President Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, announced his resignation Tuesday. Parliament positions Mugabe’s move as voluntary, but it’s likely that the now-former president saw no other way out of a politically tense predicament.
It’s still unclear what the future holds for the South African country, but it’s quite likely that the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa will take his place, as that was what the ruling ZANU-PF party’s Central Committee had planned.
A Tense and Dangerous Political Environment
As Liberty Nation’s Onar Åm reported last week, the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, was rocked by explosions and gunfire in the streets as the military took over the state broadcaster Wednesday morning. Mr. Åm summed up the situation:
“In an address to the people on national television, Major General Sibusiso Moyo claimed that no military coup is in progress, but that it is an action to “target criminals.” Moyo claimed that the president and his family was “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.” There have been reports that Mugabe has been placed under house arrest, while his wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe, has fled the country.
No details have been released about who the alleged “criminals” and what their motivations are. However, a good working hypothesis is that a power struggle is now building up in anticipation of the death of Mugabe.”
Zimbabwe is no stranger to political violence. It was after leading a violent revolution against the ruling white majority in what was then known as Rhodesia that Robert Mugabe became President. Perhaps it’s fitting that the Marxist Mugabe left office during what appears to be the beginnings of yet other revolution. If nothing else, it lends a certain symmetry to his reign.
Mugabe’s Plans for a Dynasty
It sure seems the former revolutionary intended to remain president until his death. Last month, Grace Mugabe, first lady of Zimbabwe, accused then VP Mnangagwa of plotting a coup. Naturally, he was fired. It’s widely believed that the president intended for his wife to succeed him upon his death. Robert Mugabe, at 93, didn’t have much time left. Grace, on the other hand, is only 52.
For a while, it indeed appeared that Zimbabwe would settle into a hereditary dictatorship, with Grace Mugabe succeeding her husband and, presumably, their children following her.
Early Tuesday morning, Parliament voted to begin the impeachment process, which likely helped the president make his decision. The first step is that both houses of Parliament must pass an impeachment motion by at least 50%. A joint committee is then formed to investigate the allegations. Should they determine that there is sufficient evidence to move against Mugabe, the two houses would then vote for the actual impeachment – requiring a two-thirds majority this time.
It could have been a drawn-out process, but now it’s completely unnecessary since Mugabe resigned.
What Does the Future Hold?
After being deposed, Mnangagwa fled the country and had not appeared in public during the recent turmoil. The ZANU-PF party voted to replace Mugabe with Mnangagwa as the party leader, Fox News reports:
“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,” Mnangagwa said in his statement, after more than a week of silence.
Mugabe has allegedly invited his former VP back to the capital to discuss their options, but Mnangagwa refuses to return until he no longer feels his life is in danger. According to him, there were plans to kill him after he was fired.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who still enjoys considerable support from the nation’s military, will quite likely succeed Mugabe. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation,” he said. Should Mnangagwa become the leader of Zimbabwe, only time will tell whether he’ll stick to his statement and lead his people down a different path.