The last dictatorial regime born out of the struggle against colonialism officially fell on November 21, 2017, after six days with a succession of unprecedented events for the history of Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe took power on 18 April 1980 and officially lost it on 21 November 2017.
1. The spark that lit the powder keg
Robert Mugabe’s overthrow is a consequence of a huge tactical mistake.
It all started on November 6, when the Communications Minister announced the sacking of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accused of disloyalty. The announcement did not surprise anyone in Harare. Weeks before, Emmerson Mnangagwa, also called “The Crocodile,” was constantly criticized and insulted by Robert Mugabe’s wife.
Once dismissed for plotting and disloyalty, ” The Crocodile” fled the country to Mozambique.
Apparently, the road to power was free for the dictator’s wife. But Mnangagwa’s allies in the Zimbabwe Defense Forces had decided that they would not tolerate Grace Mugabe’s actions. For the leaders of the coup, the dictator’s wife just crossed the line and had to suffer the consequences.
Once arrived in Mozambique, Mnangagwa has begun negotiations with his allies in the Zimbabwean army. He also held talks with government officials in South Africa. Support from the South African government was a key element without which the removal of Robert Mugabe from power would have been impossible.
Army leaders have reacted harshly to the last decision of dictator Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe Army Chief, General Constantino Chiwenga released a press statement on 13 November, presenting the main reason why the army does not agree with Mugabe’s decision: “The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith .”
It was clear that the uncontrollable 52-year-old Grace Mugabe cannot win the battle against “The Crocodile”, a hero of the struggle for independence with solid connections in power structures.
And, for the first time since the country’s independence in 1980, the army intervened in force in a power struggle inside ZANU–PF. Armored vehicles surrounded and occupied the main state institutions, and Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest on the night of 14 to 15 November.
The operation was carried out with great care, no casualties, with only a few shots at Mugabe’s residence.
A state spokesman spoke the next morning on national television to make sure it was not a coup, but just an operation against the criminals in the entourage of the president, the entourage of Grace Mugabe’s supporters.
Although the army took over all the power, the main state coup leaders sought to force Mugabe’s resignation. Purpose: to avoid assimilation of the intervention with a coup d’etat.
The next day, he even appeared in public for the first time since the army intervention. Dressed in blue robes, he presided over a graduation ceremony at a university in Harare. Then he fell asleep in the wooden armchair.
Against stubbornness, those who stood beside him turned their backs one by one.
“The game is over,” Christopher Mutsvangwa, a former guerrilla fellow, told him.
On Saturday(18 November), tens of thousands of protesters went out on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo (southwest) to shout “Bye Bye Mugabe,” a scene hard to imagine a few weeks ago. The crowd fell in love with the army, the regime’s favorite crackdown.
On Sunday, Robert Mugabe’s defeat became clear. Reunited as a matter of urgency, Zanu-PF withdrew his mandate as party chairman and expelled him from his ranks.
5. Disconnected from reality
Brought by the army leaders on Sunday night in front of the cameras to announce his resignation, Robert Mugabe said he accepted some critics, preached for unity and reconciliation, was confused with words, then suddenly discontinued his speech. He did not announce his resignation but gave assurances that he would head the next Zanu-PF congress, generating mixed feelings, from amazement to deception.
The “King” did not abdicate but was threatened with deposition.
Forced to resign until 12.00 local time Monday, Mugabe made no announcement.
Unhappy with his stubbornness, the students went out in the streets on Monday and the deputies gathered to launch the dismissal procedure.
“I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in terms of Section 96, Sub-Section 1 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.
My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace, and stability.”, this is a fragment of the letter sent to the Parliament of Zimbabwe in which Robert Mugabe announces his resignation.
The announcement of his resignation was immediately welcomed with a deafening concert of horns in the country’s capital, Harare. People went out into the street to express their joy.
On 24 November 2017, Emmerson Mnangagwa becomes the third President in the history of Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe leaves behind an economically backward country where 90 percent of the population is unemployed. The poverty rate is at 72% of the total population and inflation reached 231,150,888.87% in 2008. The external debt represents 78% of the total GDP.
Zimbabwe remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. According to Transparency International, Zimbabwe loses 1 billion dollars every year because of corruption.
The racial policy against the white population, corruption and poor management of resources and the economy are the main causes for which the Zimbabwean economy didn’t progress under Robert Mugabe’s rule.
These are the great problems that his successor, Mnangagwa, has to face. Of course, economic problems will not disappear overnight with the fall of Mugabe.
Mugabe, leader of a system that led to ruin the economy of Zimbabwe has fallen, but the power system remains.
Emmerson Mnangagwa has already made some important promises in his first speech:
– “free and fair elections”
– “We want to grow our economy, we want peace, we want jobs, jobs, jobs,”
– financial stability
The question now is whether Mnangagwa will take real steps to reform the entire country, or will continue to lead the political apparatus left behind by Robert Mugabe.