History in the Making: the Fall of the Zimbabwean Dictator

By Cecilia Godoy

Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s President this Tuesday after 37 years of autocratic rule. The resignation comes after a turbulent week filled with misinformation and chaos surrounded by suspicions of a military takeover in the beginning of the month. Mugabe has been in power ever since Zimbabwe gained its independence from the British Empire in April, 1980. After the liberation movement, the President rose to power and passed a new constitution and government that would ensure power remained centralized in his hands. After almost 4 decades in power, the self-appointed President down spiraled into his resignation from office in simply two weeks. As of right now his successor will be his former Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, according to a spokesman for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Mnangagwa will be sworn in on Thursday.

The letter of resignation read today at the joint session of the Zimbabwean Parliament was in fact an acknowledgement of the inevitable. Mugabe lost his grip on power six days ago when the country’s top generals launched a military coup, and placed the president under house arrest. The crisis started on November 6th, after the then-President fired Mnangagwa as vice president after having displayed deceitful and disloyal behavior. Many also argue that this was a political move for clearly the path of leadership for his wife, Grace Mugabe. After hearing that the president’s health was declining, army generals and senior leaders of the ZANU-PF party decided to actively intervene and ensure that Grace was not appointed his successor. The first lady has developed much disapproval due to her lavish and expensive lifestyle, earning her the nickname of Gucci Grace. While it is clear Zimbabweans do not approve of Grace Mugabe as the successor for the current president, it is unclear whether they support Mnangagwa. Nicknamed The Crocodile, Emmerson Mnangagwa has been Mugabe’s right-hand man for decades, underscoring how similar his leadership is likely to be to that of  Mugabe. He has been accused of orchestrating a series of massacres in the early 1980s to consolidate the party’s power. He denies all allegations but there the violence that ensued left up to 20,000 dead, mostly from Mugabe’s opponents.

While there has been a lot of excitement over the transition of power, it is unlikely that any change will occur in the lives of the Zimbabwean population. The current dispute of power was between the already existent leading political figures – particularly the internal fission of Mugabe’s party –  not from the emergence of a party that represented the populous need to better living and working conditions. Currently 72% of the total population lives in some condition of poverty. The fight for power and succession was not one that was concerned with changing the status quo. While many of the citizens are celebrating the fall of the dictator that significantly limited their freedom of speech and expression, there seems to be very little chance of those conditions changing going forward. There has also been significant acclaim from the international community, naming this moment as a significant pivot in the history of the country, and that citizens alike should take this opportunity to enact significant change in the way the country’s executive, legislative and judicial sectors are run. Citizens of the country should make their voices and needs heard in the emerging political scene and actively influence the direction their country is heading, for the sake of bettering their day to day lives.