Robert Mugabe, 89, is undoubtedly a controversial figure, but many are familiar only with the details of his most public life. Both his childhood and adult life are filled with surprises, many of which influenced decisions during his numerous terms as Zimbabwe’s president.
1. Mugabe is the product of a religious upbringing
Both of Robert Mugabe’s parents were extremely religious, and strict with their son. Throughout his childhood, he attended Jesuit school, and credits an Irish priest as one of his most influential mentors in his youth.
2. Two of his brothers died when he was young
Sadly, Mugabe lost both of his older brothers by the age of 10. One died from poisoning, while the other passed away not long after their father abandoned the family.
3. Mugabe has a strong background in education
Many are aware that Mugabe has always been a strong proponent of education. Zimbabwe’s literacy rate reached the highest of any African country during his presidency. This is in large part due to the fact that Mugabe worked as a school teacher prior to beginning his political career, first teaching in Ghana and then returning to Zimbabwe to join the revolution against the white government of Rhodesia.
4. He has seven university degrees
Six of Mugabe’s university degrees were actually earned while he was doing distance learning in prison. They cover a broad range of topics including education, economics, administration, and law. Degrees include a Bachelor of Laws and Master’s of Laws from the University of London’s external program, earned during his stint in a Salisbury prison.
5. After his release from prison, he escaped Zimbabwe with the help of a white nun
Though the Rhodesians did release Mugabe from prison, he was not supposed to leave the country. A white nun helped him to cross into Mozambique, where he was able to rejoin the revolutionary armies.
6. He was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee
In 1981, Mugabe was on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize for his initial stance about reconciliation following Zimbabwe’s independence and his election as the country’s first president. He said, “Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans.”
7. He had an extramarital affair while his wife was dying from cancer
While his first wife was struggling with her cancer, Mugabe started up with his private secretary, Grace. When it came out that she was pregnant with his child, he ignored popular opinion and married her in 1996.
8. Mugabe traveled to Italy despite a E.U. travel ban
Due to Mugabe’s violent rule, the European Union issued a travel ban against him that would prevent him from entering any member countries. However, he was able to subvert the ban on religious grounds in March 2013 in order to attend the inauguration of Pope Francis in Italy.
9. Many honors he received from various institutions have been revoked
As the number of human rights violations perpetrated by Mugabe have increased, many of his honors have been revoked. For instance, Queen Elizabeth II rescinded his knighthood in 2008, the Hunger Project took back his 1988 award of the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, and numerous universities have revoked honorary degrees, including Michigan State University, University of Massachusetts, and the University of Edinburgh.
1O. He plans to run for president again in 2018
Mugabe won the most recent election in Zimbabwe in 2013 with 61 percent of the vote, but it is widely believed that voter fraud occurred. Despite this, and despite his advanced age, Mugabe has announced his intention to run again for election in 2018 for the office that he has held since 1987.
THE EAST AFRICA TIMES