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Published On: Wed, Nov 22nd, 2017

End of an era in Zimbabwe as Mugabe resigns

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By Ochiaka Ugwu with Agency reports

Zimbabwe’s parliament speaker, Jacob Mudenda announced the resignation of President Robert Mugabe after a lot of political brouhaha yesterday.
A letter from Mr Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transition of power. The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him.
Lawmakers roared in jubilation and people have begun celebrating in the streets. Mr. Mugabe, 93, was until now the world’s oldest leader. He had previously refused to resign despite last week’s military takeover and days of protests.
The letter did not mention who would take over from Mr. Mugabe, who has been in power since independence in 1980. The constitution says it should be the current vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe, Mr. Mugabe’s wife.
But many see it as likely that former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, Grace Mugabe’s chief rival and a man whose sacking earlier this month triggered the crisis, will be the next president. Mr Mudenda said moves were under way to ensure a new leader could take over by late on Wednesday.

Sit-tight dictator: The rise and fall of Robert Mugabe

•Early life
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, born 21 February 1924 is a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who served as the President of Zimbabwe between 1987 and until he resigned yesterday. He previously led Zimbabwe as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987. He chaired the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) group from 1975 to 1980 and led its successor political party, the ZANU – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), from 1980 to 2017. Ideologically an African nationalist, during the 1970s and 1980s he identified as a Marxist–Leninist although after the 1990s self-identified only as a socialist; his policies have been described as Mugabeism by political historians.

•His administrative style
Mugabe’s administration expanded healthcare and education and—despite his Marxist rhetoric and professed desire for a socialist society—adhered largely to conservative economic policies which is capitalist oriented.
Mugabe’s initial calls for racial reconciliation failed to stem deteriorating race relations and growing white flight. Relations with Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) also declined, with Mugabe crushing ZAPU-linked opposition in Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi between 1982 and 1985; at least 10,000 people, mostly Ndebele civilians, were killed by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade. Pursuing decolonisation, Mugabe’s government emphasised the redistribution of land controlled by white farmers to landless blacks, initially on a “willing seller-willing buyer” basis. Frustrated at the slow rate of redistribution, from 2000 Mugabe encouraged the violent seizure of white-owned land. Food production was severely impacted, generating famine and drastic economic decline and leading to international sanctions. Opposition to Mugabe grew, particularly through the Movement for Democratic Change, although he was re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2013 through campaigns dominated by violence, electoral fraud, and nationalistic appeals to his rural Shona voter base.

•Foreign policy
Internationally, Mugabe sent troops to fight in the Second Congo War and chaired the Non-Aligned Movement (1986–89), the Organisation of African Unity (1997–98), and the African Union (2015–16). His land policy of stripping the minority whites their lands for majority blacks earned him hatred in the west.

•His fall
Declaring that he would “fight like a wounded animal” for re-election, Mugabe approached the 2013 elections believing that it would be his last. He hoped that a decisive electoral victory would secure his legacy, signal his triumph over his Western critics, and irreparably damage foes’ credibility. The opposition parties believed that this election was their best chance for ousting Mugabe. They portrayed him as a feeble old man who was being told what to do by the military, although at least one academic observer argued that this was untrue.
In contrast to 2008, there was no organised dissent against Mugabe within ZANU-PF. The party elite decided to avoid the violence that had marred 2008’s election so as not to undermine its credibility, particularly in the eyes of the SADC, thus allowing Zimbabwe’s government to consolidate its rule without interference. Mugabe called upon supporters to avoid violence, and attended far fewer rallies than in past elections, in part because of his advanced age and in part to ensure that those rallies he did attend were larger. The ZANU-PF offered gifts, including food and clothing, to many members of the electorate to encourage them to vote for the party.
ZANU-PF won a landslide victory, with 61% of the presidential vote and over two-thirds of parliamentary seats. The elections were not considered free and fair; there were widespread stories of vote rigging and many voters may have been fearful of the violence that had surrounded the 2008 election. During the campaign, many MDC supporters had remained quiet about their views out of fear of reprisals. The MDC was also negatively impacted by its time in coalition government, with perceptions that it had been just as corrupt as ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF had also capitalised on its appeals to African race, land, and liberation, while the MDC was often associated with white farmers, Western nations, and perceived Western values such as LGBT rights.
In February 2014, Mugabe underwent a cataract operation in Singapore; on return he celebrated his ninetieth birthday at a Marondera football stadium. In December 2014, Mugabe fired his Vice President, Joice Mujuru, accusing her of plotting his overthrow. In January 2015, Mugabe was elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU). In November 2015, he announced his intention to run for re-election as Zimbabwe’s President in 2018, at the age of 94, and has been accepted as the ZANU-PF candidate. In February 2016, Mugabe said he had no plans for retirement and would remain in power “until God says ‘come’”. In February 2017, right after his 93rd birthday, Mugabe stated he would not retire nor pick a successor, even though he said he would let his party choose a successor if it saw fit. In May 2017, Mugabe took a weeklong trip to Cancún, Mexico, ostensibly to attend a three-day conference on disaster risk reduction, eliciting criticism of wasteful spending from opposition figures. He made three medical trips to Singapore in 2017, and Grace Mugabe, his wife called on him to name a successor. Mugabe’s grace later turned to be his disgrace.

•House arrest
On 15 November 2017, Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the Zimbabwe National Army in a coup d’état. On 19 November, he was sacked as leader of ZANU-PF, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Vice President was appointed in his place. Following the start of impeachment proceedings against him, Mugabe resigned as President yesterday, 21 November 2017. A journey that started 37 years ago came to an abrupt end signaling an end of an era and beginning of new phase in the political history of Zimbabwe.

•What next?
Given the fact that Mugabe dominated Zimbabwe’s politics for nearly four decades, he is a controversial and divisive figure. He has been hailed as a freedom fighter and hero of the African liberation struggle. Who did much to help in freeing Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism, and white minority rule. On the other hand, he has been accused of being a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, racial discrimination, human rights abuses, suppression of political critics, and crimes against humanity. No wonder Zimbabweans came out in droves to celebrate his inglorious exit for the exalted position.
In fairness to him as a typical African, he overlooked the slim line that separates family-hood from leadership. Mugabe to my mind was a victim of ‘defocused leadership vision and his current quandary, should be a lesson to leaders and aspiring leader that people are not cows and cannot be driven aimlessly.
Indeed, when the economy of Zimbabwe is peeped into, one will discover without much prompting that Mugabe was a burden rather than an asset. To buttress this point, it is on record that Mugabe led administration made virtually all Zimbabweans millionaires but economically powerless occasioned by uncontrollably galloping inflation. Yet, he did not border to carry out self-introspection that will help unravel the damage and disservice he was doing to both the economy and the people.
Again, while Mugabe is nursing his wound, the event leading to his fall from power has presented a very good learning platform for the current leaders in Africa as well as sit-tight syndrome. But failure to draw from a lesson from his travails will definitely lead to the vicious circle of leadership failures and in turn increase the number of causalities.
To the Military, I hope and pray that their role will remain strictly interventionist function and will return to the barracks to continue their constitutional role after normalcy must have been restored. Let the people of Zimbabwe manage this opportunity of rediscovery their country well and see that it doesn’t end up like Libya where the cure has become worse than the disease.

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