World’s oldest tyrant Robert Mugabe turns 93

As Robert Mugabe – the world’s oldest head of state – turns 93, an anxious Zimbabwe wonders who’s next. However, his name is on the ballot again for next year’s election, and he has declared that he would like to live until he’s 100 and rule for life. Or even longer, if his wife is to be believed. Grace Mugabe, 51, said that even if he dies, the ruling Zanu-PF party should field his corpsein the 2018 election.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on 21 February 1924 in what was then Southern Rhodesia, a British colony. In the 1960s he fought against the white minority government of Ian Smith, and was held as a political prisoner for more than 10 years. When Zimbabwe won its independence in 1980, Mugabe became prime minister. In 1987, he assumed the office of President of Zimbabwe, giving himself additional powers in the process. He holds this position to this day. He has ruled with an iron fist, crushing all opposition. He has compared himself to Hitler and has been accused of having a racist attitude towards white people.

On Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday, IBTimes UK looks back at his life in pictures.

1976 mugabe
A 1976 portrait of Robert Mugabe, leader of ZANU (Zimbabwean African National Union)Getty
1979 agreement
21 December 1979: Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Lord Carrington, Sir Ian Gilmore and Bishop Abel Muzorewa sign the agreement on the independence of Zimbabwe at Lancaster HouseGetty
1980 Thatcher
9 May 1980: Zimbabwe’s new prime minister Robert Mugabe meets British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and foreign secretary Lord Carrington at 10 Downing Street, at the start of his official visit to BritainGetty
1987 nkomo
December 1987: Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe celebrate after signing a peace accord that brought his rival into his government as vice presidentReuters
1993 Diana
July 1993: The Princess of Wales talks to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as she pays him a courtesy visit in HarareReuters
1995 vote
1995: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe urges people to vote as he tours the Sunningdale constituency outside the capitalReuters
1996 cricket
28 December 1996: England captain Mike Atherton shakes hands with Robert Mugabe before the start of the second test match between Zimbabwe and England in HarareReuters
1996 wedding
August 1996: President Robert Mugabe and new wife Grace leave the Kutama Catholic Church. The couple were traditionally married shortly after the death of Mugabe’s first wife SallyReuters
1998 mandela
December 1998: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe holds hands with his South African counterpart Nelson Mandela as he arrives to address the 8th Assembly of the World Council of ChurchesReuters
1999 castro
September 1999: Cuban President Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe stand at attention during an arrival ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution in HavanaReuters
2000 white farmers
April 2000: Robert Mugabe greets supporters at an election rally in Bindura, after vowing to fight the country’s white farmers for access to their landReuters
2001 gaddafi
July 2001: Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe greet supporters outside State House in HarareReuters
2001 tatchell
March 2001: Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the British gay rights group Outrage, lies on the pavement outside the Hilton hotel in Brussels after scuffling with bodyguards while protesting against the visit of MugabeReuters
2003 chirac
February 2003: French President Jacques Chirac gestures after shaking the hand of Zimbabwe’s President Robert at the opening of the 22nd conference of African and French Heads of States in ParisReuters
2005 pope
April 2005: Robert Mugabe leans over and shakes the hand of Prince Charles during Pope John Paul II’s funeral at the Vatican. Mugabe, defied a European Union travel ban and flew from Zimbabwe unannounced to join world leaders attending Pope John Paul II’s funeralGetty
2007 tsvangirai
March 2007: Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, lies in a hospital bed in Harare with a suspected skull fracture after what he says was a brutal police attack following his arrest during a protest against Mugabe’s governmentReuters
2008 dark
August 2008: Robert Mugabe watches a video presentation during the summit of the Southern African Development Community in JohannesburgReuters
2013 pope
19 March 2013: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend the Inauguration Mass for Pope Francis at the VaticanGetty
Robert Mugabe
28 February 2014: Grace Mugabe looks on as her husband eats during his 91st birthday party by the Victoria FallsReuters
pope mugabe
27 April 2014: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend the canonisations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII at the VaticanAFP

Many Zimbabweans follow his health with keen interest, especially after assertions by Wikileaks that he might have prostate cancer – which he denied. In 2015 he read out the wrong speech in parliament, which the opposition seized upon to question whether he was still of sound mind, though the president’s spokesman blamed his aides.

In February 2015, the Zimbabwean government denied that President Robert Mugabe fell down the stairs at Harare International Airport. The incident was caught by press photographers, who were later forced to delete images of a tumbling Mugabe.

In the event of the president’s death, resignation or incapacity, the first vice president takes over for the remainder of the term, according to the constitution. The catch is that Zimbabwe has two vice presidents. Both belong to bitterly opposing factions and neither is designated as the official first vice president. This could mean a messy succession, say legal experts.

A key figure in the succession talk is Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also justice minister and an associate of Mugabe dating to the guerrilla war against minority rule in what was then Rhodesia.

Then there is “G40,” short for Generation 40, a group of younger ruling party members that is associated with Mugabe’s 51-year-old wife. Grace Mugabe has said she has no plans to be president. But recent statements by the party’s youth leader, who is closely associated to her, that Mugabe should only be replaced by a Mugabe have fuelled speculation that she could be positioning herself to take power.

Robert Mugabe
23 February 2014: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters during celebrations to mark his 90th birthday in Marondera, east of HarareReuters
Robert Mugabe
9 May 2015: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a World War Two veteran and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe watch the Victory Day parade at Red Square in MoscowReuters
Robert Mugabe
1 December 2015: Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he walks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe upon arrival for a state visit in HarareReuters
Robert Mugabe
10 February 2016: President Robert Mugabe addresses the Zanu-PF party’s decision-making body, the Politburo, in the capital HarareReuters
Robert Mugabe birthday
27 February 2016: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace admire a cake in the shape of Africa at his 92nd birthday celebrations at Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo. His lavish party costing nearly $1m (£805,000) in a drought-stricken area drew criticism from opponents who said the celebrations were an affront to ordinary ZimbabweansPhilimon Bulawayo/Reuters

In 2016, a photo allegedly showing a woman picking up cake crumbs that fell from a table during Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s lavish 92nd birthday party caused a stir in the Southern African nation, where nearly a quarter of the population face the risk of starving to death. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF spent up to US$1m (£805,000) of taxpayers’ money on the celebration, which included a huge cake weighing about 203 pounds (92kg). The festivities were held in the drought-stricken Masvingo province, which also proved particularly controversial.

The country’s once-prosperous economy is imploding, bringing more pressure from the opposition and frustration from a restless population. The government has failed to pay salaries on time, public hospital doctors are on strike and cash shortages are driving the economy to the edge. Nationwide protests broke out last year, rallied via social media. Amid these troubles, it is the political uncertainty that has caused the most concern.

Robert Mugabe birthday
21 September 2016: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New YorkMike Segar/Reuters
Robert Mugabe birthday
21 February 2017: An aide stands behind a birthday cake for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe during his 93rd birthday celebrations in HararePhilimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Robert Mugabe birthday
21 February 2017: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe reads a card during his 93rd birthday celebrations in HararePhilimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Employees in Mugabe’s office held a small birthday party for him. A bigger celebration is set for Saturday (25 February) in Matopos, 500km (350 miles) south-west of Harare. The state-owned Herald newspaper carried a 24-page birthday supplement, packed with goodwill messages from government departments.


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