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Robert Mugabe, Strongman Who Cried, ‘Zimbabwe Is Mine,’ Dies at 95

The changes also abolished the constitutional provisions for the white minority to be guaranteed 20 parliamentary seats.

On Jan. 1, 1988, Prime Minister Mugabe became Zimbabwe’s first executive president.

For much of the 1980s, Mr. Mugabe’s control was never really challenged. Enormous spending on education and health had produced a prosperous and increasingly urbanized country, and he had basked in acclaim — the model leader for postcolonial Africa. That changed in 1990, when Nelson Mandela, finally free after 27 years in prison, became Africa’s global statesman.

Mr. Mandela exuded a gravitas and natural authority that Mr. Mugabe could never match, and many believed that his resentment of Mr. Mandela’s easy dominance of the global stage turned Mr. Mugabe inward, to nurse his grievances.

But time bombs were ticking. They exploded in 2000.

A new generation of Zimbabweans, the so-called born frees, who had grown up since independence benefiting from expanded education, were now clamoring for jobs that were not there.

In a referendum in February 2000 on a new Constitution, which would have entrenched Mr. Mugabe’s power even more, the Movement for Democratic Change, an upstart party supported mainly in the towns and cities, scored a huge upset, defeating Mr. Mugabe’s plans.

Stunned by the challenge to his monopoly hold on the political process, Mr. Mugabe accused his black opponents of being lackeys of the white farmers who had openly helped bankroll the Movement for Democratic Change, which was led by a former labor leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (who died in February). And he accused the farmers and many others in the white minority — whose numbers had fallen to about 70,000 from a peak of 210,000 after World War II — of being agents of British colonialism.

Parliamentary elections in June 2000 further weakened his grip. The opposition won 57 of the 150 parliamentary seats, mainly in urban districts. At the same time, Mr. Mugabe faced increasingly restive veterans of the independence war, a volatile constituency whose state-run pension funds had been looted by government officials.

Source: NYT > World News

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