ROBERT Mugabe “turned into a child” in his final months before dying in a five-star Singapore hospital.
The reviled former dictator was reduced to a wheelchair-bound gibbering wreck after fleeing abroad for treatment – because medical care was lacking in Zimbabwe after his brutal 37-year-rule.
A source close his family revealed he “almost turned into a child at the end”, and shunned a “hero’s burial” before losing the ability to speak.
Before his death, it is understood he had made frequent visits to Singapore for medical care — because Zimbabwe’s own public health system crumbled thanks to his government’s lack of investment.
Photographs of Mugabe released in June are believed to be some of the last taken of him, showing the former dictator appearing slumped and frail with a white beard.
In another picture, showing him wearing a black Adidas tracksuit, he can be seen in a wheelchair sitting next to his son Robert.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, into a Catholic family who lived 40 miles west of Harare.
Mugabe was born in what was then the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which operated under white-minority rule before splitting with the UK after refusing to become democratic.
He died while in a Singapore hospital with his family, including wife Grace, by his side while being treated for an undisclosed illness since November last year that left him unable to walk.
And as news of his death broke across the world, mixed tributes flowed for the man once feted as an African liberation hero and champion of racial reconciliation — but was ultimately corrupted by unchallenged power.
‘ZIMBABWE IS MINE’
Despite leading Zimbabwe after independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe’s brutal regime saw him regarded by his own hard-pressed people as a tyrant with a penchant for luxury.
Death squads, rigged elections and an imploding economy were the consequences of his relentless pursuit of power.
Under Mugabe’s rule of nearly four decades, Zimbabwe suffered economic ruin, with runaway inflation, mass unemployment and fuel shortages.
He was never held to account for the disaster he presided over.
As well as his action, he was notorious for bizarre and boastful outbursts which were often puzzling and disturbing.
“Only God, who appointed me, will remove me”, he once said.
Another time he thundered: “Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean, Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.”
EVICTIONS AND FAMINE
In 2000, Robert Mugabe evicted white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans.
But those taking over the farms were not experienced agriculturists.
Crops failed and famine ensued.
His leadership — that saw him rule like a medieval king who rewarded his favourites but punished threats — saw the nation of almost 13 million people considered a pariah on the international stage.
But while his country languished, the Mugabe family became known for displaying their lavish lifestyle which they boasted about on social media.
Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state at 93, was ultimately ousted from power after a military coup in 2017.
Thousands took to the streets in celebration.
After resigning, Mugabe was placed under house arrest with fears he would allow his deeply unpopular wife Grace to “usurp constitutional power”.
Confirming the news of Mugabe’s death this morning, his successor President Mnangagwa shared a tone-deaf tweet, writing: “It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe.
“Cde 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. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
The African National Congress also remembered Mugabe as a “friend, statesman and revolutionary”.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said it was a “moment of sorrow”.
He said: “Words cannot convey the magnitude of the loss as former President Mugabe was an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interests of the African continent.
“Indeed, we will remember former President Mugabe as a man of courage who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in even when it was not popular.”
LIFE OF A TYRANT
Robert Mugabe was born in 1924 in what was then British-ruled Southern Rhodesia.
His childhood was marked by his dad abandoning the family in 1934, with a young Mugabe left to be educated by Catholic missionaries.
Becoming an idealistic student, he then went to the same South Africa university as Nelson Mandela, considering peaceful protesters like Ghandi as his hero.
It was while studying from 1950-1952 that the future tyrant decided to be a politician – returning to Southern Rhodesia in 1960 and abandoning teaching to become a leader in the freedom fight.
In 1963, he was arrested and jailed for 11 years.
It was during this time that Rhodesia’s white minority declared independence from Britain.
Mugabe was eventually released from jail in 1974, escaping to Mozambique to join guerrilla movement Zimbabwe African National Union, who elected him as their leader.
And just five years later, Mugabe returned home as Rhodesia was declared the independent state of Zimbabwe.
He became prime minister in 1980 and, from 1983 to 1985, at least 10,000 people – most civilians – were killed when Mugabe sent North Korean-trained soldiers to crush dissidents.
