LAST OF THE STRONG ONES: Robert Mugabe is Dead

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Robert Mugabe, an icon of the Zimbabwean Independence has died aged 95, the country’s president announced Friday.

“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President… Robert Mugabe,” Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a tweet.

“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.”

Mugabe had been battling ill health, and his humiliating fall from office in November 2017, his stamina seeped away rapidly. He was hospitalised in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, Mnangagwa had confirmed earlier this year.

No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death, or where he died.

The former political prisoner-turned-guerrilla leader swept to power in the 1980 elections after a growing rebellion and economic sanctions forced the white minority colonial government to the negotiating table.

Born on February 21, 1924, into a Catholic family at Kutama Mission northwest of Harare, Mugabe was described as a loner and a studious child, known to carry a book even while tending cattle in the bush.

After his carpenter father left the family when he was 10, the young Mugabe concentrated on his studies, qualifying as a schoolteacher at the age of 17.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa, said many credit Mugabe with the country’s high literacy rate.

“As a former teacher, he really tried to make sure as many blacks as possible got education when he came to power. He is credited for one of the highest literacy rates on the continent,” Mutasa said.

Earnest Mudzengi, political analyst based in Harare, says the former leader leaves behind a mix legacy.

“Young Zimbabweans will remember him as a tryant who squandered their futures and destroyed their countries,” Mudzengi told Al Jazeera.

“Many older Zimbabweans will look back in history and will remember him as a revolutionary fighter. They will also remember him for the early years of independence the massive social programs like expansion in the education sector and the building of clinics in rural areas,” he added.

During his 10 years in prison, Mugabe gained three degrees through correspondence [Howard Burditt/Reuters]
An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, he enrolled at Fort Hare University in South Africa, meeting many of Southern Africa’s future black nationalist leaders.

After teaching in Ghana, where he was influenced by its founder, President Kwame Nkrumah, Mugabe returned to what was then Rhodesia, where he was imprisoned for his nationalist activities in 1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.

During his incarceration, he gained three degrees through correspondence, but the years in prison were wrenching.

Mugabe’s four-year-old son by his first wife, Ghanaian-born Sally Francesca Hayfron, died while he was behind bars. Rhodesian leader Ian Smith denied him leave to attend the funeral.

Today, the world bids the soul of Robert Mugabe to rest in peace.

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