Fireworks of celebration lit Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe on Tuesday, November 21, as the southern African country’s longest serving President, Robert Mugabe, was forced to bow before a nation that once dreaded his powers.
Mugabe, 93 years old, held unto what remained of his shredded powers as president for about a week resisting all attempts to convince him into resigning and stepping down from the seat he occupied for 37 years. The former rebel leader-turned President lost his steam four days after his ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union Party-Front (Zanu-PF) stripped him of his leadership while he was still under house arrest.
The baobab of Zimbabwe’s political firmament saw that he was strictly on his own, as his powerful friends in the nation’s military gave him no protection against a looming impeachment from the House of Assembly. Mugabe allowed wisdom, which had bereft his 37 years rule, to prevail on Tuesday by dotting the lines of the resignation deal document offered to him days ago. Cars and motorcycles hoot their horns endlessly as the streets of Harare sparked with jubilation by citizens who had suffered and survived one of the cruelest rules that have ever befallen the black African nation. How did Mugabe, a celebrated hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation from the white minority rule and British colonialism, got to this stage of infamy that finally stripped him of his respect as an elder statesman?
Mugabe’s wall came crumbling like a pack of cards on November 6, 2017, when he dismissed his deputy and former comrade at arms, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a selfish ploy to path a way for his domineering wife, Grace, to succeed him as president. “It was the last straw that actually broke the back of Mugabe’s camel”, said Barrister Zanna Mustapha, a Nigerian lawyer, and humanitarian worker. “I think the power block in Zimbabwe felt the Robert had pushed his luck before the seams when he decided to touch one of their own in order to create a way for a woman who had no inkling what it took them to get power some four decades ago”.
The Zimbabwean military had to move in to save the battered country from continuing on its dangerous and nepotistic trajectory. The military had repeatedly denied that they’re taking over of the rein of power and placing the former President under house arrest was a coup. Rather the explanation given was that the military was protecting the president from criminals around him. It was not really clearly stated if the ‘criminals’ being referred to was Mugabe’s darling wife, Grace, and her under-40 group of patriots who wanted the power to be given to a much younger person – preferably the First Lady herself. But the soldiers held onto their control of the key organs of government while allowing Mugabe the luxury of still making phone contacts with other African leaders.
South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, took the lead towards brokering a peace deal between his embattled counterpart and the military. The nonagenarian was adamant in his insistence to remain in power as president despite all pieces of advice given that he should take the path of honor and thrown in the towel. His party, Zanu-PF had to issue a four-day ultimatum for him to resign or the parliament under its control would have no option than to legislate his impeachment. Mugabe only bowed to the popular demand some 24 hours after the expiration of the ultimatum. Speaker of the Zimbabwe House of Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, announced Mugabe’s resignation to a joint session that converged in Harare on Tuesday to move a motion that would have still ended Mugabe’s rule. Even the parliament building roared in jubilation, as parliamentarians began to smash Mugabe’s portraits hung on the walls.
“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arise from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power”, former President Mugabe’s letter addressed to Speaker Mudenda read in part. The letter did not, however, indicate who takes over from Mugabe – an indication that he still bear grudges with his sacked Vice President, Mnangagwa, whom many have fingered to be favored by the military as a possible successor of Mr. Mugabe. It was obvious that Mnangagwa is the next man because ruling party, Zanu-PF installed him as its new leader immediately after it stripped Mugabe of the same position last week.
Mugabe In Retrospect
Mugabe is leaving behind a country which he contributed to its independence in 1980 but used his own wand to destroy. About 90 percent of the employable people in Zimbabwe have no jobs. Poverty and shortage of food is the order of the day as Mugabe presided. The economy of Zimbabwe plunged many years ago, and the majority of the citizenry blamed it on the former president’s ill-policy that seized most of the farmland from the white farmer and handed it over to the locals. Born in a village called Zvimba, Robert Mugabe embraced education early enough and later became a school teacher. He joined politics while he was a student at the Fort Hare University in South Africa. He later organized and formed a party called Zimbabwe African National Union in 1963, and got jailed that same year when he muted the idea of overthrowing the then minority white ruler-ship of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was jailed for 11 years. After his release in 1974, Mugabe fled to Mozambique where he reorganized the then banished ZANU guerrilla forces to fight the white minority rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) until a peace deal was brokered and Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980. Since then, Mugabe continued to win elections back to back. Most of the polls that sustained him in power were said to have been manipulated. Zanu-PF was a powerful political party but at one point lost its majority place at the parliament. Mugabe coordinated the regaining of Zanu-PF’s majority in the parliament in 2003. He had also boasted that no one in Zimbabwe earned
Mnangagwa As Designated Successor
Party Leaders believe Mnangagwa would make a better President – as many say he has a charming and endearing milieu that works for him. Mnangagwa was also the member of the guerrilla force that fought against white minority rule in Rhodesia. He became a guerrilla at 19. He got military training in Chin and Egypt and used his skills to fight the Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime. Mnangagwa, who went by the nom de guerre ‘Crocodile’ was arrested, tortured and later jailed for coordinating the blowing up of a locomotive in 1965.
But for his teenage, Mnangagwa would have been executed by hanging; his death sentence was later commuted to 10 years jail term. Just like his other jail mates, including Robert Mugabe, the would-be president studied via correspondence and obtained a Law Degree with which he started practice after completing his jail term. He later became some kind of bodyguard for Mugabe and was with him at Lancaster House in London where Mugabe led the move that eventually ended the existence of Rhodesia and birthed Zimbabwe. After Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 Mnangagwa was appointed Security Minister who coordinated the old Rhodesian Army with Mugabe’s guerrilla forces. He later served in several capacities until he was appointed Deputy President.
Mugabe; A Metaphor of Black Africa’s Attitude to Power
Most African leaders do share common characteristics – seat-tight attitude. Mugabe’s case is just a metaphor for a typical African leader, especially those of the black nation. There are other despots still in power who, probably, are not happy with the new dawn in Zimbabwe. Mugabe still has comrades like Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who became president since August 1979 – he still rules. President Paul Biya of Cameroon has been in power for about 35 years since he assumed the presidency of the Central African country in 1982 after serving as Prime Minister for 7 years. The Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been president at different times for a total 33 years ( 1979 to 1992; 1997 to date)
The World Reacts
Both the United States and the United Kingdom had reacted to the development in the southern African country with some degree of carefully measured comments. “Zimbabwe has an extraordinary opportunity to set itself on a new path; and whatever short-term arrangement the government may establish, the path forward must be lead to the free and fair election. The people of Zimbabwe must choose their own leaders”, said Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of States. British Prime Minister, Theresa May says with the current development in her country’s former colony (defunct Rhodesia) has an opportunity to forge a new path free of oppression that characterized his (Mugabe’s) rule.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.