Mugabe’s departure signals arrival of a new era

NVR Swami

Robert Gabriel Mugabe has resigned as President to pave the way for Zimbabwe to open a new political chapter and end an era of isolation on the international front.

His letter of resignation was read out by the Speaker shortly after Parliament began an impeachment procedure.

The 93-year-old Mugabe had been in power since independence in 1980.

Mugabe said that his resignation was “voluntary with immediate effect” and to allow a smooth transfer of power.

The impeachment proceedings were then suspended.

High Drama in Harare

Harare, the capital, witnessed a week of high drama to start with his ouster.

First was an apparent coup led by General Constantino Chiwenga who described it as an exercise to clean up “criminal elements” in the ruling Zanu PF party with Mugabe and his family tucked away in their home.

Then came discussions Mugabe had with various groups including those from South Africa who feared any trouble in Zimbabwe could trigger an exodus through the porous boundary. Mugabe tried to buy time.

A massive rally in Harare and a political whip by his own political party to step down sealed his fate.

Yet, he clung on with his highly intellectual words and phrases and waited for talks with his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa who returned to Harare after he fled to a neighbouring state fearing for his life.

Mugabe had sacked him to make his wife Grace, 41 years his junior, his successor.

Healthy Army Relationship

Mnangagwa enjoys healthy relationship with the army, the intelligence agencies and the governing wing of the political party.

Africa shudders with the very word coup. The coups that flourished in independent Africa after the dawn of independence in 1960s destroyed or crippled many a state.

To cover a coup was an adventure by itself. Several correspondents risked their lives to cover the upheavals.

Business as usual

But in this mid-November political episodes, residents in Harare suggest that there was no semblance of panic or exodus. Everybody was polite to everyone. Offices and banks were open. Children went to school. Buses and cars plied as usual. Petrol stations were open. Churches bells pealed as usual at prayer times. Independence of judiciary was maintained. Civil and security service, as the defence forces said, cooperated well.

A decade into Zimbabwean independence in 1980, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was the toast of the international media. World leaders beckoned him.

India’s the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi attended his inaugural ceremony. Mugabe liked Rajiv Gandhi and admired P V Narasimha Rao, the two succeeding Prime Ministers.

As he moved into the second decade, he slipped dangerously low in world eyes. A sudden reversal of his fortunes began.

In the third decade and the ongoing fourth he tripped with bizarre party politics. The country was sunk into economic chaos. He turned once a prosperous Southern African state into a disaster.

This could well sum up the colourful life of the septuagenarian Mugabe who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron hand.

Britain reacts

The BBC quoted British Prime Minister Theresa May as saying that Mugabe’s resignation provided Zimbabwe with an opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised his rule.

She said that Britain would do all it can to support free and fair elections and the rebuilding of the Zimbabwe economy.

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