has been the head of government in Zimbabwe,
first as Prime
Minister and later as first executive President,
Mugabe was raised at
Kutama Mission, Zvimba District, north-west of Harare
(then called Salisbury), in then Southern
Rhodesia. He was raised as a Roman
Catholic and was educated in Jesuit
schools. He qualified as a teacher at age 17, but left to study for a B.A.
in English and history at Fort
Hare University in South
Africa, an illustrious university at the time, graduating in 1951
while meeting contemporaries like Julius
Sobukwe and Kenneth
Kaunda. He then studied at Driefontein in 1952,
(1955 - 1957).
He obtained a diploma and a bachelor's degree in education from the University
of South Africa and another degree in economics
from the University
of London, all by correspondence. Subsequently, Mugabe taught in a
teacher-training school in Accra,
where he met Sally Hayfron, who later became his first wife.
See also: History
Returning to Southern
Rhodesia in 1960 as a committed Marxist,
Mugabe joined Joshua
Nkomo and the National Democratic Party (NDP), which later became
African Peoples Union (ZAPU), both immediately banned by Ian
Smith's government. He left ZAPU in 1963
to form the rival Zimbabwe
African National Union (ZANU) with the Reverend Ndabaningi
Sithole and lawyer Herbert
Chitepo. It would have been easy for the party to split along
tribal lines between the Ndebele
tribe and that of Mugabe himself, the Shona
tribe, but cross-tribal representation was maintained by his partners.
ZANU leader Sithole nominated Mugabe as his Secretary General.
ZANU was influenced
by the Africanist ideas of the Pan
Africanist Congress in South Africa and influenced by Maoism
while ZAPU was an ally of the African
National Congress and was a supporter of a more orthodox pro-Soviet
line on national
liberation. Similar divisions can also be seen the in liberation
movement in Angola
between the MPLA
He was detained with
other nationalist leaders Joshua
Nkomo and Edson
Zvobgo in 1964
and remained in prison for ten years, where he studied law. On his
release he left Rhodesia for Mozambique
and led the Chinese-financed
military ZANU army, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA),
in the war against Ian
Chitepo was killed by a bomb placed in his car while in Zambia.
ZANLA commander Josiah
Tongogara was subsequently blamed by Kenneth
Kaunda's government. Mugabe unilaterally assumed control of ZANU
from Mozambique. Later that year, after squabbling with Ndabaningi
Sithole, Mugabe formed a militant ZANU faction, leaving Sithole to
lead the moderate Zanu
(Ndonga) party, which renounced violent struggle.
Prime Minister, then
See also: Lancaster
Persuasion from B.J.
Vorster, himself under pressure from Henry
Kissinger, forced Smith to accept in principle that white minority
rule could not continue indefinitely. On March
Sithole and other moderate leaders signed an agreement at
Governor's Lodge in Salisbury, which paved the way for the interim
government, under Lord
Soames, a British governor, in preparation for elections.
Elections were held
for a new national parliament as Zimbabwe
Rhodesia, which was won by the only black party that had renounced
violence and was allowed to contest – the UANC, led by Bishop Abel
Muzorewa and Canaan
Banana. Sanctions, however, were not lifted, because Britain and
the USA said there was not proper representation in the elections
– meaning Nkomo and Mugabe. Britain called all parties to talks
House in September 1979,
which were attended by Smith, Mugabe, Nkomo, Edgar
Zvobgo and others, where Muzorewa was persuaded to accept new
elections, which were held late February, 1980.
After a campaign
marked by intimidation from all sides, mistrust from security forces
and reports of full ballot boxes found on the road, the Shona
majority was decisive in electing Mugabe to head the first government
as prime minister on March
ZANU won 57 out of 80 contested seats in the new parliament, with 20
other seats reserved for whites.
political support came from his Shona-speaking
homeland in the north, attempted to build Zimbabwe on a basis of an
uneasy coalition with his Zimbabwe
African People's Union (ZAPU) rivals, whose support came from the Ndebele-speaking
south, and with whites. Mugabe sought to incorporate ZAPU into his Zimbabwe
African National Union (ZANU) led government and ZAPU's military
wing into the army; and ZAPU's leader, Joshua
Nkomo, was given a series of cabinet positions in Mugabe's
government. However, Mugabe was torn between this objective and
pressures to meet the expectations of his own ZANU followers for a
faster pace of social change.
An abortive ZAPU
rebellion and discontent in Matabeleland
spelled the end to this uneasy coalition. In 1983
Mugabe dismissed Nkomo from his cabinet, which triggered bitter
fighting between ZAPU supporters in the Ndebele-speaking
region of the country and the ruling ZANU. Between 1982
the military brutally crushed armed resistance in Ndebeleland and
Mugabe's rule was left secure. (see "Gukurahundi")
A peace accord was negotiated in 1987,
resulting in ZAPU's merger (1988) into the Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Mugabe brought
Nkomo into the government once again as a vice-president.
the position of Prime Minister was abolished, and Mugabe assumed the
new office of executive President of Zimbabwe gaining additional
powers in the process. He was re-elected in 1990
and, in very controversial circumstances, in 2002.
health and education for the black majority after elections agreed to
after the Lancaster
House Agreement in 1979.
amid international pressure and short on hard currency, Zimbabwe
embarked on a neoliberal
program, but the International
Monetary Fund suspended aid, claiming that the reforms were "not
At the same time he
pursued a "moral campaign" against homosexuality
or "fags", making what he deemed "unnatural sex acts"
illegal with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. This included the
arrest of his predecessor as President of Zimbabwe, Canaan
Banana, who was convicted of gay sex offences.
Mugabe was criticized
for his intervention in the civil
war in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo at a time when the Zimbabwean
economy was struggling. The DRC had been invaded by Uganda, and
Rwanda that sought to institute a change of government The war raised
accusations of corruption, with officials alleged to be plundering the
Main article: Land
reform in Zimbabwe
When Mugabe became
prime minister, approximately 70% of the country's arable
land was owned by approximately 4,000 descendants of white settlers.
However, he reassured white landowners that they had nothing to fear
from black majority rule. Mugabe favoured a "willing buyer,
willing seller" plan for gradual redistribution of land but
little was done in his early years in power. However, in 1999 and 2000
Mugabe used force to transfer land ownership from whites to blacks.
Westerns claim that since land redistribution, Zimbabwe has
transformed from being an exporter of food to a nation with rampant
food shortages, due to the land reforms. Zimbabwe claims that woes are
due to Western sanctions and political instability instigated by white
By 1997, the "willing
buyer, willing seller" land reform program had broken down after
the British government led by Tony
Blair unilaterally decided to stop funding it. With the Labour
party gaining power and old imperial values being set aside, members
of his government felt themselves under no obligation to continue
paying White farmers compensation, or in minister Clare
Short's words, "I should make it clear that we do not accept
that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land
purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds
without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish
and as you know we were colonised not colonisers." 
During the early to
mid-1990s Zimbabwe refrained from a more aggressive land reform policy,
to give the ANC in South Africa a breathing space in it's negotiations
for an end to White minority rule. Within that context, it is clear
that the Zimbabwean government decided to unilaterally move forward
with land reform outside of the "willing buyer, willing
was held on a new constitution.
The proposed change would have limited future presidents to two terms,
but as it was not retroactive, Mugabe could have stood for another two
terms. It would also have made his government and military officials
immune from prosecution for any illegal acts committed while in
office. Also, it allowed the government to confiscate white-owned land
for redistribution to black farmers without compensation. It was
defeated, after a low 20% turnout, by a strong urban vote, fuelled by
an effective SMS
campaign. Mugabe declared that he would "abide by the will of the
people". The vote was a surprise to ZANU-PF,
and an embarrassment before parliamentary elections due in mid-April.
Almost immediately self-styled "war veterans", led by Chenjerai
'Hitler' Hunzvi, began invading white-owned farms. On April
parliament pushed through an amendment, taken word for word from the
draft constitution that was rejected by voters, allowing the seizure
of white-owned farmlands
Mugabe faced Morgan
Tsvangirai of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) in presidential elections in March 2002.
Amid accusations of violence and claims that large numbers of citizens
in anti-Mugabe strongholds were prevented from voting, Mugabe defeated
Tsvangirai by 56% to 42%. Mugabe was helped by an unprecedented
turnout of 90% in his rural stronghold of Mashonaland
(55% of the population voted overall), although there are credible
claims that the turnout may have been rigged. When election observers
from South Africa claimed at a press conference that they had found no
evidence of vote rigging, the assembled press burst out with laughter.
a report 
adopted by the African
Union executive council, which comprises foreign ministers of the
53 member states, criticised the government for the arrests and
torture of opposition members of parliament and human
rights lawyers, the arrests of journalists, the stifling of
freedom of expression and clampdowns on other civil liberties.
It was compiled by
the AU's African
Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, which sent a mission to
Zimbabwe from June
24th to 28th 2002,
shortly after the presidential elections.
The report was
apparently not submitted to the AU's 2003
summit because it had not been translated into French.
It was adopted at the next AU summit in 2005.
party won the 2005
Zimbabwe parliamentary elections with an increased majority. The
elections were said to "reflect the free will of the people of
Zimbabwe" by the South African observers, despite accusations of
widespread fraud from the MDC.
President Mugabe encounters considerable opposition from the
West, he has many supporters in the developing world. Above, Venezuela
Chávez embraces Mugabe during the 60th anniversary
celebrations of the United
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome
At the event, Mugabe and Chávez both accused the United States
and other capitalist countries of wanting to dominate the world,
criticised the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and blamed them
for world poverty and hunger.
