Who Is Robert Mugabe?

Between the two elections, Mugabe's wife, Sally, died, leaving him free to marry his secretary, Grace, 40 years his junior and already mother to two of his children. Grace is known for her huge shopping habit and profligate spending.

Meanwhile guerrillas that had fought in the independence war began to demand financial settlements. A fund put aside for this purpose had been looted by senior government officials, just part of the corrupt behavior now endemic in the country.

Mugabe gave in to the war veterans' demands. The huge payouts triggered the downward spiral of the Zimbabwean economy.

In 2000, Mugabe held a referendum that, had he won, would have given him sweeping powers, including the ability to confiscate land. He lost unexpectedly; this was the first time he had really faced defeat.

Almost immediately he sent his supporters onto the white-owned farmland, although at the time this was dressed up as a spontaneous land grab rather than a government-orchestrated maneuver.

After the referendum, a rival political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a former trades union leader, was launched.

The MDC is the first real opposition with popular support that Mugabe has had to face in his 27 years in power. The opposition can prove massive electoral fraud in every poll it has contested, and there has been enormous violence toward the MDC and its leaders.

Recently the international community has been outraged by pictures showing Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders severely beaten after being arrested by police during a prayer rally.

Indeed, Mugabe has said, "We have degrees in violence," and more recently has advised the West to "go hang" instead of interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. He and his supporters are now subject to a U.S. and EU travel ban and targeted sanctions.

Cracks have started to appear in Mugabe's ruling party as two main rivals have jostled for the succession.

With inflation at 1,700 percent, the economy in a meltdown and the life expectancy in Zimbabwe being the lowest in the world, his ruling party senses his grip on power may be loosening. But, like Idi Amin before him, it is unlikely that Mugabe will go willingly.

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