, however, the structural adjustment had produced some improvements, with slight growth beginning in agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. Mugabe's vision of security under majority rule in Zimbabwe had begun to move forward.

In 1996 Mugabe took the controversial stance of supporting the seizure of white-owned land without compensation to reverse the economic imbalances that disadvantaged the majority blacks. He also refused to revise the constitution that is tailored to a one-party state, or release his hold on the media.

In September of 1998 Mugabe's government held an international conference to raise money for land distribution, but potential donor countries refused to give Mugabe any money until he came up with a plan for reducing rural poverty. Since no plan was proposed, no money was received.

Then in April of 2000 Zimbabwe passed a constitutional amendment that held Britain, as a former colonial power, responsible for paying for land stolen from Africans during colonial rule. Mugabe threatened to seize land without compensation if Britain did not pay. Some critics, however, pointed out that when the British arrived in Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, they were only helping themselves to land that was not being used by anyone else.

In a presidential election in March of 2002, Mugabe officially won reelection by 430,000 votes. However, there were widespread allegations that Mugabe had stuffed the ballot box with enough votes to give him his margin of victory. The allegations had sufficient credibility to cause the United States, the European Union, and many other developed countries to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, including an arms embargo. In 2003 a hearing was held by the High Court of Zimbabwe, though no decision was immediately made and Mugabe and his party retained power.

Was Unable to Help Zimbabwe's Economy

By October of 2002 Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture, which had formerly sustained the economy, had ground to a halt. With widespread hunger (half the population was said to be experiencing famine), food donations were pouring into the country. There were reports that Mugabe's government had been distributing donated food on the basis of the recipient's political affiliation. Other reports stated the government would only buy farmers' products if they supported Mugabe, which contributed to the food problem.

Food shortages, however, were only the tip of the iceberg for Mugabe. Since early 2000 the economy had experienced a steep decline. The gross domestic product had fallen 24 percent, inflation had reached 135 percent, the value of the country's currency had fallen 96 percent, and the arrears on the foreign debt of $3.4 billion had reached 30 percent. Earnings from tourism had fallen 80 percent, gold production was down by half, and 300,000 of the county's 1.3 million workers were unemployed. In addition to bad economic news, 35 percent of all adults had AIDS. Many people left the country, whose population declined by nearly 2.5 million between 1992 and 2002.

Though Zimbabwe's economic, social, and cultural situations were growing more desperate, Mugabe tightened his grip on the country. In September of 2003 a government commission essentially banned Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper from future publication. The paper regularly criticized Mugabe. Though Mugabe was in control, he did face some uncertainty before the 2005 parliamentary elections. Besides factional infighting in his political party and controversy over who would be Mugabe's successor when he decided to leave office, several important people in Mugabe's government, including the Zimbabwean ambassador to Mozambique, were charged with selling state secrets to foreign agents.

During his campaign, Mugabe said he believed the mining industry would take Zimbabwe out of its eco- nomic doldrums, and he looked forward to the opening of the country's first big diamond mine in 2005. The government also invested funds to encourage more platinum mining. Furthermore, Mugabe spoke out against the violence expected to accompany the elections. Despite being named one of the world's ten worst dictators by Amnesty International in 2004, Mugabe was expected to win the election and stay in power until at least 2008, when he said he would retire.

His retirement did not come soon enough, however, as Mugabe's party did indeed retain power in the 2005 parliamentary elections. By that time, the country had further descended into a shocking state of chaos and economic ruin. The collapse had begun in 2000, with the enactment of the threatened forcible appropriation of thousands of white-owned farms. The ensuing destruction of the agricultural base (output fell by 80 percent) resulted in an approximate decline of 50 percent in the gross national product, an annual inflation rate of 400%, and a dizzying drop in tourist revenues. The problems were further worsened by Operation Murambatsvina (variously translated as "Clean up Filth," "Drive out Trash," and "Restore Order"), which was started in May of 2005. Described by the government as a civic beautification program, the initiative displaced an estimated seven hundred thousand people and affected nearly two million more, thousands of whom were rendered homeless within months. Mugabe denied any such situation and refused UN assistance for its alleged victims. Nonetheless, by November of 2005 the average life expectancy had halved in a decade, four million people faced famine, and the unemployment rate hovered around 70%.

Attempts to deal with the economic collapse, including printing more and more money, led to runaway inflation. It rose from 1,000 percent in 2005 to an unimaginable 40 million percent in 2008. In 2007 Celia W. Dugger of the New York Times reported that "the government had to lop 10 zeros off the currency … to keep the nation's calculators from being overwhelmed." Zimbabweans faced monthly limits of how much money they were allowed to take out of the banks, amounting to only a dollar or two. The once-prosperous Zimbabwe had declined into a beleaguered country fit, perhaps, only for its president.

Corrupted the 2008 Elections

In March of 2007 Zimbabwean riot police broke up opposition rallies, and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several other opposition leaders were beaten and hospitalized. The United States announced that it would hold Mugabe personally responsible for the attacks. In August of 2007 Mugabe forbade all businesses in Zimbabwe to increase their prices or wages for the next six months. The move was an attempt to fight Zimbabwe's runaway inflation, but it had little or no effect on the country's economic problems. In December British prime minister Gordon Brown refused to attend a summit involving the European Union and African nations because of Mugabe's presence there. At the summit, representatives of other countries criticized Mugabe for his human-rights record.

