Zimbabwe: End of an era, beginning of a new dawn

The long reign of President Robert Mugabe finally came to an abrupt end with his resignation on November 21, 2017. The beginning of the end started on November 6, when President Mugabe fired his first Vice President, Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa. This was expected to be followed by purges of senior officials of the government, especially the war veterans who fought and liberated Zimbabwe from the racist Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). After his dismissal, Emmerson Mnangagwa immediately fled to South Africa.   Mrs. Joyce Muturu, his predecessor as first Vice President from 2004-2014, and veteran combatant, was also in like manner summarily dismissed.

There were wild rumours that the former First Lady of Zimbabwe, Mrs. Grace Mugabe, might imminently be sworn in as one of two Vice Presidents, thus  paving the way for her to succeed  her husband.

The loyalty of the military to the government of Zimbabwe had been unflinching and openly expressed. However, the prospects of Mrs. Mugabe ruling the country were considered to be unacceptable and a joke taken too far. The intervention of the military therefore became  necessary, not out of disloyalty to President Mugabe per se, but against his wife whose extreme ambition to succeed her husband had  created divisions at the top echelons of the political and military elites.

Mrs. Mugabe is capricious, extravagant and had on occasions been involved in public brawls, negative   attributes which rendered her unfit to rule a society of  educated, civilised  and enlightened people like Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa, now President, was a veteran liberation fighter and at different times, Minister of Finance, Defence, Justice and Head of Intelligence Services.  He had also paid his dues in prison during the racist and apartheid regime in Rhodesia, the colonial name of Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa had been loyal to President Mugabe  at critical times and criticised for being high-handed  in repressing opposition groups and brutalising opposition leader,  Morgan Tsvangirai, after the 2008 election.

At 93, Mugabe was edging towards the end of his political life, either through the normal course of nature or through what happened on November 21. The recent errors of judgement should be excused  on account of his advanced age. Although still witty, and a good entertainer at international conferences with his wisecracks, which will be missed, the body and mind were already frail and as such, prone to manipulations.

The armed forces of Zimbabwe should be commended for their professionalism in handling this crisis with decency,  which at the end allowed the rule of  law as well as the constitution to take its course.

This is a good example which other military formations in Africa should emulate to the extent, that it has no place in governance and must be subjected to civil authority in all circumstances. The army of Zimbabwe must, however, continue to maintain its neutral political position,  remain  disciplined and must not intimidate, threaten and overawe  the civil authority or constitute itself as  a parallel government in the country.

Zimbabwe has a vibrant opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF will not have an easy ride at the 2018 general election. The high level of maturity demonstrated so far by the people,  army and parliament  of Zimbabwe should not be marred by victimisation, and exacting revenge on the family and supporters of President Mugabe. The old man must be accorded full respect, and all the dignity he deserves. When  his time shall come  to join his first wife, Sally, in the hereafter, his life and times should be celebrated by the people of Zimbabwe and the African continent for his contributions to the liberation of his people.

The immediate concerns of interim President Mnangagwa should be to unite the people, the Shona and Ndebele alike, heal the painful wounds of the past, revamp the economy,  and navigate through the contentious land reforms.