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Unlike the violent upsets in Gambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, the military-led “soft coup” that heralded the exit of President Robert Mugabe was remarkably quiet, dignified and respectful.
“He is actually looking forward to his new life — farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well,” the son of Mugabe’s late sister, Sabina, said.
The positive momentum was seen and felt at a packed National Sports Stadium Nov. 24, where thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans came to hear newly elected President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwe deliver his acceptance speech. Draped in the national coat of arms, he began with high praise for the leader he had just replaced.
“Let me pay special tribute to the only surviving father of our nation, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe,” he said. “He led us in our struggle for national independence and assumed responsibilities of leadership at the formative and very challenging time in the birth of our nation.
“To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader. We thus say thank you to him and trust that our history will grant him his proper place and accord him his deserved stature as one of the founders and leaders of our nation.”
The honors continued Monday with the announcement that Feb. 21 would become Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day, a public holiday. Also, Mugabe will receive a $10 million lump sum payment, full immunity and his current $100,000 a year salary for life. Grace Mugabe will receive half that amount, also for life.
The first couple will be able to remain in their sprawling mansion known as the Blue Roof, in Harare. The state will pay for their medical care, domestic staff, security and foreign travel.
Mnangagwe’s close ties to the long-enduring ZANU-PF party, however, have raised doubts that he will carry out his promise to hold elections in one year. Mnangagwa has already spurned calls for a coalition government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
“It is time to open a new page,” insisted trade union secretary-general Japhet Moyo, who condemned what he fears will be the retention of “career ministers” by Mnangagwa, some of whom he labeled “thieves and thugs.”
Lawyer Alex T. Magaisa added, “While Zimbabweans understandably embraced military intervention because it led to the ouster of Mugabe and prevented his wife Grace from succeeding him, they must also embrace the fact that it comes with further, less palatable consequences. The episode demonstrates once again that the military has become the kingmaker in Zimbabwean politics.”