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Robert Mugabe dies, aged 95

PICTURED: Robert Mugabe

ROBERT MUGABE, former prime minister and president of Zimbabwe whose rule was mired in accusations of human rights abuses and corruption, has died aged 95.

His near 40-year leadership of the former British colony was marked with bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and vote-rigging on a large scale.

Current president Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed the death, calling Mr Mugabe a "pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people".

He said: "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."

Born in then-Rhodesia, Mr Mugabe co-founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963, a resistance movement against British colonial rule.

He became prime minister in 1980 of the new Republic of Zimbabwe and assumed the role of president seven years later.

In 2000 he led a campaign to evict white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans, and led to famine.

Mugabe retained a strong grip on power, through controversial elections, until he was forced to resign in November 2017, at age 93.

A letter from Mr Mugabe read out in Zimbabwe's parliament said: "My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power."

Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets of Harare as the news spread.

Mr Mugabe, who had been the world's oldest head of state at 93, was replaced by Mr Mnangagwa, who had recently been fired as Mr Mugabe's vice-president.

Speaking at the time, then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the end of Mr Mugabe's reign appeared to be a "moment of hope" for the people of Zimbabwe, and should not be allowed to mark "the transition from one despotic rule to another".

Mr Johnson - speaking about Mr Mnangagwa when he was tipped to take over the office - said: "I think it's very important at the moment that we don't focus too much on the personalities, let's concentrate on the potential, the hope for Zimbabwe - an incredible country, a beautiful country blessed with extraordinary physical and human potential.

"What we need to see now is free, fair, democratic elections and above all not a transition from one despotic rule to another."

TRIBUTES

Upon the news of his death, many took to social media to share their thoughts on the late leader.

Prominent Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire tweeted: "In 2016 Mugabe threatened to have me killed - my response - 'There are many things you have the power to do to us Mr President, but there are 2 things you have no power to stop. You cannot stop your sun from setting & you cannot stop mine from rising'.

"Your sun has set Robert. Goodbye."

Mr Mawawire, a pastor, organised national protests against Mr Mugabe's presidency under the name #ThisFlag, referencing a viral social media post in which he vented his frustrations against the regime.

He later faced trial for an alleged attempt to overthrow Mr Mugabe's government but was acquitted in 2017.

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Nelson Chamisa, leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, tweeted: "My condolences to the Mugabe family and Africa for the passing on of Zimbabwe's founding President. This is a dark moment for the family because a giant among them has fallen. May the Lord comfort them.

"Even though I and our party, the MDC, and the Zimbabwean people had great political differences with the late former President during his tenure in office, and disagreed for decades, we recognise his contribution made during his lifetime as a nation's founding President.

"There's so much to say for a life of 95 years and national leadership spanning over 37 years but in the true spirit of Ubuntu, we would like to give this moment to mourning but there will be time for greater reflection."

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South Africa's leading party, the African National Congress, tweeted that it mourned the passing of "friend, statesman and revolutionary comrade Robert Mugabe".

Zambian president Edgar Lungu similarly remembered Mr Mugabe as a hero, tweeting: "I am saddened at the passing of a Pan-Africanist and Zimbabwe's founding father, Cde Robert #Mugabe. He will be remembered for his fight for Africa's liberation and fearlessly defending the continent. His place in the annals of Africa's history is assured. We mourns with Zimbabwe."

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