In Summary
  • Mugabe died in Singapore on Friday at the age of 95, nearly two months before the anniversary of the coup that forced him from power.
  • In his twilight years, he became vulnerable and helpless, according to relatives, allies and analysts.
  • He never recovered from the shock that lieutenants whom he had groomed and trusted for years could betray him, they said.

HARARE,

Once feared for the all-encompassing power he wielded in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe died a "broken soul," bereft at his downfall, his allies and relatives say.

Mugabe died in Singapore on Friday at the age of 95, nearly two months before the anniversary of the coup that forced him from power.

He had ruled the southern African country uninterrupted for 37 years and seven months.

During these long decades, Mugabe was Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe was Mugabe.

HELPLESS

But in his twilight years, he became vulnerable and helpless, according to relatives, allies and analysts.

Mugabe bowed to pressure and resigned on November 21, 2017 in a military-backed coup, ending an increasingly tyrannical rule that saw millions leave Zimbabwe to escape repression and economic ruin.

People close to him said the coup hit Mugabe very hard.

He never recovered from the shock that lieutenants whom he had groomed and trusted for years could betray him, they said.

"It was sudden," his nephew Leo said. "He could not believe that those he trusted most turned again him."

LOWEST MOMENT

The coup was his "lowest moment -- that period from November 2017 up to his last day... sometimes he would just sit there," said Mugabe.

"A person who was used to waking up at 4 o'clock every morning, exercises, baths, goes to work and he has the whole country to look at, and suddenly that is abruptly brought to a halt -- that is bound to affect."

Mugabe's health deteriorated incredibly quickly, he said.

The coup had been in the making for months but Mugabe was blind "to reality at that time," said Ibbo Mandaza, one of the intellectuals who served in Mugabe's government after independence.

"Mugabe's last years were years of extreme vulnerability," said Mandaza, now head of a thinktank, the Southern Africa Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust.

Shortly after tanks rolled into the streets of Harare in a show of force, one of Mugabe's allies who sought shelter at the leader's house, was former education and information minister Jonathan Moyo.

WITHDRAWN

Moyo, who spent time with Mugabe in the post-coup turbulence, said the once-feared autocrat dramatically changed.

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