Sacked vice-president to take reins as Mugabe finally quits
Zimbabwe’s former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as president today or tomorrow, Zanu-PF legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa said, after the bombshell announcement of Robert Mugabe’s resignation last night.
Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke said Mnangagwa would serve the remainder of Mugabe’s term until the next general elections, which must be held by September next year.
But party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said late last night: “I believe that Mnangagwa, who the party central committee endorsed, will come back in the next 24 hours or so and he will be sworn in to be president for 90 days.”
It is not clear how the army and Zanu-PF will navigate around the fact that Mnangagwa had recently been fired and is no longer a member of the government as required by the constitution.
It is understood that Mugabe, 93, who stepped down in the midst of impeachment proceedings in parliament, has already left the country, presumably for the Far East.
He has often visited Singapore and Malaysia for health checks.
Innocent Gonese, chief whip of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, said: “The man had run out of options. The writing was on the wall. “Mugabe might have been hoping the impeachment process would not succeed, that it might stumble in getting the numbers together.
“But it was quickly obvious that things had gone beyond that.”
Derek Matyszak, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said: “I think when he saw the turnout [of legislators], he probably realised he’d better jump before he was pushed.”
On the streets, the news of Mugabe’s resignation sparked an explosion of wild celebration.
Car hooters honked and people erupted into ecstatic cheers and frenzied dancing. In a highly symbolic scene, a man removed a portrait of Mugabe from a room inside the parliament where MPs were gathering for an extraordinary session to impeach the recalcitrant president.
Another bystander replaced it with an image of Mnangagwa, whose dismissal on November 6 to smooth a path to the presidency for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, 52, known as “Gucci Grace” for her fondness for luxury shopping, triggered the crisis.
It capped an unprecedented week in which the military seized control and tens of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans took to the streets in an extraordinary show of defiance to demand that Mugabe leave.
But there are questions over how Mnangagwa will lead the country, which has effectively been led by Mugabe since independence in 1980.
In a statement issued from hiding yesterday, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans from all walks of life had to work together to rebuild a shattered economy and polarised society.
“My desire is to join all Zimbabweans in a new era, where corruption, incompetence, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadence is not tolerated,” he said.
“In that new Zimbabwe, it is important for everyone to join hands so that we rebuild this nation to its full glory. This is not a job for Zanu-PF alone but for all people of Zimbabwe.”
The 75-year-old was one of Mugabe’s most trusted lieutenants over many years, having been at his side in prison, during wartime and then in government.
With his appointment in 2014 as Mugabe’s official deputy, Mnangagwa had appeared well set as the eventual successor to Africa’s oldest head of state.
“There are no arguments around his credentials to provide strong leadership and stability, but there are questions over whether he can also be a democrat,” Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Mugabe’s resignation gave Zimbabwe an opportunity to forge a new path “free of the oppression that characterised his rule”, and declared Britain stood ready to help.
“In recent days, we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the country’s economy under a legitimate government, ” she said.
“As Zimbabwe’s oldest friend we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “I will not pretend to regret Mugabe’s downfall, but this can now be a turning point, a moment of hope for this beautiful country, full of potential.
“The immediate priority is to ensure Zimbabwe has a legitimate government, appointed through free and fair elections.”
Johnson pledged that Britain stood ready to support Zimbabwe in this goal. Last week, he warned that “nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to the next”.
The US also called for free and fair elections and unwavering respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
“Tonight marks a historic moment for Zimbabwe,” the US embassy in Harare said.
“Whatever short-term arrangements the government may establish, the path forward must lead to free, fair and inclusive elections.”
In South Africa, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Zanu-PF, which had been complicit in Mugabe’s 37-year rule, could not be trusted and elections should be held as soon as possible to democratically elect a new president.
“History has taught us that failed liberation movements cannot and will not self-correct,” he said.
“The solution has to come from outside these movements.
“Zanu-PF has become nothing more than a patronage network engulfed in fighting over access to power and state resources for those who are politically connected.”
COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota said: “Undoubtedly, southern Africa has been rocked by the emancipatory events of the last few days. “There are stark lessons to learn for those who have dictatorial‚ dynastic‚ non-democratic and corrupt tendencies.
“There are many lessons for South Africa to take to heart from the rise and fall of Mugabe.”
The EFF urged Zimbabwe not to capitulate on land reform. EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Zimbabweans must not “return the land to the white settler communities”.
“This is one legacy of President Mugabe that must be advanced and protected at all costs,” he said. President Jacob Zuma and his Angolan counterpart, Joao Lourenco, are expected in Zimbabwe today to assess the situation in accordance with Southern African Development Community meeting resolutions passed yesterday.
– AFP, Reuters, with additional reporting by Ray Ndlovu, Theto Mahlakoane and Nico Gous