Zimbabwe’s population saw the abrupt political change as a hope for an improvement in the country’s devastated economic and social situation.
By Luca Peluzzi
After a military takeover, nearly a week of negotiations, and the launch of impeachment proceedings on 21 of November Robert Mugabe has finally resigned as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years. Mugabe was in office since 1980, when the country gained independence from Great Britain.
Mugabe’s sudden downfall does not take origins from a popular revolt but lies in disputes on who will succeed him. In fact, at the beginning of this month Mugabe sacked his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of plotting to take power and forcing him to flee to South Africa. The President took this action to clear the way to the First Lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him at the head of Zimbabwe. It was the Mnangagwa’s sacking that triggered the political crisis which caused the military to step in. One week before Mugabe’s resignation Zimbabwe’s Major General SB Moyo made a speech on national television, after the military displaced armoured vehicles in Harare (Zimbabwe capital) and blocked off access to government offices, saying the President and his family were safe but detained at their home while the military was “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country”. Actually, it was the beginning of the coup.
The day after Parliament started impeachment’s proceedings Mugabe stepped out voluntarily, as a letter read out by the speaker of Parliament stated: “I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe…hereby formally tender my resignation…with immediate effect…my decision to resign is voluntary. It arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability.” After the national television broadcasted the news, deputies who had started discussions to impeach Mugabe broke out into loud cheers in parliament, while the streets of Harare became soon packed of people celebrating Mugabe’s resignation with large crowds cheering, dancing and waving national flags.
Zimbabwe’s population saw the abrupt political change as a hope for an improvement in the country’s devastated economic and social situation. Zimbabwe is well known for high inflation, poverty and repression of minorities. Particularly famous is the period of hyperinflation between 2007 and 2009, when the country’s currency was spiraling out of control and when Zimbabweans would need billions of Zimbabwean dollars to buy a single loaf of bread. Nearly four decades of Mugabe’s dominion, through a heavy mix of repression of his opponents and rewards for his allies, made Zimbabwe stagnating in its high corruption and widespread poverty, with people that are now on average 15% poorer now than they were in 1980.
It remains unclear who will be able to assure stability in the long term. The previously sacked Mr. Mnangagwa will become now interim president until next general election in March. He is not an outsider, as he has been a long-serving minister and Mugabe’s henchman in the 1980s, when he was instrumental in an ethnical cleansing that led to the death of at least 10,000 civilians.