In 1980, Robert Mugabe was democratically elected to be the president of Zimbabwe. When a ruler is elected democratically, it’s usually difficult to imagine the word dictator next to their name just a few years later. What makes that concept even more difficult to believe is Mugabe has been reelected several times and still maintains his station as ruler of his country. However, he has edged himself into the category of tyrant with his policies, both attempted and actualized, and with violent war efforts that have killed tens of thousands.
In the year 2000, for instance, Mugabe tried to expand his presidential power to absolute power by altering the Zimbabwean constitution. He also famously had 20,000–30,000 Ndebele people killed as part of a campaign to destroy any remaining opposition to Zimbabwean independence. As The Independent puts it, “He interfered in the economy, and, when the money ran out, tried to pay for his rash promises to ‘war veterans’ (some born after the liberation struggle) by stealing white farmers’ land.” All of these facts certainly don’t seem like the kind of behavior one would expect from a democratic president, but these events did indeed happen. As a result, Mugabe’s rule serves to point out perhaps one of the most dangerous characteristics of a dictator—their ability to turn democratic power into totalitarian power and abuse their own and other countries for personal purposes.