Late in 2007 Mugabe's party and the opposition began holding talks in South Africa aimed at national reconciliation. However, in January of 2008 police used tear gas to break up an opposition rally. A few days later, the Mugabe regime announced that it would hold presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29 of that year, and Mugabe would run for reelection. Mugabe ran on the slogan "This is the final battle for total control." Opposition leaders insisted that changes to the constitution should precede new elections, and they threatened to boycott the vote unless changes were made to ensure the elections would be free and fair, including a relaxation of tough security laws used to suppress political rallies.

The March 29, 2008, elections pitted Mugabe against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC. Electoral authorities took more than a month to release results. In the meantime, on April 6, Mugabe asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to recheck the results of the presidential elections before publicly releasing the outcome. The MDC sued in Zimbabwe's High Court to block this order. The MDC believed Mugabe was trying to steal the election and argued that Mugabe could not legally ask for a recount until after the results were released. The MDC also demanded that the results of the election be published immediately.

When election results were finally released on May 2, they showed that Tsvangirai took 47.9% of the vote and that Mugabe only won 43.2%. This meant the two would have to compete in a run-off election, because to win in the first round the top vote-getter had to win more than half of the vote. The MDC alleged that Tsvangirai had indeed won more than 50% of the vote in the first round of the election and that Mugabe's government had manipulated the vote-counting process to prevent Tsvangirai from taking office.

On May 16, 2008, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced that the run-off election between Mugabe and Tsvangirai would be held on June 27, 2008. Tsvangirai declared he would compete in the run-off election, despite his assertions that the vote-counting in the first round of the election had been rigged. However, in June of 2008 Mugabe said he would not allow Tsvangirai or the MDC to take power in Zimbabwe as long as he was alive. BBC News noted that Tsvangirai withdrew his candidacy just days before the election because, he said, "the outcome is determined by … Mugabe himself" and because as many as two hundred thousand MDC supporters had been forced from their homes, and others had been beaten and even killed. On June 29, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced that Mugabe had won 85.5% of the vote in the June 27 election. Shortly after the announcement, Mugabe was sworn in for another term.

Several international organizations that monitored the election, including the Southern African Development Community and the Pan-African Parliament, condemned Mugabe's reelection. The monitors declared the voting had been so unfair that the results could not be trusted. Many African leaders insisted at that time that Mugabe enter into talks with opposition leaders to relinquish some of the total control of the Zimbabwean government that he had exercised for twenty-eight years.

Agreed to Potential Power-Broking Deal

In response to international criticism, negotiations between Mugabe and Tsvangirai and mediated by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa began in July of 2008. In September Mugabe signed an agreement with Tsvangirai to share responsibilities for running Zimbabwe. It was unclear how the power-sharing agreement would work, although at that time Mugabe was introduced as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister of the country. Within days, however, the deal faltered as Mugabe insisted on retaining control of the police and security forces, as well as other crucial ministries—finance, foreign affairs, information, mines, land, agriculture, and justice.

In early October of 2008 Mugabe announced that the ZANU would retain control of crucial ministries, including those that control both the military and the police force, whereas control of the finance ministry was still unresolved. Opposition leaders declared they would not join a government formed under such circumstances.

In late October Botswana's president Seretse Khama put pressure on other African leaders to call for a new election in Zimbabwe if the power-sharing deal remained at an impasse. Mediators referred stalled negotiations to the Southern African Development Community. By November of 2008 the situation was not yet resolved. Human rights groups suggested that Mugabe and his supporters might be jeopardizing the talks, fearing that they would face human rights trials should they allow the opposition to take part in government.

Sources

Books

Legum, Colin, ed., Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Documents, 1980-1981, Africana, 1981, p. B922.

Nelson, Harold D., ed., Zimbabwe: A Country Study, American University, 1983.

Rasmussen, R. Kent, Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Scarecrow Press, 1979.

Smith, David, and Colin Simpson, Mugabe, Sphere, 1981.

Periodicals

Africa News Service, May 20, 2004; September 4, 2004; December 9, 2004; December 16, 2004; December 30, 2004; December 31, 2004.

Africa Report, May-June 1981, p. 62; January-February 1985, p. 61; March-April 1988, p. 66; July-August 1988, p. 41; May-June 1989, p. 41; January-February 1990, p. 36; November-December 1991, p. 56; July-August 1993, p. 64; July-August 1993, p. 66.

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, October 29, 2002.

Associated Press, October 31, 2008.

BBC News, March 19, 2007; August 31, 2007; January 26, 2008; April 6, 2008; June 22, 2008; June 30, 2008; September 15, 2008; October 28, 2008; October 31, 2008.

Catholic Insight, September 2005.

Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2006.

Economist, February 15, 1992, p. 47; June 13, 1992, p. 46; November 27, 2004, p. 48.

Guardian, April 3, 2005, November 8, 2005.

International Herald Tribune, November 14, 2005.

New Republic, January 31, 1983, p. 18.

New Statesman, June 5, 1992, p. 26.

Newsweek, December 5, 2005.

