This week, after 37 years in power Robert Mugabe resigned as President of Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s resignation was triggered by a military take-over from the army and threats from the Zimbabwean parliament and his own party to impeach him. The resignation was met with wild scenes of jubilation in the parliament, which flowed onto the streets. Undoubtedly this signals the end of an era for Zimbabwe, but what comes next for the country?
Immediately, a new President. Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as President late this week. Mnangagwa, long groomed to take over from President Mugabe had been dismissed as Vice-President earlier this month after Mugabe appeared to anoint his wife Grace as his successor instead. This was widely viewed as the trigger for the actions that followed.
Robert Mugabe ran Zimbabwe into the ground. His brutal policies caused severe humane and economic pain. The country faced no positive future with him in charge. For that reason alone, his removal has the potential to be a huge step in the right direction for the country. However, before becoming too optimistic, there needs to be a proper level of scrutiny of the man who has taken over from him.
Mr Mnangagwa in his inauguration speech appeared to make the right noises. He pledged to re-engage the country with the world and sought to reassure foreign investors in an effort to attract investment into the country. The new President also promised “free and fair elections.” All these developments have led to a positive reaction in the country and a new mood of hope is radiating.
We should not be naive though. This was a man whose nickname is ‘the crocodile.’ He was in charge of Mugabe’s security and many believe he also played a major role in the atrocities in the country. He still remains the subject of U.S sanctions. A veteran of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe who worked with the new President described him as a “very cruel man.” To a large part of the country he will always be seen as Mugabe’s henchman.
The scenes in Zimbabwe are understandable. When a brutal leader such as Mugabe is removed, it is inevitable scenes of joy will follow. However, we must not kid ourselves about his successor. Mnangagwa has a past record of horrific actions and although he has said the right things we will wait with baited breath as to whether he delivers.
The suffering people of Zimbabwe deserve a positive future and one where the full potential of the country can flourish. Removing Mugabe was imperative to this, but replacing him with this man may reduce all hopes of a reformed, open country. Only time will tell!