He locked up, tortured, and assassinated members of his movement whom he suspected of loyalty to other guerrilla factions. Once in power, the maniacal power-lust of Mugabe the revolutionary became a state religion, a cult of personality that ensured Zimbabwe under Mugabe would never develop the institutions and goodwill that would allow it to flourish as an independent nation. His ultimate crimes were against his country, and his fellow citizens, whom he abused, starved, and robbed. From 1983 to 1987, Mugabe’s army—trained by North Korea—killed tens of thousands of civilians in the Matabele region of Zimbabwe, on the grounds that a rival revolutionary faction (Soviet- rather than Chinese-backed) still enjoyed support there, and threatened Mugabe’s rule.

Mugabe left his inaugural promise—that “yesterday I fought you as an enemy, [but] today you have become a friend and ally”—unfulfilled. Indeed, he made a mockery of that promise in his actions against anyone even remotely perceived as disloyal. After the genocide in Matabeleland, he turned against white Zimbabweans, sanctioning a grisly demagogue, Chenjerai Hunzvi, to whip up vigilante fervor against white farmers. (Hunzvi called himself “Hitler” and “Zimbabwe’s biggest terrorist.”) The Zimbabwean agricultural industry, the country’s largest earner of foreign currency, collapsed, and by the late 1990s Mugabe began resorting to mass-printing of currency to make budget.