New York Times, February 20, 1980, p. 7; April 18, 1980, p. 1; February 14, 1980, p. 4; July 7, 1985, p. 1, Sec. 4, p. 3; January 28, 1992, p. 17; August 22, 1993, p. 5; September 29, 2003; November 10, 2003; May 3, 2008; September 15, 2008; October 1, 2008; September 18, 2008; September 22, 2008; October 11, 2008; October 20, 2008; October 28, 2008.

Reuters, February 15, 2008; June 14, 2008.

Time, March 17, 1980, p. 43.

Times (London), May 17, 2008.

Online

"Timeline: Zimbabwe," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1831470.stm (accessed November 6, 2008).

Winter, Joseph, "Robert Mugabe: The Survivor," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3017678.stm (accessed November 6, 2008).

—Gillian Wolf and Melissa Doak

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Mugabe, Robert Gabriel 1928—

Robert Gabriel Mugabe 1928

President of the Republic of Zimbabwe

At a Glance

Lifes Destiny Set

Landed in Prison

Independence

Sources

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwes president, is a man who focused on his lifes work early. While in his twenties he decided to help less courageous black countrymen achieve independence from British colonial rule. He fulfilled his personal goal in 1980, after 11 years in prison and a bloody seven-year guerrilla war. Today Mugabe presides over a land whose economy is fueled by mining, agriculture, and tourism, though high unemployment and lack of education are chronic problems.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born in 1924, four months after Southern Rhodesia became a British crown colony. In a land ruled by a theoretically multiracial Legislative Assembly that was actually overwhelmingly white, life was not easy for the Shona people of Mugabes native Kutama village. Their freedom was curtailed by pass laws, their job opportunities were regulated by industrys need for unskilled labor, and their education, in most cases, was limited to the grammar-school level.

Robert Mugabe was one of the few who escaped this fate. His education was supervised by the director of the nearby Jesuit mission, an unshakably moral and defiantly liberal man. An unabashed iconoclast, Father OHea held the philosophy that all people are equal and should be treated that way and that students should be educated as far as their capabilities can take them. He imbued the intelligent young Robert with both of these maxims and encouraged him to pass them on to others by becoming a teacher.

In 1945 Mugabe left OHeas guidance behind for a wider Southern Rhodesia, where new settlers were pouring into country at the rate of 10,000 each year. Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins, intent upon providing security for them, was firmly in favor of racial separation, a method of administration that had been buttressed by the Land Apportionment Act. Implemented in 1930, the act decreed that much of the nations unincorporated land should be divided evenly between blacks and whites despite a huge demographic imbalance of only 50,000 whites and 650,000 blacks. At first the division was merely inconvenient, but the growing population and the increasing industrialization of the country forced more and more blacks to move. By the time Robert Mugabe came home to start his teaching career in 1946, about 300,000 black families had been displaced

At a Glance

Born February 21, 1924, in Kutama, Zimbabwe;son of Gabriel and Bona Mugabe; married Sally Heyfron February 21, 1961; two children. Education: Attended Kutama Mission School; University of Fort Hare, South Africa, B.A., 1951; received L.L.B. from University of London.

Taught at various mission schools in Zimbabwe, 195155; taught at Chalimbana Training College, Zambia, 195558, and St. Marys Training College, Takoradi, Ghana, 195860; National Democratic Party, publicity secretary, 196061; Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), publicity secretary, 196162; Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), founder and leader, 196376, president, 197680; arrested in 1963 and jailed 196474; Republic of Zimbabwe, prime minister, 198087, minister of defense, 1985; president, 1987.

Awards: African Leadership Prize, 1988.

Addresses: OfficeOffice of the President, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.

from their homes and packed into already overcrowded areas. It was a situation destined to fester into open warfare.

Southern Rhodesia was still seething in 1949, when Mugabe won a scholarship to Fort Hare University in South Africa. Because South Africa was also part of the British Commonwealth he found little change in the external society, though life was different inside the all-black university. For the first time since he had left the mission, he saw active protest against segregation and an eagerness to explore different political philosophies. One which he found attractive was Marxism.

Lifes Destiny Set

Mugabes interest in communism grew into admiration after 1957, when he was invited by Kwame Nkrumah to come and teach in Ghana. Recently independent, proudly Marxist, the government was intent on bringing universal education and opportunity to those formerly at the lowest levels of society. Mugabe noted that most Ghanaians gladly seized the chance to better themselves. Enjoying the cheerful public spirit, he plunged eagerly into teaching and working with the countrys youth groups, and took a deep interest in all aspects of Ghanaian politics.

In 1960 he visited his homeland in order to introduce his mother to his Ghanaian fiancee, Sally Heyfron. The country was no longer the Southern Rhodesia he remembered. The white population had grown to 223,000, a formidable number of whom supported the federation that had been established between Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Malawi. But no such enthusiasm existed among the countrys 450,000-strong black voting force. The federations government did plan to institute majority rule, so politically aware blacks were adamantly opposed to it. Mugabe was astounded by their bold new vehemence and the protest groups they had formed to express it.

In July of 1960 black fury exploded into a March of 7,000 people who gathered at the town hall of Salisburys Harare Township to protest the arrest of their leaders. Mugabe was persuaded to address the gathering. He told his seething audience about the egalitarian new Ghanaian society and its rise from colonialism, and found that he had generated public interest that outlasted the day of the protest. He ignored the threatening, almost unlimited police power of the Law and Order Act that was enacted after the march and began to give many speeches about the Ghanaian pride in its Marxist independence. He also decided to stay and help to achieve the same status for Southern Rhodesia.

