Zimbabwe’s founding President Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95, president Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
In a statement early on Friday, Mnangagwa called Mugabe “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,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday,
Monica Mutsvangwa, the Minister of information, confirmed the death, saying: “Yes it is really saddening. Some of us were like his children to him. We can never write our history without mentioning him.”
Mugabe is believed to have died in Singapore, where he made frequent visits to receive medical care in recent months as his health deteriorated. As far back as November 2018, Mnangagwa, who took over from him as president, told members of the ruling Zanu-PF party that Mugabe could no longer walk.
Mr. Mnangagwa had said that Mr. Mugabe had spent several months in Singapore getting treatment for an undisclosed illness.
Mr. Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state before his ouster in 2017, was the only leader Zimbabweans had known since independence, in 1980.
Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first prime minister and then as president from 1987, was once touted for investing heavily in health and education in the early years of his rule, leaving Zimbabwe with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.
He however became increasingly unpopular as the economy began to wane, later facing charges of cracking down on his political opponents and rigging elections to stay in power.
His government’s controversial programme of seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution among blacks he said had been dispossessed of the land during colonialism triggered a sharp economic meltdown in 2000, from which Zimbabwe has never recovered.
He stepped down under military pressure in November 2017 amid infighting within his ruling Zanu-PF party which saw his deputy Mnangagwa, who was in a rival faction, take over as president.