8 facts you didn’t know about Robert Mugabe

Amid the controversy surronding Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe

He is one of the most prominent African revolutionaries before Zimbabwe’s independence, and what’s happened to him since he took power in 1980 could only be described as a fall from grace. Here are 10 facts about the Mugabe that will surprise you.

1. He was educated at a Jesuit mission in Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was then called). An old Irish priest was his mentor.

2. He was an unusually disciplined and stern young man. He had a difficult youth after all — by age 10, he had lost both of his two older brothers. One died of poisoning, and shortly after his Malawian father left the family .

3. He was a schoolteacher before becoming a revolutionary. No wonder education was a priority when he took over. Under his leadership, Zimbabweans became the most literate people in Africa.

4. His last teaching stint was in Ghana. Newly independent from Britain,Ghana was a hub for young African nationalists at the time. It had its effect on Mugabe. After two years there, he returned to Zimbabwe to join the revolution.

5. His first wife, Sally, was Ghanaian.Zimbabweans would come to love her when Mugabe was prime minister and president. They would call her amai, or mother.

6. Once back in Zimbabwe, the Rhodesians put him in prison. They kept him there for 10 years. When his first son with Sally died from malaria in Ghana, he was denied permission to attend the funeral. Some say the decision was made directly by Ian Smith, prime minister of Rhodesia. Some say Mugabe never forgave Smith for that.

7. He has seven university degrees. Six of them were obtained by distance learning while in prison. They cover education, economics, administration, and law.

8. A white nun helped him to escape from Zimbabwe once he was released from prison. With Rhodesian agents in hot pursuit, he just managed to cross into Mozambique , where the revolutionary armies were based.