Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, in Kutama, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to a carpenter and a teacher.
As a child, Mugabe helped out by tending the family’s cows and making money through odd jobs.
Although many people in Southern Rhodesia went only as far as a grammar school, Mugabe was fortunate enough to receive a good education at the local Jesuit mission under the supervision of school director Father O’Hea.
Mugabe continued his education at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English in 1951. By 1953, he had earned his Bachelor of Education degree through correspondence courses.
In 1955, Mugabe moved to Northern Rhodesia. There, he taught for four years at Chalimbana Training College while working toward his Bachelor of Science degree in economics through correspondence courses with the University of London.
He later moved to Ghana, where he completed his economics degree in 1958 and taught at St. Mary’s Teacher Training College where he met his first wife, Sarah Heyfron, whom he would marry in 1961.
In 1960, Robert Mugabe returned to his hometown on leave,he was angered by the government denying black majority rule, resulting in violent protests. Mugabe too was outraged by this denial of blacks’ rights.
In July 1960, he agreed to address the crowd at the protest march of 7,000, staged at Salisbury’s Harare Town Hall.
The purpose of the gathering was for members of the opposition movement to protest the recent arrest of their leaders.
Just weeks later, Mugabe was elected public secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP).
The government banned the party at the end of 1961, but the remaining supporters came together to form a movement Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) that was the first of its kind in Rhodesia led by Joshua Nkomo.
But as time passed and nothing had changed, Mugabe and other supporters of Nkomo were frustrated that by April 1961, Mugabe publicly discussed starting a guerilla war.
In 1963, Mugabe and other former supporters of Nkomo, formed their own resistance movement called the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) while in Tanzania.
Back in Southern Rhodesia later that year, the police arrested Mugabe and sent him to Hwahwa prison over subversive statements he had made in a public speech and awarded bail before his trial. Mugabe would remain in jail for over a decade.
In 1964, while in prison, Mugabe relied on secret communications to launch guerilla operations toward freeing Southern Rhodesia from British rule and the battles raged on throughout the 1970s.
After Smith had tried in vain to reach an agreement with Mugabe, the British agreed to monitor the changeover to black majority rule in 1979.
By 1980, Southern Rhodesia was liberated from British rule and became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe. Running under the ZANU party banner, Mugabe was elected prime minister of the new republic, after running against Nkomo.
In 1981, a battle broke out between ZANU and ZAPU due to their differing agendas but Mugabe was re-elected in 1985 as the fighting continued.
In 1987, when a group of missionaries were tragically murdered by Mugabe supporters, Mugabe and Nkomo at last agreed to merge their unions and focus on the nation’s economic recovery and weeks later appointed president of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe set out to implement a five-year plan in 1989, which slackened price restrictions for farmers, allowing them to designate their own prices.
Over the course of 1994, Mugabe’s wife, Sarah, passed away, freeing him to marry his mistress, Grace Marufu.
By 1996, Mugabe’s decisions had begun to create unrest among the citizens of Zimbabwe, who had once hailed him as a hero for leading the country to independence.
In 2000, Mugabe passed the controversial amendment to the constitution that made Britain pay reparations for the land it had seized from blacks.
A notably conservative dresser who during his campaign had worn colorful shirts with his own face on them, won the 2002 presidential election that saw the European union impose sanctions on Zimbabwe over speculation that he had stuffed the ballot boxes.
On March 29, 2008, he lost the presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposing Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe was unwilling to let go of the reins and demanded a recount. A runoff election was to be held that June.
In January 2015, Mugabe was elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU).
In February 2017, right after his 93rd birthday, Mugabe stated he would not retire nor pick a successor, even though he said he would let his party choose a successor if it saw fit.He made three medical trips to Singapore in 2017, and Grace Mugabe called on him to name a successor.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) appointed Mugabe in October 2017, as a goodwill ambassador; this attracted criticism from both the Zimbabwean opposition and various foreign governments and saw WHO revoke Mugabe’s appointment a day later.
On 15 November 2017, Mugabe was placed under house arrest and forced out of office by the Zimbabwe National Army in the 2017 Zimbabwean coup d’état