Within weeks of the March of 7,000 he was elected publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party. Seeing his first task as introducing the uninitiated to the possibility of black independence, he organized a semi-militant youth league like those he had worked with in Ghana. Just as he had done in Accra, he attracted Rhodesian teenagers with political discussions and the cultural dancing and music that would give them pride in their heritage. His efforts soon paid off. Although the party itself was banned by the government on December 9, 1961, it left behind enough supporters to regroup immediately into the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). Southern Rhodesias first effective black political movement, it functioned for nine months before it was banned the following September.

The tumultuous events in Southern Rhodesia had not escaped the notice of the British Foreign Office, which in 1959 ordered a comprehensive enquiry under Lord Monckton. The following year the Monckton Commission disclosed its conclusion that there was too much black opposition to the federation for it to continue to exist in its present form. If the federation were to survive, Monckton concluded, a new constitution providing majority rule would have to be enacted. Britain agreed, relinquishing control of Southern Rhodesias domestic affairs and drawing up a new constitution allowing majority rule.

But the new constitution did not appease black Rhodesians. It lacked a definite target date for adopting majority rule and it proposed a two-tier electoral system whose upper level was accessible only to voters with a secondary education. Since this effectively excluded most of the black population, blacks received only half the voting power of the better-educated whites, who were also eligible to vote on the lower roll. As a result, the countrys far-smaller white population could elect 50 of the Legislative Assemblys 65 members. The vociferous opposition of 450,000 blacks spurred ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo to visit the United Nations, which in turn called upon Britain to suspend the new constitution and initiate discussions about true majority rule.

Landed in Prison

Nkomos negotiations with the British stalled. Nkomo was perceived by many, including Mugabe, as accepting Britains vague promises of eventual majority rule rather than insisting on a definite timetable. Along with other ZAPU supporters, Mugabe was so furious about these equivocations that he openly began to advocate a guerrilla war. In April of 1961, noted Mugabes biographers David Smith and Colin Simpson, Mugabe even snapped at a policeman at Salisbury Airport who stopped a Party supporter suspected of carrying a weapon: We are taking over this country, and we will not put up with this nonsense.

Mugabes defiant attitude made him the target of constant police surveillance, especially after he split from Nkomos party in 1963. In August of that year he and several other ex-Nkomo supporters formed the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Rhodesian police, aware of these activities, waited for their opportunity to arrest him. Their chance came in December, when Mugabe returned to his homeland. He was jailed for 11 years. In prison Mugabe was not as isolated as the police hoped. Secret communications networks between him and his supporters brought him the news that the former Nyasa-land was now Malawi, that the former Northern Rhodesia was now Zambia, and that the independence of both countries had caused the collapse of the Federation. He also knew that an attack on a white Rhodesian farmstead in 1964 had signaled the start of guerrilla operations to liberate Southern Rhodesia.

Mugabe had been in prison for about two years when ex-Royal Air Force Pilot Ian Smith became Rhodesias prime minister. An experienced politician, Smith assured white Southern Rhodesians that majority rule would not come to pass during his tenure. He went to London for the constitutional talks, but his stance did not impress the new Labor government. Nevertheless he stuck obstinately to his agenda, going so far as to issue a unilateral declaration of independence on November 11, 1965, though still professing allegiance to the British crown. In response, the United Nations imposed sanctions that quickly damaged the Rhodesian economy. Chrome, copper, asbestos, tobacco and sugar previously bound for export never left the country, while shipments of badly needed oil were kept out.

However, sanctions were just one of Smiths problems. Far worse was the 1975 independence of Mozambique, a staunch former ally in its days as a Portuguese colony. Mozambique was now a Marxist state, with long, sparsely patrolled borders that were ideal bases of operations for Mugabes Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and the Chinese allies eager to help them with training and arms. Neighboring South Africa, Smiths last remaining ally, was now also teetering insecurely. Encouraged by South African leaders, Smith allowed Mugabe out of prison to attend a 1974 conference in Lusaka. Mugabe seized this opportunity and escaped across the border into Mozambique, stopping on the way to recruit young Rhodesians for guerrilla training.

Independence

By the end of the 1970s a savage and stealthy war and a devastated economy had convinced Smith that majority rule was inevitable. Unsuccessfully he tried to reach a mutually suitable transition schedule with Mugabe, but there was no progress until 1979, when Britain convened a conference at Lancaster House in London. Topics discussed at the conference were the British-monitored transition to black majority rule, assurance of white minority representation for a specific period after independence, and a new constitution. With all these matters settled, on December 16 the United Nations lifted the sanctions.

On April 18, 1980, British rule ended in Southern Rhodesia and the nation was renamed the Republic of Zimbabwe. Elected over candidates from ten competing parties, including Nkomo, the Zimbabwe African National Union took power, with Robert Gabriel Mugabe as prime minister. Despite his Marxist leanings, he tried his best not to frighten the technologically advanced whites by immediately scrapping the capitalist economy. Instead, he tried to persuade them to stay and share their skills by announcing that the change to socialism would proceed in gradual phases. But white Rhodesians were not convinced that they could find security in a country run by a recently murderous enemy. In 1980 alone, 17,240 of them emigrated.