In recent years
Mugabe has emerged as one of Africa's most controversial leaders. His
critics accuse him of being a 'corrupt dictator',
and an 'extremely poor role model' for the continent. Nevertheless,
Mugabe retains considerable popularity throughout Africa. For example,
in 2004 the monthly magazine New
African had its readers vote for the "100 greatest
Africans" last year, Mugabe won a third-place finish, topped only
Mandela and Ghanaian independence hero Kwame
Nkrumah. In addition, in December 2005, Kenneth
former long-time leader, voiced support for Mugabe, stating that the
Zimbabwean president "would pull through because he enjoyed the
support of ordinary Zimbabweans who were punished for claiming back
their land." 
Mugabe's supporters tend to dismiss much of the criticism as being
racially motivated, and characterize it as being little more than the
bitter remarks of those who have been disadvantaged by his policies.
Since Mugabe began to
redistribute white-owned landholdings, he has faced harsh attacks,
externally from mostly Western countries including the former colonial
power of the United
Kingdom, the United
States and Australia,
and internally from trade-unions and urban Zimbabweans, who
overwhelmingly support the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change. In addition, some African figures have
condemned Mugabe, such as Archbishop Pius
Ncube, the South African Archbishop Desmond
Tutu (who called Mugabe a "caricature of an African dictator"),
and writer Wole
Soyinka (who called Mugabe's regime "a disgrace to the
Mogae distanced himself from the SADC statement opposing the
Commonwealth suspension. Mugabe has been condemned by Western
non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty
International, charging that he has committed human
rights abuses against minority Ndebeles,
the opposition MDC, white landowners, and homosexuals. Mugabe and a
list of members of his government are now banned from entering the European
U.S. President George
W. Bush approved measures for economic
sanctions to be leveled against Mugabe and numerous other
high-ranking Zimbabwe politicians, freezing their assets and barring
Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with them.
Justifying the move, Bush's spokesman stated the President and
Congress believe that "the situation in Zimbabwe endangers the
southern African region and threatens to undermine efforts to foster
good governance and respect for the rule of law throughout the
continent". The bill was known as the "Zimbabwe Democracy
Act" and was deemed "racist" by Mugabe.
in protest against a further 18 months of suspension from the Commonwealth
of Nations (thereby cutting foreign aid to Zimbabwe), Mugabe
withdrew his country from the Commonwealth. According to reports,
Robert Mugabe informed the leaders of Jamaica,
Africa of his decision when they telephoned him to discuss the
situation. Zimbabwe's government said the President did not accept the
Commonwealth's position, and was leaving the group.
Many African nations,
led by South Africa, want Zimbabwe to be brought back into the fold to
encourage dialogue between Mugabe and domestic foes, while members of
what many Africans charge is the "white Commonwealth"
– the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand – led the
hard-line stance on the suspension of Zimbabwe.
Ncube, the Roman
leads a consortium of Christian
faiths opposed to Mugabe. Ncube has won human rights awards for
opposing the alleged torture
and starvation used as a political weapon by the Mugabe government. In
Ncube has called for a "popular mass uprising" in the style
of the Orange
Revolution or Tulip
Revolution to remove Mugabe from power.
Mugabe defied a European Union travel ban that does not apply to Vatican
City by attending the Funeral
of Pope John Paul II. He was granted a transit visa by the Italian
authorities, as they are obliged to under the Concordat.
Tatchell of the gay
rights group OutRage!
has tried to place Mugabe under citizen's
arrest for human rights abuses during the leader's visits to the
In reaction to human
rights violations in Zimbabwe, students at universities from which
Mugabe has honorary doctorates have sought to get the degrees revoked.
So far, student bodies at Michigan
State University (ASMSU)
and the University
of Edinburgh (EUSA)
have each unanimously passed resolutions calling for this. The issue
is now being considered by the respective universities.
In June 2005 Mugabe
and his government attracted unprecedented international criticism,
including greater church condemnation than ever before when over two
hundred thousand people were left homeless by their homes, in urban
areas, being bulldozed in Operation
As one of Africa's
longest-lasting leaders, speculation has built over the years as to
the future of Zimbabwe after Mugabe leaves office. His age and
recurring rumors of failing health have focused more attention on
possible successors within his party as well as the opposition.
In June 2005, a
report that Mugabe had entered a hospital for tests on his heart
fueled rumors that he had died of a heart
these reports were dismissed by a Mugabe spokesman. This coincided
Murambatsvina (or "Drive Out Trash"), a police campaign
to demolish houses and businesses that had been built without
permission on land previously taken from white landholders and
intended for redistribution. Opponents called this an attempt to
disperse urban centers of dissent into rural areas where the
government had more control. Former information minister Jonathan
Moyo attributed the events to a power struggle within the party
over who would succeed Mugabe.
Mujuru, recently elevated to vice-president of ZANU-PF
during the December 2004
party congress and considerably younger than Joseph
Msika, the other vice-president, has been mentioned as a likely
successor to Mugabe. Joyce Mujuru's candidacy for the presidency is
strengthened by her husband's backing (Solomon Mujuru) who is the
former head of the Zimbabwian army.