On Wednesday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe officially resigned amidst a military coup and certain impeachment from his ZANU PF political party. The resignation sees the end of a 37 year reign as Zimbabwe’s leader that included corruption, rigged elections and politically motivated violence. As the news broke of the dictator’s impending resignation, Zimbabwean’s celebrated their freedom in the streets, but what does this mean for the people of Zimbabwe?
To understand what the future holds for the African Nation, you have to have a look at the history of Robert Mugabe and what lead to him becoming one of the longest reigning heads of state in history. Mugabe was a respected military leader who fought for independence from the British in the 1970’s, and following the conflict that saw Zimbabwe overthrow their White minority British rulers, Mugabe was appointed prime minister of the new nation. Just two years into his reign, Mugabe sacked fellow independence figure Joshua Nkomo and launched violent attacks against civilians in Nkomo’s home region. Then, in 1987 he changed the constitution in order to appoint himself as President of Zimbabwe.
As Robert Mugabe‘s rule continued, he was given an honourary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II and was still seen as a strong African leader in the developing region. It was in 2000 however that the worlds perception of Mugabe changed, when he ordered violent land grabs of white-owned farms in order to boost the economy of black Zimbabwe citizens. As Zimbabwe continued to fall into deeper economic troubles in the mid 2000’s, The USA and other Western nations labelled Mugabe a tyrannical dictator as accusations of embezzlement and state-sanctioned torture started to emerge.
In 2008, Mugabe faced fierce political opposition from opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who actually defeated Mugabe in the first round of voting in the national elections. The ruling ZANU party called for a second round of elections, which saw Mugabe win in a landslide following widespread military violence against anti-Mugabe voters. The election outcome lead to the President to be stripped of his Knighthood and when 2013 came around, Mugabe won his seventh term in office following another alledgedly rigged election.
You’d think it was all this corruption and violence that finally lead to the overthrowing of a leader with a net worth reportedly around $1 Billion while his people have an unemployment rate around 85%, but rather the military coup has come off the back of a decision to sack his right hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa from his role as vice-president in favour of his wife Grace Mugabe.
With Robert Mugabe being 93 years old and reports of bad health surfacing, his decision to appoint his wife as vice-president and heir to the rule in Zimbabwe was one that upset the Zimbabwe elite. Grace Mugabe is an unpopular figure among the people of Zimbabwe, with her lavish lifestyle and excessive spending granting her the nickname “Gucci Grace”. After the move, the military seized control of the capital city of Harare, and placed the Mugabe family under house arrest.
Finally, after 37 years, the reign of one of the most corrupt and violent dictators alive today ended, and Zimbabwean’s flooded the streets to voice their hatred of a man that had threatened violence if they ever spoke out. Finally Zimbabwe is free… except they aren’t really.
The man that is set to be sworn in as the new president is recently sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 73 year old former defence minister known as “The Crocodile” for his ruthless aggression. He was the enforcer during Mugabe‘s reign as President and is largely responsible for the massacre of thousands of civilians of the Ndebele ethnic Minority in the early 1980s. He is believed to be one of the richest men in Zimbabwe and has strong support from the ruling ZANU PF party and Military heads. He might as well be Robert Mugabe V2.0.
What needs to be remembered is that this wasn’t a revolution, this wasn’t an uprising, it was a military enforced move in order to maintain the status quo. What better way to make sure nothing changes then by replacing one benevolent dictator with a man who may be more ruthless than Mugabe ever was. Although Zimbabweans are celebrating, they are doing so with caution, unsure as to whether this is the dawn of democracy in the country or a continuation of a rule that has left hard working people with no money and no future.