As he has continued to lash out at the West, donors have distanced themselves, sending Zimbabwe on a downward economic spiral.
By 2008, the nation's inflation had soared to 200 million percent. Food shelves were empty, and a loaf of bread cost about 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars.
International isolation continued to hit the economy as corruption remained rife.
Despite widespread poverty, the nation has made major strides in its economy in recent years, experts say. There is food on the shelves, schools and hospitals are open and farming is showing signs of recovery.
Since 2010, the nation's gross domestic product "has grown by an average of over 7 percent and inflation has remained in the low single digits," the International Monetary Fund said last month. "Government revenues have more than doubled from 16 percent of GDP in 2009 to an estimated 36 percent of GDP in 2012, allowing the restoration of basic public services."
Illness has come with Mugabe's advancing age.
He has reportedly made regular trips to Singapore for medical treatment amid growing concerns about his health. In 2011, public documents showed he amassed a staggering $29 million in travel expenses. WikiLeaks released cables detailing party members' reports that he is suffering from cancer, which he has denied.
Despite the reports, a Freedom House survey last year showed that Mugabe's party was regaining its popularity.