But despite having started as a freedom fighter, his rule quickly became marked by corruption and Stalin-ist style.
In 1987, he became president and in 2000 he encouraged black Zimbabweans gangs to seize white-owned farms.
He was re-elected in disputed elections in 2002, 2008 and 2013, with opponents beaten and killed.
Zimbambwe began to suffer under his iron-fist rule, with food shortages in 2002 threatening a famine in the country.
And as the once successful agricultural country became dependent on support from other countries, hyperinflation of 500 billion per cent sent prices rocketing in 2008 – forcing millions of people to flee Zimbabwe, with many going to South Africa.
In 2010, it was reported that Mugabe was suffering from cancer.
But the country began to revolt against Mugabe – led by a pastor in Zimbabwe’s biggest act of defiance.
A 2017 coup saw by Zimbabwe’s military ousted Mugabe, who was taken into custody as crowds took to the street to celebrate.
He was allowed to keep his house, staff, cars and wealth but in June, photographs emerged showing him appear to be frail and in a wheelchair.
Mugabe died on September 6, 2019, following a long illness in hospital in Singapore.
As news broke of the tyrant’s death, Lord Peter Hain – who worked as the African Minister and met with Mugabe in 1999 — told Good Morning Britain Mugabe had transformed from a “freedom fighter to a corrupt, repressive dictator”.
Lord Hain, an anti-apartheid campaigner, said Mugabe’s legacy will be “very two-sided”, with the early promise of his leadership outweighed by the “corrupt, repressive, dictatorial” approach he adopted.
He said: “He is a tragic case study of a liberation hero who then betrayed every one of the values of the freedom struggle.
“(He) became corrupt, repressive, dictatorial, self-serving and ruthless in eliminating opposition and becoming increasingly interested in enriching himself and impoverishing his own people.”
Mugabe had been stripped of an honorary knighthood by the British government in 2008.
Social media users also flocked online to give their views.
One wrote: “Rot in hell, Mugabe.
Another added: “There’s no reason to mourn Mugabe, that d**k head is the reason why Zimbabwean people are suffering.”
And a third tweeted: “I wonder how the initial greetings between Mugabe and Satan will go?”
FROM TEACHER TO DICTATOR
Mr Mugabe, born 21 February 1924, was a communist and nationalist revolutionary.
In the 1970s he led a guerrilla campaign against the minority white government in what was then known as Rhodesia.
In 1979, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced that the UK would officially recognise Rhodesia’s independence if it moved to democratic majority rule.
Mugabe was elected Prime Minister the following year when his ZANU-PF secured 63 per cent of the national vote.
He clung to power by crushing opposition through constitutional changes and cracking down on dissent with state force.
Mugabe abolished the Office of Prime Minister to appoint himself President of Zimbabwe in 1987.
Mugabe married Grace, his former secretary who he began an affair while still married to his first wife Sally (nee Hayfron).
The couple – who had a 41 year age gap – had a daughter Bona, born in 1988, son Robert, born in 1990, and youngest son Bellarmine, born in 1997.
In 1992, Mugabe’s wife Sally died. Four years later, Mugabe and Grace were married.
Grace became known as the First Shopper – previously accused of plundering the African country’s diamonds to buy 3,000 pairs of designer shoes.
Robert Mugabe's rule in numbers
37 – years in power after seizing control following independence from Britain in 1980
20,000 – number of people from the Ndebele minority killed in state-sponsored violence
28 – number of white farmers killed
79,600,000,000 – rate of inflation before Zimbabwe was forced to adopt the US dollar in 2015
60 – life expectancy when Mugabe came to power in 1980
40 – life expectancy by 2002
2 – wives
4 – children
2003 – year Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth
16,500,000 – population of Zimbabwe
3,480,000 – number who voted in 2013 election
61 – per cent of vote Mugabe won
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Human rights groups had accused him of blatant abuses and overseeing a wave of anti-white discrimination and state corruption while the economy tanked.
Despot Mugabe resigned as leader of Zimbabwe on Tuesday, November 21.
Following the resignation announcement, there were joyous scenes on the streets of the capital Harare and in parliament.