Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe – one of the most ruthless and murderous tyrants of modern times – has died aged 95.
Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the current president of the African republic, confirmed the death of the brutal ex-dictator – who had a reign of terror lasting nearly 40 years – on Twitter.
Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets of Harare as the news spread and those who suffered under the strongman’s oppressive regime celebrated his death in a Singapore hospital.
Daily Mirror reports that Mugabe was championed as a liberation hero and advocate of racial reconciliation when he came to power following almost a century of white colonial rule.
But his savage reign over the former British colony was dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, corruption, human rights abuses, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.
The final photos of Mugabe show him looking frail in a wheelchair in hospital. The former leader, who was ousted from power almost two years ago, had been receiving care in a Singapore hospital for several months after. His cause of death was not announced.
Mnangagwa confirmed the death, tweeting: “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 eternal peace.”
But despite the tributes from African leaders, Mugabe was remembered more for the terror and turmoil he brought during his almost never-ending rule of Zimbabwe, where he unleashed death squads and trashed the economy.
Mugabe first became prime minister upon independence in 1980, serving in that role until 1987, when the government amended the constitution and he was declared president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
It gave him the power to dissolve parliament, declare martial law and run for as many terms as he wanted as he governed with an iron fist.
But he was ousted from power in a coup by his own military in November 2017.
He was put under house arrest and forced to resign amid fears he would transfer power to his wife Grace, 54, during an internal struggle that led to Mnangagwa being sacked.
Mugabe maintained a close relationship with Britain after the end of colonial rule.
He was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen during a state visit to the UK in May 1994 but he was stripped of it in 2008 after becoming a power-obsessed autocrat.
In November, Mnangagwa said Mugabe was no longer able to walk when he had been admitted to a hospital in Singapore, without saying what treatment Mugabe had been undergoing.
Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.
His son shared photos of him looking weak in a wheelchair in June.
Dewa Mavhinga, a director with Human Rights Watch, said Mugabe’s nephew told him about the former Prime Minister’s death.
Mr Mavhinga added that three ex-ministers who served in Mugabe’s cabinet then confirmed the news.
The message confirming his death said: “Gushungo is no more. Rest in Peace Sekuru.”
Gushungo is Mugabe’s clan name and sekuru means uncle.
Fadzayi Mahere, the secretary for education for the opposition party MDC Zimbabwe, tweeted: “Rest In Peace, Robert Mugabe.
“My response to your passing is complicated. I’m going to write a long piece.
“However, for now, deepest condolences to his family.”
Born in then-Rhodesia, 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.
His resignation triggered wild celebrations across the country of 13million.
Mugabe denounced his removal as an “unconstitutional and humiliating” act of betrayal by his party and people, and it left him a broken man.
At the time, a letter from 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.”
Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state at 93, was replaced by Mr Mnangagwa, who had recently been fired as Mugabe’s vice-president.
However the Zimbabwean leader was given the royal treatment on his state visit to the UK 25 years ago, including a carriage ride with the Queen and a lavish banquet.
The invitation was extended despite his reported involvement in the deaths of 10,000 people during a crackdown of opposition parties.
He was awarded the Honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath only for the honour to be withdrawn in 2008.
In 2017 Mugabe was controversially granted immunity from prosecution – with cast-iron assurances that his safety would be protected in his home country as part of the deal that led to his resignation.
Mugabe, then 93, told negotiators he did not want to live in exile and wanted to die in Zimbabwe.
Emmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa, the former vice president sacked by Mugabe earlier that month, was then sworn in.
Others were not so kind in their tributes to the former leader.
One man wrote: “Zimbabweans as well as other African influx to SA is because of the likes of Mugabe, his greed, barbarism towards blacks and economy caused many untold stories in his country
“Many Africans will celebrate him as a hero cos they never experienced him.”