After several days of conflicting reports and confusion, Zimbabwe’s parliamentary speaker, Jacob Mudenda, announced Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, that President Robert Mugabe has resigned.
Reuters reported that in a letter, Mugabe said the decision was voluntary.
The resignation takes immediate effect, ending 37 years in power. A letter submitted to parliament by Mr. Mugabe said his decision to resign was voluntary. Observers note that the way is now clear possibly for Emmerson Mnangagwa to take power. He was appointed interim leader of Zanu-PF at a meeting on Sunday.
The military has said it has no intention of staying in power and, according to the constitution, Mnangagwa takes the place of Mugabe as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.During a speech on Sunday, Mugabe appeared to acknowledge the rising discontent from inside his party and from the security forces. “I as the President of Zimbabwe and their commander in chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to… These were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern.” He suggested that a conversation within the party could return the country to normalcy “so all our people could go about their business unhindered, in perfect peace and security, assured that law and order obtain and prevail as before.”
“The Zimbabwe political episode should be seen as an epilogue of all those that shift allegiance for benefit of personal interests,” wrote Chindefu Aubrey Kasonu, a Lusaka, Zambia-based reporter for Journalists for International Peace in an email to the AmNews days before the president resigned. “Being supported by an army, whose role is to keep peace and thwart aggression from foreign forces, is not a guarantee of prosperity in the nation.”
He continued, “Zimbabwe our neighbor is undergoing a political metamorphosis that shall be remembered in African history for a long time. We need to adhere to the spirit of comradeship and avoid being led and swayed by windy spokespersons. If you really analyze the situation, most people against President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, have amassed a lot of wealth using RGM and today they see themselves as liberators, and Zimbabwean citizens don’t see this exactly. These same people are being the most vocal for the removal of RGM to conceal their loot and side with the masses.
“What is not spoken of by most commentators is the impact of Mugabe’s downfall on the expectations of Zimbabwe’s workers and young people. The military, ZANU-PF and the opposition parties are all promising democratic and economic rebirth, even as they plot to ensure their own continued rule and the hiving off Zimbabwe’s key assets to various global investors. Under these circumstances, the false unity evident at Saturday’s [Nov. 18] anti-Mugabe rally will inevitably give way to renewed political and social conflict.”
Even as late as Monday, the news out of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, was that 93-year-old Mugabe, who has been in charge for 37 years, was ignoring calls for him to step down. According to Sky News, the ruling party that Mugabe once headed, ZANU-PF, had given him an ultimatum to resign by midday Nov. 20 or face impeachment.
“He [was] negotiating so that he and his wife, Grace Mugabe can survive in Zimbabwe without going to jail,” said Dr. Leonard Jeffries. “The future of the country is at stake. That [was] why the African Union was deferring to SADC [Southern African Development Community] to mediate the crisis, and that’s how it should be. What you don’t want to happen is that someone starts shooting up people, giving the outside world an excuse to send in troops.”
“In looking back over the last few weeks, it all makes perfect sense, because Mugabe engaged in overreach in support of his very unpopular wife—someone that was despised and feared,” said columnist and activist Bill Fletcher Jr. So when Mugabe pushed out his longtime ally that was it, he explained.
The military, which placed Mugabe and his wife under house arrest Nov. 15, told the media they did so after the president fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnagagwa, because the first lady desires to succeed her husband as president. Since then, ZANU-PF forced Mugabe out of the party and joined the War Veterans Group in supporting a rally in the streets of Harare Nov. 18.
“The question at hand is not what Mugabe has done,” explained Bahati Jacques, policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Africa Faith and Justice Network. “The independence fighters, many of them have overstayed their mandate and they lost their credibility. Now the question is why are we here at this time. We are here because of a power struggle, not because of ‘nation building’ or concern for the people.
“These people who have worked with Mugabe, eating from the same pot, protecting him—now they are seeing that he is no longer reliable and they might lose what they have had for a long time—are strategizing to stay in power.”
“It is not just Zimbabwe, there are many places on the continent going through change, Cameroon, Togo, the Sudan, Morocco, Ethiopia, but Zimbabwe is a lightning rod because Mugabe was ‘the lion’ in the fight for the liberation of the continent” Melvin Foote of the Washington, D.C.-based Constituency for Africa told the AmNews. “Well, he is a hero, but the hero stayed too long.”
Foote added, “One thing I can tell you about the Zimbabwean people is that they are going to work through this. I haven’t seen any violence, no looting. That speaks well of the educational system of the Zimbabwean people. They are well read and informed.”