HARARE, Zimbabwe (PM) — Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe who became an African liberation hero after toppling white colonial rule but subsequently guided his country to economic collapse and the edge of starvation, has died at the age of 95.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former president, Cde Robert Mugabe,” President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who was elected after Mugabe stepped down, tweeted on Friday.
Mugabe’s family also confirmed his death to the BBC. He had been receiving medical treatment in Singapore.
The African National Congress, the political party of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, mourned Mugabe’s death and said he had “devoted his life to the service of his country and his people.”
“Though the ANC and its leadership may have differed, often vociferously, with Comrade Mugabe on matters of national interest — as fraternal organizations we held as sacrosanct the principle of sovereignty,” the ANC said in a tweeted statement.
On the streets of capital Harare, widespread acclaim was harder to come by.
“I will not shed a tear, not for that cruel man,” Tariro Makena, a street vendor, told the Associated Press. “All these problems, he started them and people now want us to pretend it never happened.”
Despite Mugabe’s removal, Zimbabwe’s economy remains in its worst economic crisis in a decade. Inflation is in the triple digits, and rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars and basic goods have heightened fears that hyperinflation was set to be reinstated.
The Advocate in 2016 recognized Mugabe as one of “The Biggest Homophobes of the Last 50 Years.” The piece recorded Mugabe’s bigoted rhetoric, such as his declaration that gays are “worse than dogs.” The magazine also recorded his promise to refuse foreign aid and let his own people perish during a devastating drought should the aid come with any demand for progress on marriage equality.
As he faced growing pressure to end the oppression of LGBTQ people in Zimbabwe, where homosexuality remains prohibited, Mugabe denounced Western “gay filth.”