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Zimbabwe marks death of Robert Mugabe

ZIMBABWE mourned the “icon of liberation” and the country’s “founding father” Robert Mugabe, who died today at the age of 95.

The former Zimbabwean president had been unwell for some time, receiving treatment for an unknown ailment in a Singapore hospital since April.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former president, Cde Robert Mugabe.

“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.”

He was ousted in a  November 2017 military coup after 37 years in power with his opponents warning of spiralling inflation amid accusations of violent repression.

But he is recognised as the man who led the liberation movement that fought a lengthy battle to end of white supremacist rule, paving the way for the country’s transition to democracy.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party described Mr Mugabe as “a friend, statesman and revolutionary comrade.”

While it acknowledged sometimes sharp differences with the former Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) leader, the ANC remembered him as an inspiration who had been “an ardent and vocal advocate of African unity and self-reliance.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “During the decades of our own struggle, Zimbabwe’s liberation movement supported our own liberation movement.

“Many Zimbabweans paid with their lives so that we could be free. We will never forget or dishonour this sacrifice and solidarity.”

Leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change Nelson Chamisa said: “A giant has fallen. Even though [we] had great political differences with the late former president, we recognise his immense contribution to the liberation struggle.”

Mr Mugabe was a former teacher who steeled himself by reading Marxist literature before returning in 1960 to what was then known as Rhodesia to join the liberation struggle.

He became one of the leaders of the guerilla forces fighting against the brutal and racist regime of white supremacist Ian Smith. 

In 1964 Mr Mugabe was jailed without trial for more than a decade after criticising the Rhodesian government.

He was elected president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) in 1973 while still in prison.

Admired as a skilled negotiator and a shrewd political operator, he swept to power in 1980 in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe’s first elections.

He brought healthcare and education to Zimbabwe’s black majority and introduced land reforms, while also pledging rights for the country’s white minority.

His later years however were marked by an increased authoritarianism and repression of political opponents.

He leaves behind his wife Grace, who he married in 1996 and four children.

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