Zimbabwe Update: What’s next as the country enters a new era?
Harare, Nov 22nd 2017 – Early Tuesday evening, November 21st, ex-President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe tendered his resignation with immediate effect as an impeachment hearing to remove him from office was underway in the capital. The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him on Monday.
Mugabe, who had been in power since the country’s independence in 1980, had previously refused to resign despite the previous week’s military takeover and days of protests from Zimbabwe’s citizens. Mugabe’s decision to dismiss his powerful vice president on the 6th of November is seen as the apparent trigger for the military intervention. By firing Emmerson Mnangagwa, it appeared as if the path was being prepared for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to be handed the reins of government upon Mugabe’s pending resignation. The split in the Zanu PF party has been brewing for some time amongst two rival factions – the ‘Old Guard’ with liberation credentials and long-standing loyal supporters and enforcers of the Mugabe regime and the new G40 faction lead by Grace Mugabe and Zanu PF youth with limited liberation or political credentials.
Mugabe, at 93 and the world’s oldest leader, had been leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years and has been widely recognised as the force behind the country’s major economic and political deterioration. His family and close governmental associates have lived in abundance whilst the country’s population has been largely driven into severe poverty and desperation. Once one of Africa’s strongest export markets in the 90’s and possessing an array of high-demand resources, the situation has been increasingly fragile for more than two decades.
From Tuesday’s decision, there was widespread celebrations on the streets of Harare as the country’s citizens have largely seen their country plunged into hardship over the past two decades. Despite the celebrations, questions still remain about how a new leader will be chosen and what will happen to Mugabe. It is widely touted that axed vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa would most likely be Mugabe’s successor. Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told the Associated Press that Mnangagwa would take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours after Mugabe’s resignation.
It is expected that Mugabe will not stay in Zimbabwe, and although he has been offered exile by South Africa, he will likely reside in one of his residences in either Singapore or China. While Mugabe truly believed his actions were for the Zimbabwean people, upon seeing the celebrations it is unlikely that he would remain the country.
The path for the country will most certainly not be a clear one even though Mugabe has stepped down; after years of oppression and economic disarray, there will continue to be years of hardship as the new leaders work on turning the country’s fortunes around. The first thing the country will be looking for is an improved economy, and that is begins functioning at a proper pace again. Mnangagwa stated that he “looks forward to returning home soon and to join in the struggle for the economic revival of our country,” – the message is clear, and there is hope to follow through this time.