Timeline: Key dates in the life of Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s former leader died on Friday in Singapore, at the age of 95.

Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95.

The rebel leader who led Zimbabwe to independence and ruled the country for 37 years died on Friday in Singapore, where he had often visited in recent years for medical treatment.

Below are the key years and events in his life: 

1924 – Robert Mugabe is born on February 21, 1924, near Kutama, northeast of Salisbury (now Harare), in what was then British-ruled Southern Rhodesia.

1940s-50s – Mugabe receives his education at Kutama College and the University of Fort Hare.

He also teaches in Zambia and Ghana, where he is influenced by African independence movement leaders.

1960s – Mugabe rallies for Zimbabwe’s independence and is sent to prison in 1964.

During his time in jail, he continues with his education, and earns two law degrees from the University of London External Programme.

Robert Mugabe, Georges Silundika, deputy of the African National Congress and Joshua Nkomo, leader of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union at a meeting in Tanzania [File: Keystone-France/Getty Images]

1974 – After almost 11 years of imprisonment, Mugabe is released. He goes to Mozambique where Zimbabwe African National Union rebel fighters elect him to fight against the white minority rule. 

1980 – Six years later, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party wins independent Zimbabwe’s first election. He takes office as prime minister on April 18. During the campaign, he survives two assassination attempts. 

1982 – Mugabe deploys the Fifth Brigade, an elite armed force trained by North Koreans, to combat a rebellion by former fighters loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo.

His government is accused of involvement in the killing of 20,000 civilians, which Mugabe denies.

1987 – Zimbabwe’s parliament amends the constitution.

On December 30, he becomes president with sweeping executive powers and signs a unity pact with Nkomo, who becomes one of his two deputies.

Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo in 1980  [File: Jacob Sutton/Getty Images) 

1990 – Mugabe’s party ZANU-PF wins the presidential election.

1998 – An economic crisis marked by high inflation leads to riots in the country.

2000 – Mugabe faces first defeat at the ballot box as Zimbabweans reject a new constitutional change. 

In February, land invasions start as armed groups occupied white-owned farms. 


For Mugabe, land grabs corrected colonial-era injustices and his defiance of Western “imperialism” resonates across the continent.

“The land is ours, we give it to who we please, it’s not the business of Britain to tell us who to give land and who not,” he tells Al Jazeera then.

2001 – The United States and Western nations slap sanctions on the country, while the takeover of white-owned farms sparks domestic chaos and global outrage. 

2002 – Mugabe wins a presidential vote, which observers condemn as flawed.

The country is suspended from the British Commonwealth, Mugabe’s government is accused of human rights violations, and economic mismanagement. 

2008 – Hyperinflation reaches record levels, 500 billion percent, and the Zimbabwean dollar becomes almost worthless. 

The economic disintegration forces millions of people to leave the country.


Mugabe loses a presidential vote but wins the runoff after opponent Morgan Tsvangirai withdraws citing violence against supporters. A power-sharing agreement is signed. 

2010 – Media reports claim that Mugabe is seriously ill with cancer. 

2013 – At the age of 89, Mugabe wins the disputed presidential vote. Western observers cite multiple accounts of electoral fraud.

“Except for a few dishonest Western countries, our election has been declared free and fair by SADC, African Union, Comesa, the ACP, the UN and many nations of goodwill have praised our elections here,” Mugabe says.

“We welcome this encouragement, this positive spirit … There will always be bad losers, real spoilers.”

2016 – Thousands of opposition supporters stage the biggest show of defiance against Mugabe in a decade.

Mugabe remains active but his increasingly fragile health sparks intense speculation on the fate of the country when his rule comes to an end. 

2017 – Mugabe is forced to resign in November following an army coup and is replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man he fired as his deputy two weeks earlier, triggering the turmoil. 

2018 – Mugabe is seen in public for the first time since leaving power, he backs opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on the eve of an election.

2019 – Mugabe travels several times to Singapore to seek medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

On September 6, 2019, he breathes his last at a hospital in Singapore.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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