Robert Mugabe ‘turned into a child’ in his final months and lost the power of speech as his health declined, it has emerged, as Zimbabweans voiced decades’ worth of fury at their former dictator after he died at the age of 95 today.
Mugabe, who died in Singapore this morning, caused outrage even in death as furious Zimbabweans said he had gone abroad for treatment because medical care was lacking in his own country after his 37 brutal years in power.
The former President had been admitted to hospital in early April, apparently unable to walk and was pictured looking extremely frail alongside his son in what appear to be the last pictures of him.
A source close to the family said he had ‘almost turned into a child at the end’, and before he lost the power of speech he said he wanted to be buried next to his mother rather than given a ‘hero’s burial’ in Harare.
A grave is waiting for him at the North Korean-built National Heroes Acre monument on the outskirts of the capital, but Mugabe will apparently leave it empty.
His first wife Sally is already buried there and there is another vacant plot for his much-despised second wife Grace, who had hoped to succeed him as President and was reportedly by his side when he died.
Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed the former President’s death this morning, hailing him as an ‘icon of liberation and saying his ‘contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten’.
But Mugabe, who was toppled from power in 2017, will be little mourned by many of his countrymen who are now free to voice their anger without fear of repression.
‘The fact that he died in a hospital in Singapore speaks volumes about the healthcare that our people have to endure because he destroyed every bit of it,’ one said.
‘So Mugabe died in Singapore? He never saw the need of building a good hospital all the time he was in power?,’ asked another.
Others described a feeling of ’emptiness’ in Harare today where Mugabe’s resignation in 2017 had been met with jubilation.
Diplomatic sources said Mugabe died at 10.40am local time on Friday.
He came to power in 1980 as the founding leader of Zimbabwe, initially hailed as a liberator after the country became fully independent from British rule.
But his own reign was marked by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale and there was jubilation in the streets of Zimbabwe when he was toppled in 2017.
Under Mugabe’s leadership, which made him a pariah in the West, the economy of a mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty after land reforms which boosted Mugabe’s personal wealth.
‘It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President… Robert Mugabe,’ Emmerson Mnangagwa said today.
‘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.’
Mnangagwa was later seen at an airport named after Mugabe in Harare.
However, Mugabe did not want Mnangagwa and his allies to ‘hold forth and pontificate over his dead body’, according to Zimbabwean media.
Mnangagwa had close ties to the military and the powerful independence war veterans but had been fired as Vice President by Mugabe shortly before the dictator’s downfall in 2017.
A source close to the family said that Mugabe was flown to Singapore five months ago where his health quickly deteriorated, losing the power of speech by July.
‘He had been writing a memoir ever since he was deposed with the help of a ghost writer. But I don’t think he managed to finish it,’ they said.
‘Before he lost the ability to talk, he gave us a short speech about how he wanted to be buried.’
A hospital spokesman in Singapore said: ‘We are saddened by the news of the passing of Mr Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe.
‘Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones. We are unable to share further, out of respect for the privacy of Mr Mugabe and his family.’
Zimbabwean officials were spotted at a rear exit to the Gleneagles Hospital hospital with undertakers from Singapore Casket, one of the country’s leading funeral directors.
Mugabe’s remains appeared to be destined for an undertakers’ parlour in Lavender Street, where a Mercedes Benz with diplomatic number plates was parked.
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry says it is working with the Embassy of Zimbabwe to fly Mugabe’s body home to Zimbabwe for burial.
In what appear to have been the last photos of Mugabe, the former dictator was seen looking frail and weak alongside his favourite son in June.
Robert Jr, who spent much of his time with his father in his final months, shared photos of Mugabe looking slumped and shrivelled in a tracksuit, baseball cap and white beard.
Mugabe’s visible ailments were often shrouded in mystery. Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.
The British government issued a damning statement today, saying: ‘Under his rule the people of Zimbabwe suffered greatly as he impoverished their country and sanctioned the use of violence against them.
‘His resignation in 2017 marked a turning point and we hope that today marks another which allows Zimbabwe to move on from the legacy of its past and become a democratic, prosperous nation that respects the human rights of its citizens.’
The U.S. embassy in Harare responded more cautiously, saying: ‘We join the world in reflecting on his legacy in securing Zimbabwe’s independence.’
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jake Wallis Simmons, Tim Stickings, and Shekhar Bhatia