Mugabe ignored their departure and turned his attention to badly needed reforms. By New Years Day 1981, the country boasted free primary school education for all students as well as guaranteed admission to secondary school for all who qualified. Free medical care was provided for those with low income levels, and a new housing law granted freehold ownership to home-renters of 30 years standing. In other innovations, Mugabe had city boundaries reshaped to ensure multiracial political representation and replaced whites with educated blacks in key positions relating to educational institutions.

But problems remained. Fighting broke out in February 1981 between Mugabes forces and Joshua Nkomos Zambia-based faction. Most troublesome was Nkomo himself, who was fired from the government in 1982 after his intention to launch an anti-government coup was revealed. This action touched off a flurry of robberies and caused the murder of several tourists. It also brought retaliation from Mugabes forces in the form of rapes and murders in Nkomos stronghold area of Matabeleland.

An atmosphere of resentment smoldered on through the national elections of 1985, when Mugabe triumphed a second time over Nkomo. Friction between ZANU and Nkomos ZAPU supporters continued until November of 1987, when 15 Matabeleland missionaries were murdered with axes by Mugabe supporters. This tragedy caused Nkomo and Mugabe to settle their differences. On December 22,1987, ZANU and ZAPU merged in a unity agreement designed to begin healing the country, which was now split along tribal lines. One week later Mugabe was installed as the countrys new president, while Nkomo was named one of three supervising senior ministers.

The friction eased, allowing President Mugabe to concentrate on bettering an economy starved for foreign currency as a result of prolonged drought, a worldwide recession, and the lingering effects of sanctions against the Smith government. Despite his efforts, imported spare parts for the mining and manufacturing industries became very scarce, and levies on tobacco and alcohol had to be instituted to offset the soaring unemployment rate.

By 1989 the economy required major restructuring. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank helped to create a five-year adjustment program that restructured the government, relaxed price controls, and gave farmers the right to set their own prices. Still, shortages of staples like brake fluid and cooking oil, the drought-induced rises in the cost of maize, wheat, and dairy products, and a new policy of charging for education and medical care overshadowed most of the adjustment programss benefits and darkened the national mood. By 1994, however, the structural adjustment had produced some improvements, with slight growth beginning in agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. Mugabes vision of security under majority rule in Zimbabwe had begun to move forward.

Sources

Books

Legum, Colin, editor, Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Documents, 19801981, p. B922.

Nelson, Harold, editor, Zimbabwe: A Country Study, American University, 1983.

Rasmussen, R. Kent, Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, African Historical Dictionaries, No. 18, Scarecrow Press, 1979.

Smith, David, and Colin Simpson, Mugabe, Sphere Books, 1981.

Periodicals

Africa Report, May-June 1981, p. 62; January-February 1985, p. 61; March-April 1988, p. 66; July-August 1988, p. 41; May-June 1989, p. 41; January-February 1990, p. 36; November-December 1991, p. 56; July-August 1993, p. 64; July-August 1993, p. 66.

Economist, February 15,1992, p. 47; June 13,1992, p. 46.

New Republic, January 31, 1983, p. 18.

New Statesman, June 5, 992, p. 26.

New York Times, February 20, 1980, p. 7; April 18, 1980, p. 1; February 14, 1980, p. 4; July 7, 1985, p. 1, Sec. 4, p. 3. January 28, 1992, p. 17; August 22, 1993, p. 5.

Time, March 17, 1980, p. 43.

Gillian Wolf

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Wolf, Gillian. "Mugabe, Robert Gabriel 1928—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Robert Gabriel Mugabe

Robert Gabriel Mugabe

Robert Gabriel Mugabe (born 1924) was in the forefront of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) for nearly two decades. Despite detention and harassment from the white settler regime, Mugabe resisted attempts to break him and maintained a fierce commitment to the principles of racial equality and democracy. In 1980 he was rewarded by becoming Zimbabwe's first elected black prime minister.

Robert Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, at Kutama Mission in Zvimba, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) four months after it became a British Crown colony. Mugabe was the son of a peasant farmer and carpenter. He began his education at a nearby Jesuit mission and soon proved an able student under the guidance of Father O'Hea. For nine years he taught in various schools while also continuing to study privately for his matriculation certificate before going on to the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, where he received a bachelor of arts in English and history in 1951. He returned to teach in Southern Rhodesia, obtaining his bachelor of education by correspondence in 1953. Two years later he moved to Chalimbana Training College in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where he taught for nearly four years while also studying for a bachelor of science in economics by correspondence from the University of London. In 1958 he completed that degree in Ghana, where he taught at St. Mary's Teacher Training College and also met his future wife, Sarah "Sally" Heyfron. In Ghana he found a society that was recently independent and proudly Marxist, with a government intent on bringing universal education and opportunity to even those formerly on the lowest levels of society. The Ghanaians cheerful public spirit and their wholehearted way of seizing the chance to better themselves made a profound impression on Mugabe.

