Sept. 6 (UPI) — Zimbabwe’s founding father Robert Mugabe who ruled the country for almost four decades as an autocrat died Friday at the age of 95, his predecessor President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President Cde Robert Mugabe,” Mnangagwa said via Twitter. “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.”
It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe's founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe (1/2)— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) September 6, 2019
Mugabe, once heralded as a freedom fighter, has a complicated image in Zimbabwe.
Having come to power following Zimbabwe’s fight for independence from Britain in 1980, he clung to his seat for 37 years as the country’s first prime minister then president.
He famously said “only god” could dethrone him as he is the one who ascended him to power.
“I will never, never, never surrender,” he said in December 2008, responding to calls for him to step down. “Zimbabwe is mine, I am Zimbabwean.”
Mugabe would rule for another decade after uttering those words until he was eventually ousted in a 2017 military coup for having dismissed then Vice President Mnangagwa, 76, to make it easier for his wife, Grace Mugabe, 54, to assume the presidency.
He resigned a week after the coup. He was facing impeachment proceedings at the time.
David Coltart, a Zimbabwe senator and former minister of education, extended his condolences via Twitter to Mugabe’s family and supporters.
“He was a colossus on the Zimbabwean stage & his enduring positive legacy will be his role in ending white minority rule & expanding a quality education to all Zimbabweans,” he said.
When confronted over his lack of addressing the wrongs of Mugabe’s political career, Coltart said he was attempting to show respect for those “good Zimbabweans” who will be sad in his passing and in due course “plenty will be written about the wrongs of his regime.”
“Regrettably, the negative aspects of his legacy — violence, disrespect for the rule of law, corruption & abuse of power — live on in the new regime, which overthrew him in the 2017 coup,” he said, referring to Mugabe’s friend and long-time ally, Mnangagwa.
Mugabe died in a Singaporean hospital where he’d resided in since April receiving treatment for an unknown specified illness.