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Mugabe steps down: What’s next for Zimbabwe?

By Brian E. Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 28, 2017 - 10:49:05 PM

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Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president.

President Robert Mugabe, considered a hero to some, a villain to others, was the last African independence leader in power. He resigned as president of Zimbabwe.

In ceremonies Nov. 23, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, the former vice-president and a liberation struggle comrade of Mr. Mugabe was sworn in as interim-president.

Elections are scheduled for September 2018.

For Zimbabwe, a significant country and potential bread basket of Africa, analysts say the transition of power must be watched closely. And there are questions about what a post-Mugabe era will bring under Interim President Mnangagwa.

“In fact, we have to focus now on Zimbabwe more than we ever did before,” said Nii Akuettey, a democracy activist and former Georgetown University professor.

“Important decisions and actions are going to happen soon,” he said in a telephone interview with The Final Call.

Robert Mugabe
The 93-year-old Mugabe relinquished office after several weeks of political turmoil within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The problems culminated with military intervention by the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and an impeachment proceeding ended when President Mugabe resigned amid demonstrations throughout the country.

With the current turmoil within ZANU-PF, the economic crises in Zimbabwe and political isolation from the outside world, close attention will be paid to how the interim president moves forward in the global arena.

The country stands ready to “reengage” with the countries of the world in a “new beginning” with nations “who had issues with us in the past,” President Mnangagwa said.

While there appears to be celebration for a new Zimbabwe, there are potential pitfalls as outside powers like America and Europe may see renewed opportunity to reverse gains from independence and make moves to neo-colonize Africa.

People were dancing in the streets with the political changes in Zimbabwe. However, years of sanctions and deliberate isolation by Europe and America has the economy in dire straits.

The interim president will have to work on fixing the economy immediately, meaning quick relief and infusions of hard currency into the system.

“Where is he going to get it from? It can either be from the West—Washington and London—the IMF or the World Bank or he can get it from China,” observed Mr. Akuetteh. However, with what strings attached? he asked.

“Do business with everyone, but trust no one,” he advised.

“They have been working on breaking down the collective democracy inside of Zimbabwe for decades … causing economic unrest,” said Moya Mzuri, of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, discussing Zimbabwe in an interview on Liberated Sisters Video Podcast.

Ms. Mzuri was referring to the Lancaster Agreement where the United States and Britain promised then reneged on financially underwriting land transfers from White farmers to Zimbabweans.

The interim president promised that 2018 elections will take place as scheduled and said economic policy will be predicated on agriculture. We will have “job; job, job creation,” the new president pledged.

During his swearing in speech, President Mnangagwa told the international community the land reform policies enacted under President Mugabe will remain the same. However, he described a new and different relationship with White farmers whose land was confiscated. “Government is committed to work on a compensation plan for former land owners,” said President Mnangagwa.

Some analysts say core issues remain in a nation of 16 million people that gained independence from minority White subjugation in 1980.

“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is a systemic problem,” said Kenya-based economist Reginald Kadzutu in a November 20 tweet.

  “It’s a system built over years. It was just personified by Mugabe but he is not the problem. So as much as we celebrate his removal, the system is still in place,” Mr. Kadzutu said.

Events unfolded that led the ruling party to remove President Mugabe as its head, replacing him with Mr. Mnangagwa who was in exile since being dismissed as vice-president weeks earlier. This opened the door for Mr. Mnangagwa to become interim president of the country.

The interim president has served as intelligence chief and had strong connections to the military. Reports said President Mugabe fired the vice-president after he “exhibited disloyalty, disrespect and deceitfulness.” The decision sparked anger in the military and was widely believed to be Mr. Mugabe’s effort to position his wife, Grace, to secede him and lead the nation—which was politically unpopular and a source of upset in the country. These circumstances triggered the actions of military leaders to seize control of the country, said Zimbabwe watchers.

Republic of Zimbabwe Capital City, Harare
Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 16.2 Million people.

“This was a falling out among the ruling elite,” said Bill Fletcher, former head of TransAfrica Forum. They saw Mr. Mnangagwa as the logical successor to President Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since independence.

In his inauguration speech, President Mnangagwa said former President Mugabe gave an immense contribution towards building Zimbabwe. “He remained a father, a mentor, comrade in arms and my leader.”

As Mr. Mugabe’s second-in-command, the astute businessman negotiated multi-million dollar trade deals with Russia, China and South Africa.

Al-Jazeera reported that in 2015, Mr. Mnangagwa led trade delegations to Europe to re-open lines of communication with the West which, in 2001, imposed targeted sanctions on top government leaders, including himself. Mr. Mnangagwa established a rapport with foreign investors and the International Monetary Fund.

But, there is still a cloud over the transition that brought him to the presidency with the help of the defense forces and raises questions if Mr. Mugabe was moved out of power under unconstitutional means and pressure.

“To me the army is still the power behind the throne,” said Mr. Akuetteh.

(See page 17 for Perspective: Why Robert Mugabe Is Hated