Just last week, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seemed to be as stable and powerful as he always had been. His power was absolute and nothing seemed to threaten him. All of that changed just a few days ago. Following a bitter battle for succession to the 93-year-old leader, favoring his hardliner wife Grace, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa organized a takeover by the army and placed Mugabe under house arrest. Since the startling takeover, negotiations have been taking place to finalize what will happen to Mugabe.
The latest move has now been revealed as the ruling Zanu-PF Party has sacked Robert Mugabe as their leader and invited Mnangagwa to take over. Mugabe’s wife has been expelled from the party altogether, reflecting her divisive state in the party and her general unpopularity. While Mugabe is still President of Zimbabwe, and the move is yet to be formalized, it will undoubtedly increase the mounting pressure for Mugabe to step down from power.
The move is a fresh blow to a weakened Mugabe who had previously promised to stay power ‘until God says “Come”‘ and who now faces uncertainty over his future. The ruling Zanu-PF party was initially reluctant to pick a side and it was speculated that they would support Mugabe on the provision that his wife was removed from the succession. The bitter struggle over who would succeed Mugabe has split many in the party and helped facilitate the takeover by Mnangagwa and the army. Now they have picked their side.
The news has been greeted with excitement and rejoicing across the capital of Harare where thousands of anti-Mugabe protestors have gathered over the past day to demand Mugabe is removed from power. After devastating the economy and ruling with an iron fist, the mere sight of protesters would be unthinkable just a month ago. Thousands of people are now speaking openly about a new hope for the nation. It is likely that the newly formed protests prompted many in the Zanu-PF party to turn on Mugabe, recognizing their president’s weakening grip.
Yet some are still wary. Mugabe’s removal is not inevitable and while the odds are stacked against him, Mugabe might still pull an ace from up his sleeve. It is unlikely that the 93-year-old has any fight left in him and despite his popularity across Africa as a liberation fighter, his legacy and his wife are major sticking points. Even so, Mugabe will be unwilling to hand over power so easily.
No one can say for sure what will happen next either. Despite his quick accession to power, Emmerson Mnangagwa is known for his political cunning and ruthless streak. He is unpopular in certain parts of the country and the fact that the army is mostly at his back means that another dictator is just as likely as a move to democracy.
Regardless, the stunning events over the last few days have changed the face of Zimbabwe. People now talk of a glimmer of hope. After decades of mismanagement, the only way for Zimbabwe, regardless of the final situation, is up. Many are still skeptical and wary of the future, but they sense a change in the air, a chance for their voices to be heard at last.
Mugabe isn’t out yet, but with his sacking, Zimbabwe is seeing the beginning of the end of an era.