Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe resigned on November 21, 2017. The military gave him a 24 hour ultimatum – resign or be impeached. Although the clear path was resignation, he refused to resign, thus the process of impeachment was initiated. Certainly, Mugabe saw the ultimatum as an affront to his authority, having been re-elected in 2013. He was the semi-legitimate president as many have reported it was a rigged election. Key to his reign was the support of the military, but of course that changed.
Robert Mugabe came into office with a jubilant crowd cheering his victory in 1980 and went out the same way, with the crowd cheering his departure. Anyone watching the news, could see the pure joy in Zimbabweans as their “beloved” president was shown the exit.
We are in the first round of a familiar situation. I’ve seen a similar situation first hand in Libya. With the tyrant gone, there is celebration, a great feel of national unity, a hope for democracy, freedom of expression and more equality. With the oppressive leadership gone, there is an overly optimistic view that prosperity with more jobs is just around the corner. Unfortunately, it isn’t, because those who benefited from the regime are very active in re-establishing themselves.
Zimbabwe’s new president is Emmerson Mnangagwa was appointed as vice president from December 2014 to November 27, 2017. But, is he really running the show, or is it the military? The military forced Robert Mugabe to resign, because he was setting up his wife, Grace Mugabe, to succeed him. Mnangagwa promised change and a new era of democracy. He dismissed his cabinet, and in two key positions, installed military leaders, as explained in the BBC news story (see links). According to the BBC:
Just two weeks ago many Zimbabweans were celebrating the so-called people’s commander – Gen Constantino Chiwenga – for leading the military takeover which led to the change in leadership. Now they wait to see whether he will be rewarded with a vice-presidency.
Next year, the scary part begins – elections. As Mugabe reign ended, there are a lot of players on the sidelines, looking to their next move. I’m not just talking of political parties inside Zimbabwe, but countries, including China, looking for new leaders who are foreign investment friendly. All Zimbabweans know that just before the military coup, Gen. Chiwenga was in China. Was he informing them of the coup? Or was he asking them for support, once the coup took place? The real important question, is whether he will be rewarded for his efforts by being appointed Vice President. Zimbabweans may be thinking there wasn’t really a change in government, since the same military that backed Mugabe is now behind Mnangagwa.
China’s aggressive world trade strategy (“the new maritime silk road”) is really about securing key seaports in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and then using these as hubs for commerce. Where the Chinese government really plays a role is in the financing of this network, be it new ports, trains, or roads. East Africa will be connected to West Africa from Kenya to Angola by seaports, rail and roads.
The political dynamics of Africa used to be mostly about what was going on inside the countries. This hasn’t been true for decades, however there are likely to be many players trying to take advantage of the new regime. I believe China’s economic might will have considerable sway in determining Zimbabwe’s future, and the long awaited freedoms, may have to wait longer. President Mnangagwa knows what the people of Zimbabwe want, the big question is, can he deliver?
There are many excellent reports on the internet on Robert Mugabe and the military takeover in November 2017. For those unfamiliar with Zimbabwe and it’s history, this is an excellent summary: