After his carpenter father left the family when he was 10, the young Mugabe concentrated on his studies, qualifying as a schoolteacher at the age of 17.
An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, he enrolled at Fort Hare University in South Africa, meeting many of Southern Africa’s future black nationalist leaders.
After teaching in Ghana, where he was influenced by founder president Kwame Nkrumah, Mugabe returned to what was then Rhodesia, where he was detained for his nationalist activities in 1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.
During his incarceration, he gained three degrees through correspondence, but the years in prison were wrenching.
Mugabe’s four-year-old son by his first wife, Ghanaian-born Sally Francesca Hayfron, died while he was behind bars. Rhodesian leader Ian Smith denied him leave to attend the funeral.
He once famously said that he’d rule his country until he turned 100, and many expected him to die in office. But growing discontent about the southern African country’s fractured leadership and other problems prompted a military intervention, impeachment proceedings by the parliament and large street demonstrations for his removal.