Former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, died on the 5th of September, 2019 at the age of 95. According to a BBC report, he was suffering from an illness.
After nearly four decades at the helms of affairs of Zimbabwe, he accepted to step down amidst pressure on November 17, 2017. He was a Roman Catholic, a religion foistred on him by his stepfather. Since his resignation in 2017, he didn’t make major headline until his death.
Here are five facts you probably didn’t know about him;
1. Robert Mugabe Comes From a Highly Dysfunctional Family Background
Robert Mugabe is reported to have had two older brothers when he was a young boy, both of whom died while they were still only children. Around the time of the second child’s death aged 10, his father abandoned the family in 1934. According to some sources also, Mugabe’s father had gone to South Africa to work at a Jesuit mission. Robert Mugabe’s mother had to start a new family thereafter, and so she went on to bear new children from another husband.
His stepfather was a strict and fanatically religious man and made sure that Robert Mugabe was brought up in line with the Catholic faith, sending him to a Jesuit school, where discipline was of paramount importance, instilling some ‘tough love’ values in Mugabe, which he says have guided him throughout his life.
Mugabe tried to help his mother by tending cows and doing odd jobs in his childhood.
2. He Had a Great Interest in Education
Education played the most important role in all of Robert Mugabe’s social policies, for which he earned himself widespread recognition around the world. He raised the literacy levels in Zimbabwe to an unparalleled 90 percent – the highest in all of Africa when he was the president of the country. Originally trained as a school teacher himself, he also managed to gain a choice few university degrees in his own time – mainly while completing correspondence courses during his time spent in Salisbury prison (now Harare). This was between 1964 and 1974.
In all, Mugabe had a total of seven degrees, including a Bachelor of Laws and a Masters of Laws from the University of London. His other degrees cover the academic fields of history, economics, education, and administration. He was one of the most educated leaders in his time.
3. He Was Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize
Robert Mugabe was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 after his election victory as Zimbabwe’s first democratically elected president following the country’s independence. His initial rhetoric based on reconciliation garnered him much positive regard and undivided attention at first. But the tide turned against him in the course of the 1980s, when political infighting and the Matabeleland Massacres, which saw more than 20,000 civilians massacred and scores tortured in internment camps, began to paint the political leader in a much different light. His attitude toward white Zimbabweans must also have undergone a major shift at the time, marked by his land redistribution policies and provocative quotes like “The white man is here as a second citizen. The only man you can trust is a dead white man.” Although he did not win the Prize, he was awarded the Chinese equivalent in 2015.
4. He Had a Somewhat Loose Definition of Family Values
While his wife Sally Hayfron was battling with terminal cancer, Robert Mugabe started having an extramarital affair with his private secretary, Grace Marufu. It wasn’t long until the world found out that Grace was disgracefully pregnant with a girl. Ignoring popular opinion, he married his erstwhile secretary in 1996, a few years after Sally, regarded as the mother of the nation, had died. Considering Mugabe’s long-standing objection to gay and lesbian relationships, which led to his enacting harsh sodomy laws in Zimbabwe 1987 accordingly, it would appear that there’s only a thin line between bigamy and bigotry in his thinking.
Mugabe’s previous marriage with Sally Hayfron was rocky on account of the political circumstances of the times: Mugabe was imprisoned for ten years during the marriage due to his political activities in the 1960s and 1970s, causing a palpable strain on the relationship. During this period, their only child, Michael Nhamodzenyika, died from Malaria when he was three, which caused the couple further distress and reportedly drove them apart, especially when Mugabe wasn’t granted permission to attend the funeral.
5. He was Awarded Many Doctor Honoris Causa and had His British Knighthood Revoked
Robert Mugabe was awarded several honorary degrees, many of which have since been revoked on account of the human rights violations in Zimbabwe under his rule. For example, both the University of Massachusetts and Michigan State University in the United States withdrew Mugabe’s honorary doctorates as well as the University of Edinburgh in the UK. Even the Queen stripped him of his knighthood in 2008 after 14 years of being knighted by former Prime Minister John Major in 1994.