In 1960 Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe on home leave and became caught up in the African nationalist struggle against Great Britain and the settler regime. He resigned his job in Ghana, remained in Zimbabwe, and joined the National Democratic party (NDP) as secretary for publicity. Mugabe proved a capable organizer, and he quickly built the youth wing of the party into a powerful force. His determination to achieve racial and social justice in Zimbabwe soon made him a respected and important voice in the party. He was one of the principal opponents of the 1961 constitutional compromise offering black Africans token representation in a still white-dominated government. This document offered no specific target date for adopting majority rule and it proposed a two tier electoral system whose upper level was available only to voters who had completed secondary school, thereby eliminating a majority of the black African population, giving blacks only half the voting power of whites. Such was the vociferous opposition of the 450,000 blacks that the United Nations called upon Britain to suspend the new constitution and begin discussions about true majority rule.

That same year the government banned NDP, but Mugabe retained his position in the successor party, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). When ZAPU was banned in 1962, Mugabe was restricted for three months, but he eluded imprisonment and fled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which had become the party's operational headquarters in exile. He organized regular broadcasts to Zimbabwe from Radio Tanzania.

Dissension over tactics split the ZAPU leadership, and Mugabe and other ZAPU dissidents returned home to form a new nationalist party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), in August 1963. This party opposed another group led by Joshua Nkomo, who was preoccupied with gaining external support against the Rhodesian government. The ZANU called for a firmer policy of confrontation with the settlers. Ndabaningi Sithole became president and Mugabe the secretary-general. In response, ZAPU established the People's Caretaker Council (PCC) to act for the banned ZAPU.

Clashes between the two parties weakened the movement, and white conservative settlers gained power through the election of the Rhodesian Front's Ian Smith in 1964. Smith quickly banned the two parties and a year later declared unilateral independence from Britain. The United Nations imposed sanctions that severely damaged the economy and left Smith to struggle without support of his long-time ally Mozambique. The former Portuguese colony had become a Marxist state, and as such, no longer a staunch friend to Rhodesia.

Meanwhile, Mugabe, Nkomo, and other nationalist leaders spent the next ten years in prison, during which time various lieutenants directed the still weak armed struggle. Mugabe used his imprisonment to further his studies, obtaining a bachelor of law and a bachelor of administration from the University of London. He also tutored fellow inmates, and at the time of his escape he was studying for a master of law degree. In 1974 Smith allowed Mugabe out of prison to attend a conference in Lusaka. Mugabe seized this opportunity to escape across the border to Mozambique, gathering young troops of guerrillas along the way.

The guerrilla war intensified during this period as ZANU's military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), gained experience in the field and training abroad (especially in China). On April 28, 1968, ZANLA guerrillas clashed with Rhodesian forces—since commemorated as Chimurenga Day, the start of the armed struggle. The war expanded dramatically in 1972 when the Mozambique border became available as a base for guerrilla forces.

In response to the escalating guerrilla war, the Rhodesian government began extending its military call-up, while also searching for an acceptable compromise with moderate African leaders. Following long talks with representatives from Zambia, South Africa, and elsewhere, a detente scenario was drafted in Lusaka in October 1974. Smith released detained nationalist leaders for preliminary talks. Several of these leaders signed a declaration of unity in Lusaka, and Smith declared a ceasefire. Mugabe and ZANU refused to sign and ignored the ceasefire, which consequently failed to take place.

Mugabe and Nkomo left Zimbabwe in order to direct their respective military forces. ZANU leaders had become disenchanted with Sithole's willingness to compromise with Smith and in 1975 appointed Mugabe the leader of ZANU. That same year a ZANU leader, Herbert Chitepo, was assassinated in the Zambian capital of Lusaka and the Zambian government arrested most of the Zambian-based ZANU leaders. As a result, Mugabe moved to Mozambique, which became ZANU's main headquarters and staging ground for guerrilla attacks. B.J. Vorster of South Africa and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia tried to get Smith to negotiate with the nationalists, but talks broke off within a few hours. The war resumed on three fronts: Tete, Manica, and Gaza. In 1976 ZANU and ZAPU formed the Patriot Front to establish a united front to better prosecute the war. The new army was called the Zimbabwe People's Army (ZIPA), which included cadres from ZANLA and ZAPU's Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).

Military and political pressures gradually pushed Smith towards an internal settlement. In 1977 Smith rejected peace proposals put forward by the United States and Britain, and instead opened negotiations with three moderate African leaders: Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Chief Chirau, and Sithole. In 1978 these leaders agreed to form a transitional government which would proceed to majority rule, and a year later a white referendum approved the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia constitution. Muzorewa won the subsequent national election.

Both the international community and the Patriotic Front rejected this compromise, and guerrilla activity continued despite amnesty proposals. Britain, the United States, and the Front-Line States (the African countries bordering Zimbabwe) stepped up pressure on Smith and Muzorewa to hold another constitutional conference which included the Patriotic Front. In 1979 at the Commonwealth summit in Lusaka, Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed to convene a constitutional conference. The resulting Lancaster House conference established a new constitution, and a ceasefire took effect. In 1980 Mugabe won British-supervised elections in an independent Zimbabwe and became the first black prime minister and minister of defense in Zimbabwe. After the election Mugabe presided over Zimbabwe's difficult transition from a racialist settler regime to a multi-racial socialist government. He brought his moral force, personal discipline, and commitment to social justice to this difficult task, although not always receiving full cooperation from Nkomo's Matebele people.

