Robert Gabriel Mugabe
(1924 -)

Zimbabwean politician and freedom fighter born on February 21, 1924 in Rhodesia, in the "Christian Village", a mission established by Jesuit priests. Deserted by his father at the age of ten, Mugabe had a solitary childhood. As his mother, Bona, was busy raising her other five children, young Robert had to be was brought up, nurtured and cultured by an Irish Jesuit, father O'Hea. The priest was the one giving Mugabe a feel for Irish legend and revolution; vividly describing the struggle his own people has sustained to attain independence from Britain.

In 1945 Mugabe acquired a teaching diploma, but due to his restless nature, ambition and avidity for study he managed to win a scholarship to Fort Hare University College in South Africa. This is where he was introduced to communist literature and ideas. This is also were he was familiarized with Mahatma Gandhi's ideals and the means to achieve them. In 1952 Robert Mugabe came back armed with a diploma and a revolutionary credo: freeing Rhodesia of white rule and turning it into a model communist state that other African nations will want to emulate. In 1958, he took a job at the Takoradi Teacher Training in Ghana. Here, he met his future wife, Sally. Ghana, as the first African colony to achieve independence, was a political laboratory where blacks were gaining swift advancement in government, civil service, commerce, industry and education. Mugabe realized then that his ambition was feasible.

In May 1960, he returned to Rhodesia only to find a country in turmoil. Black nationalists were demanded political power. Angry crowds swelled the streets of Salisbury, the Rhodesian capital, later to be renamed Harare. The government response to the mayhem, other than forcefully dispersing the mob, was the Law and Order Maintenance Act. It enabled the government to restrain freedom of speech, assembly, movement and to arrest and detain anyone without trial. The act practically turned Rhodesia into a police state. The nationalists responded by forming two rival parties: the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) headed by Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) leaded by Ndabaningi Sithole, with Mugabe as secretary-general. As each group tried to assert itself, the rivalry developed into uncontrolled violence which gave Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Front (white right-wing party in power) leader, the upper-hand in the matter. In 1964, he finally quenched the nationalistic threat; Mugabe, Sithole and Nkomo were imprisoned. In 1965 Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence from Britain, in order to force the British government into agreeing to a perpetual white rule in Rhodesia. In 1971, the British secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home arrived in Salisbury with proposals so favorable to white Rhodesians that Ian Smith accepted them without reservation. African opposition to the deal was so significant that it precipitated unprecedented havoc provoked by guerrilla warfare. In order to shore up the Rhodesian defense, South Africa came to the rescue by dispatching large numbers of troops. As the war dragged on, the South African government, as well as the British government became disenchanted with Ian Smith's intransigence. Under the pressure, the white Rhodesian administration agreed to negotiations with the black nationalists. After a long and protracted conciliation a date was set in spring 1980 for free general elections.

The Zanu party (having now Mugabe as its leader) won the elections after a campaign of violence and intimidation. Rhodesia, now renamed Zimbabwe declared its independence. For Robert Gabriel Mugabe is was payback time. Racial discrimination against whites became commonplace. Zimbabwe had to become in Mugabe's opinion an all-black country. But the racial cleansing had to be done in time, with patience and without galling South Africa. Meanwhile, there were more urgent tasks ahead. Like commissioning North Korean "artists" to build a monument commemorating the heroes of the liberation war. Or, like destroying any opposition to the President inside Zanu, making Parliament less and less relevant, obliterating the freedom of the press, adapting to a lavish lifestyle, naming incompetent cronies in key governmental positions and intimidating political adversaries. In time, all these measures led to one natural occurrence: economic failure and large-scale impoverishment. The people became disgruntled. There was something to be done about it. With the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, opportunity presented itself: the confiscation of white farmland on a massive scale and redistribution to the poor and unfortunate blacks impoverished by the white ogre Ian Smith and his clique. One minor detail was ignored. Ian Smith was no longer in power. He was no longer in Zimbabwe for that matter. But, when it comes to the redistribution of what's not his, one can overlook the details. Somehow, the white's farmlands ended up into the hands of the same persons that now owned the Zimbabwean economy as a whole: Mugabe's political clientele.

Ravaged by disease and starvation, Zimbabwe is today a country on the brink of collapse. Mugabe, the former idealist became what he dreaded most: the tyrant he once fought. Hopefully, this freedom fighter will eventually realize that liberty on an empty stomach is like television on honeymoon: worthless.

Length of Rule - Twenty Four years

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