Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has died at the age of 95, nearly two years after he stepped down, following 37 years in office.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” President Mnangagwa posted on Twitter early on Friday.
“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 in eternal peace,” he added.
Mugabe was hospitalised in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, Mnangagwa had confirmed earlier this year. Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.
No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death or where he died.
Mugabe, who famously gave a bizarre speech to the United Nations in 2015 in which he ranted about gay rights before shouting: “We are not gays!”, was forced to step down by the military in November 2017 following nationwide mass protests.
The dictator called homosexuality a “filthy, filthy disease” and declared “the dead will rise against us” if Zimbabwe tolerated it.
He openly threatened diplomats who discussed homosexuality, described LGBT+ people as “worse than pigs, goats and birds” and urged for the heads of gay men to be chopped off.
Robert Mugabe refused to decriminalise homosexuality despite increasing pressure from the international community, and confirmed his stance after Barack Obama’s 2013 Africa tour: “Obama came to Africa saying Africa must allow gay marriages… God destroyed the Earth because of these sins. Weddings are for a man and a woman.”
Mugabe’s homophobic rhetoric was repeatedly reinforced by the national press. The stigma and discrimination towards gay people created challenges in accessing basic health services, in turn fueling a worsening HIV crisis in Zimbabwe.
The country currently has one of the highest HIV rates in the world with around 13.50% of adults infected with the virus, but Mugabe refused offers of “rotten, filthy aid” if it meant he had to accept LGBT+ rights.