Mugabe ignored the departure of the white population, concetrating his efforts on improving the lot of the black African peoples. By Jan 1, 1981, Zimbabwe boasted free primary education for all students, guaranteed admission to secondary school for all who qualified, free medical care for those with low incomes and a new housing law granting freehold ownership to home renters of 30 year's standing.

Many problems remained between Mugabe's forces and those of Nkomo's. Resentment smoldered when Mugabe was once again reelected over Nkomo, spilling over into fighting and murder until finally the two leaders agreed to settle their differences. In December 1987 the two rival factions merged with Mugabe as President and Nkomo as a senior minister. With the friction eased, attention could be turned to bettering the economy.

By 1989 a five year plan was created to restructure the government, relaxing price controls and giving farmers the right to set their own prices. By 1994 the structural adjustment had produced some improvements with slight growth showing in agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. In 1996 Mugabe took the controversial stance of supporting the seizure of white-owned land without compensation in order to reverse the economic imbalances that disadvantaged the majority blacks. He also refused to revise the constitution that is tailored to a one party state, or release his hold on the media.

In 1991 Mugabe's wife Sally died. He then married his long-time mistress (and mother of his two children) Grace Marufu. While the wedding was lavish and almost regal (Marufu invited 20,000 guests to attend the ceremony), it sparked anger among the Zimbabwean people, causing them a disillusionment with the president who led them to independence. Other signs of unrest were that 60,000 civil servants went on strike over a 6 percent pay raise when inflation was at 22 percent. Moreover, the government revoked their traditional Christmas bonus, while awarding themselves a 130 percent pay increase. Although the Mugabe government negotiated a settlement to the strike, it signaled a breakdown of the relationship between Mugabe and his people.

Further Reading

Mugabe's Our War of Liberation (1983) discusses his part in the armed struggle in Zimbabwe. His career is discussed in David Martin and Phyllis Johnson, The Struggle for Zimbabwe (1981) and in Diana Mitchell, African Nationalist Leaders in Zimbabwe: Who's Who 1980 (1980, revised 1983). Also see: Zimbabwe: A Country Study (1983), "End of the affair: Zimbabwe," Economist, August 31, 1996. □

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"Robert Gabriel Mugabe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Mugabe, Robert

Mugabe, Robert 1924

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, was born in rural Rhodesia (the countrys earlier colonial name), and spent his adult life struggling for the independence of Zimbabwe. He has led the country since 1980, first as prime minister and then as president. The son of Gabriel and Bona Mugabe, he managed to gain admission to South Africas Fort Hare University, which was then one of the few institutions reserved for non-white higher education in apartheid South Africa. He began to develop his political consciousness at the university and returned to Rhodesia in 1960, immediately joining Joshua Nkomos Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), but he deserted Nkomo three years later to help establish the rival Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). The two men conducted an uneasy rivalry, with periods of conditional cooperation, right up to Nkomos death in 1999.

This sort of political maneuvering characterized Mugabes rise to pre-eminence within ZANU itself, and rivals were either eclipsed or mysteriously died. At the foundation of ZANU, however, the radical demeanour of the party so alarmed Ian Smiths white minority government that Mugabe was imprisoned without trial in 1964 and remained incarcerated for ten years. When, a year later in 1965, Smith declared unilateral independence from Britain rather than permit black majority rule, it was a sign to the imprisoned Mugabe that democracy and black rights would require armed struggle.

Mugabe studied intensely while in prison and acquired a list of degrees from the universities of London and South Africa, including two masters degrees. His intellectual acuity has always been one of his hallmarks.

Mugabe was released from prison in 1974 and went to Zambia. While there he became president of ZANU, deposing another of his veteran rivals, Ndabaningi Sithole, and in 1975 the predominant figure in ZANU, Herbert Chitepo, was assassinated. Mugabe and many of his allies were immediately arrested in Zambia, but they were released a month later and made their way to Mozambique, where they fostered the armed insurrection against the Smith regime, using Mozambique as a base for their operations into Rhodesia. The war became sufficiently fierce and bloody for a series of international peace efforts to be launched from both Britain and the United States.

In 1979 the pressures of both war and international diplomacy led to negotiations among all parties under the chairmanship of the British foreign and commonwealth secretary in London, and it was agreed that a British governor would take charge of Rhodesia and conduct elections leading to independence under the name of Zimbabwe. Mugabes ZANU scored a comprehensive electoral victory. He increased the sense of surprise by immediately issuing a call for reconciliation and cooperation. Although he and Nkomo had negotiated jointly in London, Mugabe declined to form a coalition with Nkomo, but did provide him with a place in government.

The early years of rule astounded the international community with its moderation and liberalism, although it was only in the 1990s that full appreciation was gained of a secretive conflict in western Zimbabwe from 1982 to 1987. There, dissident supporters of Nkomo were ruthlessly crushed by Mugabes armed forces, with tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed. His pride and political capacity crushed, Nkomo was thereafter fully subordinate to Mugabe, but the outside world was prepared to turn a blind eye to a protracted episode where violence had replaced democracy.

Beginning in 1992, however, Mugabe began speaking intensely of land reform and redistribution. By far the majority of Zimbabwes arable land was still in white ownership, and political independence had not been accompanied by majority ownership of land. Even so, it took until 1997 when, after a bitter quarrel with British prime minister Tony Blair, Mugabe began to speak violently about seizing land without compensation.

