Robert Mugabe spoke eloquently as Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Elect in March 1980.
He offered a message of hope and unity to a population ravaged by years of war. He spoke of creating a government “capable of achieving peace and stability … and progress.”
In the first years of independence, some of this vision was realised. But in the ensuing decades peace, stability and progress have waned. Mugabe has been in power for 36 years. The country’s political environment is unstable at best. Its economy is in ruin. There is no clear succession plan.
Mugabe’s presidency has been characterised by mismanagement, corruption, and control over dissent and debate. Outsiders might not understand how someone who led his country’s downfall from breadbasket to basket case has remained in the presidency for so many years.
So who is Robert Mugabe and how has he held onto power for so long?
Growing up under colonial rule made a large impact on a young Mugabe. Colonialism in what was then Rhodesia started in 1889 when the Crown granted the British South Africa Company a Royal Charter that gave rights to the land which later became Northern (Zambia) and Southern (Zimbabwe) Rhodesia.