Genesis of a Revolutionary Robert Mugabe’s Political Formation

Robert Mugabe, the dictator who ruled Zimbabwe for more than three decades, had revolutionary beginnings. He was shaped by a tumultuous brew of pan-African nationalism, associated authoritarianism, and his own startling yet grossly under-discussed political rise. 

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Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean leader who was deposed in 2017 after 37 years in office and died two years later at the age of 95, was one of the few African politicians who might be considered a household name. Mugabe’s prominence did not simply emerge as a result of his lengthy tenure; rather, he became a lightning rod due to his racial policies (most notably the seizure of land from Zimbabwe’s White farmers) and outspoken criticism of the West.

As a result of his controversial and lengthy presidency, Mugabe’s early political career is comparatively underexplored. For example, a recent biography of Mugabe by historian, Sue Onslow, and journalist, Martin Plaut, fails to mention his first executive appointment in party politics in 1960. The historical component in much of the academic literature emphasizes Mugabe’s final ascent to the peak of the Zimbabwe liberation movement in the mid-1970s when armed guerrillas publicly backed his leadership. This perspective in the historiography minimizes the reality that from the early 1960s, almost as soon as he became active in party politics, Mugabe was one of the leading figures in Zimbabwe’s struggle against British colonialism and minority White rule...

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