Friday 6 September 2019 7:33 am

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who ruled the African nation for nearly four decades, has died aged 95.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced his predecessor had passed away in a short statement released via Twitter this morning.

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He said 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.”

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

Mnangagwa has given sporadic medical updates on Mugabe in the last year. In November, he announced that the former President was no longer able to walk and had been admitted for treatment in Singapore, where he eventually died.

May 1980: Mugabe meets then-British PM Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street (Getty Images)

Independence hero to dictator

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until November 2017, when he was finally ousted in a military coup which handed power to Mnangagwa.

Early in his leadership, first as Prime Minister, he was celebrated as a hero for his role in Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence after nearly a century of white colonial rule. 

But as the decades wore on, Mugabe’s leadership descended into tyranny, making him a deeply divisive figure. 

A swathe of controversial land reforms led to widespread economic collapse, while his latter years were tarnished by rigged elections and human rights abuses.

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Eventually, the country descended into a fierce internal power struggle between his wife Grace, 41-years younger than him, against Mnangagwa, who was once among his most senior officials.

Mnangagwa eventually took over in late 2017, prompting widespread celebration across a country in which whole generations had known no other political leader.