HARARE, Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe, the former leader of Zimbabwe forced to resign in 2017 after a 37-year rule, whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil, disputed elections and human rights violations, has died. He was 95.
His successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed Mugabe’s death in a tweet Friday, mourning him as an “icon of liberation.” He did not provide details.
“Cde. Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Mnangagwa said.
Mugabe, who took power after white minority rule ended in 1980, blamed Zimbabwe’s economic problems on international sanctions and once said he wanted to rule for life.
But growing discontent about the southern African country’s fractured leadership and other problems prompted a military intervention, impeachment proceedings by the parliament and large street demonstrations for his removal.
The announcement of Mugabe’s Nov. 21, 2017 resignation after he initially ignored escalating calls to quit triggered wild celebrations in the streets of the capital, Harare.
Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power and reflected hopes for a better future.
Of Harare on Friday, people gathered in small groups sharing the news. “I will not shed a tear, not for that cruel man,” said Tariro Makena, a street vendor.
“All these problems, he started them and people now want us to pretend it never happened.”
Others said they missed him. “Things are worse now. Life was not that good but it was never this bad.
These people who removed him from power have no clue whatsoever,” said Silas Marongo, holding an axe and joining men and women cutting a tree for firewood in suburban Harare to beat severe electricity shortages that signify the worsening economic situation in the southern African country.
On Feb. 21, 2018, Mugabe marked his first birthday since his resignation in near solitude, far from the lavish affair of past years.
While the government that removed him with military assistance had declared his birthday as a national holiday, his successor and former deputy Mnangagwa did not mention him in a televised speech on the day.