Friday, 6 September 2019
Descriptions of his boyhood paint a portrait of a solitary, studious youth with few friends, comfortable instead in the company of the books of his school library. He was, they said, a clever lad.
He qualified as a teacher and it was during further studies that he met Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda, the future long-serving leaders of Tanzania and Zambia respectively.
He went on to teach in Ghana, where he was influenced by another of the new breed of ‘Big Men’, Kwama Nkrumah, Prime Minster of the newly independent nation.
Mugabe’s path to power was more protracted. He returned to South Rhodesia in 1960 to take up the struggle against an intransigent white minority government and was soon jailed.
He used his prison time to study, gaining degrees through correspondence courses in law and economics with the University of London.
But one episode indicates the scale of his sacrifice - and the enmities of the times. When Mugabe’s three-year-old son died from malaria in Ghana in 1966, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith intervened personally to block his petition to attend the funeral.
After 10 years he was released and headed into exile to lead guerrilla forces in the fight for liberation.
Mugabe, left, with his wife, Grace. Credit: PA
It culminated in the 1979 Lancaster House agreement that heralded the end of white Rhodesia and the birth of majority ruled Zimbabwe.