Robert Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe.
Smith arrested Mugabe in 1964. Mugabe spent the next ten years in prison, earning there three of his seven university degrees.
After his release, he took control of Zanu, and led its militant wing from Mozambique. He played an important role in the talks which produced the Lancaster House Agreement, signed in 1979, which ended the discriminatory regime of Smith and resulted in majority rule in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe's first election in 1980, Zanu won an overwhelming victory, taking 57 of 80 seats in the new parliament, and Mugabe became Prime Minister.
His main political competitor was Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), who was enormously popular in the Matabeleland region of Southern Zimbabwe. Nkomo served in the cabinet of a coalition government until 1983 when Mugabe fired him, triggering a conflict in the country.
Thousands died in conflict in Matabeleland in the early 1980s. Both Mugabe and the Zimbabwean army have been accused of serious human rights abuses. In 1988, Zapu and Zanu merged to form the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), and Zimbabwe effectively became an one-party state for the next decade.
In 1987, Mugabe became president when the office of prime minister was abolished.
Zimbabwe's economy grew steadily throughout the 1990s, but there were hints of problems ahead. The International Monetary Fund was concerned with the slow pace of reform, and the World Bank predicted major problems in the health care sector.
In 2000, Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum that would have strengthened his hold on power. However, parliament nevertheless passed an amendment implementing the changes rejected by voters
Zimbabwe's economy has plummeted in recent years. Many farms have been seized by the government, farm workers have been chased off the land and agricultural production has fallen. The country that was once the bread basket of southern Africa now relies on food aid from the World Food Programme to feed its people. The country faces run-away inflation and about nine in 10 Zimbabweans are unemployed.
Mugabe faced a serious challenge from Morgan Tsvangirai, a trade unionist and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2002 presidential election. Mugabe won with 56 percent to Tsvangirai's 42 percent of the vote, but the campaign was characterized by widespread violence and observers overwhelmingly described the election as unfair.
Mugabe is accused of widespread human rights abuses, autocratic rule, and mismanagement of the economy. The United States and European Union have banned Mugabe and his associates from travelling in their countries, although he is still occasionally allowed to travel to attend international meetings.
In the March 2008 election, Mugabe again faced opposition from Morgan Tsvangirai, but in narrowly loosing a majority of the vote in an again widely disputed election, Tsvangirai was forced into a runoff election. After a widespread campaign of violence against, Tsvangirai dropped out of the runoff, effectively giving Mugabe the presidency for another term.
Robert Mugabe has served as head of state in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. His rise in Zimbabwean politics was the result of the prominent role he played in the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) in the guerrilla war against the white minority government.