End of an era: Mnangagwa replaces Mugabe

Emmerson Mnangagwa. PHOTO: Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

Robert Mugabe has finally resigned as president of Zimbabwe thereby ending his 37-year- tenure. This announcement came a week after the army and his party moved to oust him. Although military coups are outlawed by the UN, AU and the SADC (Southern African Development Community), a façade of legitimacy was used through the influence of the ruling, ZANU-PF party who pressurised him to resign after he had defied calls to step down.

Mugabe quit only after parliament began an impeachment process against him. Former Vice President, Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president, after returning to Zimbabwe. He had fled the country earlier this month upon being fired as Mugabe’s vice on November 6.

The major catalyst that drove the military and the ruling, ZANU-PF, party to remove Mugabe was his push for his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, to succeed him. This led the army to step into the party’s dissention and put Mugabe under house arrest. He was subsequently stripped of his leadership of the party and threatened with impeachment until he finally resigned.

Another complaint was that he had been in power for too long, but this could not form a legal basis to remove him as Zimbabwe’s constitution does not limit how many terms a president can serve. Mugabe is said to have brought Zimbabwe’s economy to ruins, making it the world’s fastest shrinking economy with annual inflation of 231 million per cent in July 2008. Yet, even with these dreadful statistics, World Bank data suggest that poverty in Zimbabwe is at a lower rate than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Robert Mugabe, who was the oldest leader in the world, was still healthy and functioning competently at 93 years old. He had been in power since independence in 1980, when he began to serve as Prime Minister until the change into a presidential system in 1987. In Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, he was part of the struggle that ended white-minority rule. For many in Zimbabwe, and around Africa, he will always remain a hero who brought independence. This can be seen in the fact that even those who forced him out blamed his wife, Grace, for his downfall. By 2000, Mugabe ordered the takeover and redistribution of white-owned farms. This led to devastating economic sanctions, but it was also an unforgettably bold move that aimed to bring economic power in black hands in the country.

Mugabe claimed to be fighting on behalf of the rural poor, but this is under contestation as the land have been redistributed disproportionately to his supporters; seizing the land at first was an admirable step. This, nonetheless, pitted him against the west, especially Britain, who had supported his administration up until that point. The friendship he enjoyed with them before this was to the extent that the Queen of England in 1994 made him a Knight. An undoubted achievement of Mugabe’s administration was the expansion of education. The former teacher left Zimbabwe with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa at 89 per cent of the population. However, Mugabe has been accused for many years of political violence and human rights violations, notably against his opposition.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, is set to take over from Mugabe. He was the Chief Lieutenant who became Vice President during Mugabe’s tenure. Mnangagwa was backed by the army at the beginnings of a plot to succeed Mugabe earlier this year. He will serve Mugabe’s remaining term until elections in September 2018. International community seem to be in support of the change in Zimbabwe.

PM, Theresa May, said on Wednesday that Britain wants Zimbabwe to re-join the international community following the resignation of Robert Mugabe. The question arises: What do they see as the major difference between Mugabe and Mnangagwa. If the extent of crimes that Mugabe has been accused of hold, they would have been undertaken by Mnangagwa, who served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer; a role that earned him the nickname ‘Crocodile.’



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