Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe resignes after 37 yearlong rule

NEWS RELEASES - This Tuesday 21st November 2017, the news of Robert Mugabe’s – president of Zimbabwe for the past 37 years - resignation has spread quickly and led to national and international celebration. [1] Interrogations on the circumstances of the resignation as well as the future of the country have sparked conversations worldwide, which this article will attempt to examine.

English

            Mugabe’s resignation

On November 21, 2017, the parliament of Zimbabwe announced Robert Mugabe’s official resignation as President of the country, after 37 years of what journalists describe as an “autocratic and authoritarian rule”, anchored in the military support he gained from his active participation in Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence from Britain. [2] This resignation is justified by Mugabe through the desire to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, [3] but is in fact said to be the result of intense popular and political pressure that has built up in the past weeks, starting with a “coup” (although the country’s authorities refuse this definition) during which the military took control of the streets, detained Mugabe at his residence, and targeted “criminals around Mugabe who were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”. [4] Furthermore, the Zanu-PF ruling party, previously headed by Bugabe, presented on November 20 a plan for launching the impeachment process, provoked both by his decision to gradually dismiss veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts over the years, causing them to break ranks with him in 2016 and side with the opposition, as well as the sacking of vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa two weeks ago. [5]

This political crisis then developed into a popular revolt on November 18, during which Zimbabweans took to the streets to demand the president’s resignation. Reasons behind this desire for Mugabe to step down include the negative turn the country’s economy has taken under his 37 yearlong rule. Indeed, industry and farming have reportedly collapsed, inflation has spiraled, and only 10% of young Zimbabweans are today able to find jobs within the state. [6] Nonetheless, the most controversial actor in this revolution seems to be the former president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, who is accused of stealing tax-payer money, taking advantage of her diplomatic protection, and aspiring to replace her husband as president to establish a ‘Mugabe dynasty’. [7]  

What’s next for Zimbabwe?

It has been reported that as parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation, jubilation arose both in parliament and on the streets of the major cities of the country. Most Zimbabweans seem to be highly optimistic regarding the future of the state, asserting that “now we can move forward” or “anything has got to be better than before”, and painting this week’s events as “an example for the rest of Africa”. [8] The international community has also enthusiastically welcomed this news, illustrated by Theresa May’s claim that Mugabe’s resignation represents the opportunity of a “brighter future” for Zimbabwe. [9]

Concerning Robert Mugabe’s prospects, no precis information has yet been given regarding what awaits him and his family. However, he seems to have been able to maintain his dignity through his resignation, as well as his reputation as a liberation hero [10], especially within political and upper-middle class circles, who evidently continue to support his past accomplishments, and have been reminding the press of his important contribution to the country: “We still respect what he did. But he should have retired 15 years ago. It would be wrong to prosecute or something. He’s 93 years old. Let him rest”, says Trevor Ryamuzihwa, an IT consultant. [11] Yet, most of the civilians’ anger seems to be directed at Grace Mugabe, as many Zimbabweans call for a trial and her imprisonment, and blame her for her husband’s downfall. [12]

Finally, in regards to the political future of the country, most likely to succeed Mugabe is Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has strong support among veterans and within the security establishment, and is supposed to be sworn in as interim president on Friday. However, many have begun to view his appointment as potentially problematic in light of his status as “Mugabe’s ruthless right hand man”. [13] He is known for having orchestrated the brutal repression of the Ndebele ethnic tribes of the western Matebeleland regions of Zimbabwe, causing the death of an estimate 20’000 people, [14] and for taking part in “masterminding election violence, kidnapping, extortion, plundering national resources and other crimes”. [15] Likewise, some have noted that in the midst of the crisis, the ruling Zanu-PF party has managed to remain in power, and may even have been emboldened by this week’s events, failing to represent actual democratic change.  Additionally, the resignation letter delivered by the parliament allows the political party responsible for Mugabe’s downfall to present it as a constitutional transfer of power, thus sheltering itself from national and international charges of wrongdoing. Along these lines, many fear the elections promised to the people of Zimbabwe won’t in fact be held, or will be rigged, without provoking any consequent media or public outcry. [16]

Conclusion

Robert Mugabe’s resignation therefore seems to be a positive step for the future of Zimbabwe, and gives hope for increased prosperity and transparency within the country’s governance. Nevertheless, the political developments from this point on will be crucial in determining the future of the state, who should aspire and push for fair and democratic elections.   

 

By Manon Fabre - Research Assistant at CIPADH

 

Bibliography

[1] The Guardian, “The people are free: Zimbabweans react to the fall of Robert Mugabe” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/cheers-relief-and-joy-zimbabweans-react-to-the-fall-of-robert-mugabe

[2] The Guardian, “Military urges calm in Zimbabwe after it seizes key sites in capital” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/14/tensions-rise-in-zimbabwe-as-military-drives-through-outskirts-of-capital

[3] Le Monde, “Zimbabwe: après trente-sept ans au pouvoir, Robert Mugabe a démissionné” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/11/21/zimbabwe-robert-mugabe-a-demissionne-selon-le-president-du-parlement_5218193_3212.html

[4] The Guardian, “Mugabe resignation ushers in a new era for Zimbabwe”Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/robert-mugabe-resigns-as-president-of-zimbabwe

[5] The Guardian, “The people are free: Zimbabweans react to the fall of Robert Mugabe” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/cheers-relief-and-joy-zimbabweans-react-to-the-fall-of-robert-mugabe

[6] The Guardian, “Military urges calm in Zimbabwe after it seizes key sites in capital” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/14/tensions-rise-in-zimbabwe-as-military-drives-through-outskirts-of-capital

[7] The Guardian, “The people are free: Zimbabweans react to the fall of Robert Mugabe” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/cheers-relief-and-joy-zimbabweans-react-to-the-fall-of-robert-mugabe

[8] IBID

[9] BBC, “May welcomes Zimbabwe’s brighter future’ after Mugabe” Retrieved on Novemeber 23, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42071100

[10] The Guardian, “The people are free: Zimbabweans react to the fall of Robert Mugabe” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/cheers-relief-and-joy-zimbabweans-react-to-the-fall-of-robert-mugabe

[11] IBID

[12] IBID

[13] The Guardian, “Emmerson Mnangagwa to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/22/emmerson-mnangagwa-to-be-sworn-in-as-zimbabwes-president-on-friday

[14] Libération, “Zimbabwe: ‘le crocodile’ au devant de la scène” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2017/11/22/zimbabwe-le-crocodile-sur-le-devant-de-la-scene_1611896

[15] The Washington Post, “Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor in Zimbabwe?” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/22/who-is-emmerson-the-crocodile-mnangagwa-mugabes-successor-in-zimbabwe/

 [16] The Guardian, “Emmerson Mnangagwa to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday” Retrieved on November 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/22/emmerson-mnangagwa-to-be-sworn-in-as-zimbabwes-president-on-friday

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