Robert Mugabe and Wilf Mbanga
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My friend Robert Mugabe

Journalist Wilf Mbanga was once a close friend of Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe rose to prominence as the leader of ZANU, one of the armed movements fighting a guerrilla war against white minority rule in Rhodesia.

In 1980, Robert Mugabe won historic elections which were part of a peace deal to end the conflict. Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe. He was initially praised for reaching out to the white community and including political rivals in government.

But in the early 1980s, he expelled his rivals from office and unleashed the security forces against opponents. In Matabeleland and Midland provinces, the strongholds of the opposition, thousands of civilians were killed or imprisoned.

Over the past 30 years, Zimbabwe has experienced periods of economic collapse, controversial land redistribution, disputed elections and international sanctions. But Mr Mugabe, now aged 90, remains in office, and is still seen by some as an African revolutionary hero.

Here, Wilf Mbanga, who now lives in exile in South Africa, talks about how his friend changed once in power.

Witness is a World Service radio programme of the stories of our times told by the people who were there.

Produced by Alex Last and edited by Claire Tailyour

  • 23 Apr 2014
  • From the section Africa