Mugabe had won all of the elections held after independence. Although the 1990 elections occurred with much violence in the east of the country, Mugabe garnered legitimate electoral victories in all of them. In 1999, however, a formidable opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged under Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC inflicted a first defeat on Mugabe in February 2000, at a referendum over constitutional changes. In March, Mugabe unleashed the veterans of the liberation war to invade and take over the land of white farmers and to reassert violence into the political landscape. Since then, the economic and political travails of Zimbabwe have spiralled out of control.

Without a productive agri-industrial base, inflation in Zimbabwe had soared to 1600 percent by February 2007. The MDC suffered defeat at successive elections, and it is clear that Mugabe had resorted to rigging in order to ensure his victories. Political suppression increased as the economic meltdown of the 2000s continued.

Mugabe is now in his eighties and there is a debate as to his posterity. In the West, he is seen as the violent guerrilla leader who merely cloaked his ruthlessness for many of the years of his rule, but who has shown his true character in deliberately plunging his country into turmoil. Some view him as reasserting his early Maoist ideology in a Zimbabwean Cultural Revolution. Many in Africa, however, see him as the last great nationalist who, perhaps belatedly, was determined to assert the meaning of black majority rule in terms of ownership of land. Here he takes his place alongside such intellectual nationalist leaders as Amilcar Cabral and Kwame Nkrumah. This more sympathetic view suggests that, in the long term, Mugabes accomplishment will be recognized as a final, if messy, breakthrough to full nationalism. In the meantime, the messiness has gripped Mugabes land and people with catastrophe and deprivation.

SEE ALSO Autocracy; Cabral, Amilcar; Colonialism; Decolonization; Guerrilla Warfare; Land Claims; Land Reform; Liberation Movements; Nkrumah, Kwame

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chan, Stephen. 2003. Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Raftopoulos, Brian, and Tyrone Savage, eds. 2004. Zimbabwe: Injustice and Political Reconciliation. Cape Town, South Africa: Institute of Justice and Reconcilation.

Stephen Chan

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Mugabe, Robert Gabriel

Robert Gabriel Mugabe (mōōgä´bē, –bā), 1924–, president of Zimbabwe (1987–). A founder of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963 and a guerrilla leader, Mugabe jointly negotiated independence in 1979 with Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). When Mugabe's ZANU won a majority in 1980, he became prime minister and chose reconciliation, including Nkomo and whites in his cabinet, but by 1982 he had broken with Nkomo and brutally turned on his supporters. After Mugabe was elected president in 1987, a ZANU-ZAPU merger was negotiated (1988), returning Nkomo to the government but leaving Mugabe supreme. Reelected in 1990 and 1996, Mugabe was forced to abandon his commitment to a one-party Marxist state by 1991, but he nonetheless consolidated power, virtually eliminating opposition, and his regime became increasingly autocratic. Mugabe was an aggressive supporter of sanctions against South Africa and aided the African National Congress before the lifting of apartheid.

By 2000 support for Mugabe had dropped dramatically in urban areas; a constitutional change to increase presidential power lost at the polls, and an opposition party later won nearly half the elected seats in parliament. He was reelected in 2002 in a vote marked by government intimidation of the opposition and charges of vote rigging. The 2008 president election was similarly marred, but opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won a plurality of the vote and forced a runoff; Tsvangirai was subsequently driven to withdraw from the runoff by violence against his supporters and threats against himself. Before the end of 2008, however, Mugabe was forced to agree to a power-sharing government with the opposition, which took office in Feb., 2009. His reelection in 2013 was again marked by charges of irregularites.

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Mugabe, Robert

Mugabe, Robert (b. 1924). Zimbabwean nationalist statesman. Mugabe was a founder-member of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963, but was arrested and imprisoned in 1964. He was released in 1975, having become leader of ZANU the previous year. Almost immediately, as joint leader with Joshua Nkomo of the Patriotic Front, he took up arms against the white-minority government led by Ian Smith. He played a decisive role in the peace negotiation held in London in 1979, and after the elections held in the following year became Zimbabwe's first African prime minister. His relations with his rival Nkomo followed an uncertain pattern until 1987, when they agreed to form a coalition government with Mugabe as executive president. A convinced Marxist, he hoped to establish a one-party state; however, with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe he agreed to abandon his plan in 1991 but insisted on redistributing land to benefit Africans; tension has continued as a consequence of the occupation of farms by ‘independence veterans’.

Kenneth Ingham

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Mugabe, Robert Gabriel

Mugabe, Robert Gabriel (1925) Zimbabwean statesman, prime minister (1980– ), president (1987– ). In 1963, Mugabe went into exile and co-founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Imprisoned by Ian Smith's white minority Rhodesian regime, he spent the next decade (1964–74) in detention. After his release, Mugabe, along with Joshua Nkomo, continued to agitate for majority rule from Mozambique. In 1976, ZAPU and ZANU merged to form the Patriotic Front, which became the first black majority government. Mugabe won Zimbabwe's first multi-party elections (1990). In 2000, Mugabe lost a referendum to amend the constitution to allow the government to confiscate white farmers' land. Mugabe attracted international criticism for his support of the subsequent illegal occupation of white-owned farms. Re-elected in 2002, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe after widespread evidence of vote-rigging. In 2003, Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.

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