Grant Ferret looks back at the divisive life of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Until he was forced from power in 2017, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was one of the great survivors of the African political firmament. Former BBC Zimbabwe correspondent Grant Ferrett hears from those who knew him as a child at a Catholic missionary school, and former comrades in the nationalist movement who fought with him against the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith. When Zimbabwe was established in 1980, Robert Mugabe was its first president. Initially he adopted a conciliatory tone – to both the white community and his biggest political rival, Joshua Nkomo. But in 1983, he deployed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade against so-called, ‘dissidents’ from Nkomo’s ZAPU party in Matebeleland. No one knows how many thousands were killed. Mugabe could be ruthless, yet he also pursued progressive policies in education and health so that thousands of black Zimbabweans got access to public services. That was before the economy began to implode, and the president began his campaign against white-owned farms. By the time he was deposed at the age of 93, his regime was mired in allegations of corruption and Robert Mugabe’s political capital had run dry. He spent his last years out of power, away from the spotlight he had enjoyed for so long as President.