On Tuesday, November 21st, 2017, the world watched as a nation ruled by fear, unfairness, often near-famine, and fading faith saw its ruler of almost four decades exit the stage. Robert Mugabe declared his resignation as President of Zimbabwe. It was over.
Scenes of ecstatic relief and disbelief immediately transmitted across the world as Parliament’s roof rose from the cries of excitement, tears of joy. It was over.
And now the world watches the ‘What next? Who now?‘
It is all too easy to look to tomorrow now that today is into its final hours. It is natural. However, there is nothing natural about what happened in Zimbabwe.
To begin with, the ruler, taking office in 1980, President Mugabe stood tall as patron. In the initial years, his care for his people was true to fatherly form – protective, seeking personal well-being for all. His African-nationalist position was firm, his loathing of white colonials clear, unedited in his point of view regarding the historical rulers of his homeland: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.”, openly declaring, “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy!”
As time passed, however, and faculties dimmed, power and often violent control eclipsed purpose and the once held vision collective good. His reign evolved into a lifetime of leading with self-serving power, inspiring fear and paranoia. Over the last 37 years his iron fist was visible as his dictatorship took hold, seeing, inter alia,:
- qualified ‘white’ farm owners violently forced from their homes for the sake of ‘black’ ownership, a prelude to liberation,
- those speaking….or rather whispering…against the lion of the nation being silenced through the stopping of their heart, and
- the disappearance of opposition a clear statement of cost of voicing conscience.
For over 13,500 days of rule, life was as he dictated – paternalism the shroud that covered his people. Global leaders shook their heads seeing a nation, once rich in natural and human resources, faced starvation of body, mind and spirit. But there was no way for the people of the nation, his nation, to fight back. The power and oppression was drowning of all hope and humanity. His personal and political indulgences were simply to be accepted. Just be quiet and look away.
Which is why the events of the past week are so astounding.
For decades, literally decades, the desire for overthrow has been omnipresent, within and outside the country. But the threat to people, politics and power repeatedly defused any possibility. Only the hand of God seemed to be able to rid Zimbabwe of its aged ruler.
And then, unsuspectingly and non-aggressively, the hand of the Military moved in. After the sudden firing of Vice President Mnangagwa, on November 14th, 2017, tanks move into central Harare, major arteries of the capital blocked, the national broadcaster taken over.
The President is put under house arrest within 24 hours. 72 hours later protests erupt on the streets as the 93 year old President refuses to leave his throne. 24 hours later threats of impeachment linger, with the President standing firm in his rejection of exit, despite his wife and party leaders forming his inner circle being expelled from their shared political party, ZANU PF.
And then, the 21st of November dawns. And statement of resignation is released. It was over. President Mugabe was President no more, the flames of his fiery life of leadership extinguished.
Today, in just hours, the nation’s interim President will be sworn in, the ‘Crocodile’ taking the crown in a peaceful transfer of power, for now. The nation looks forward as the world looks to see how Zimbabwe, under President Mnangagwa, will shape its future.
It would be such a great shame, and do the nation such disservice, however, if the world is to simply look on, knowing it will eventually look away. The past week in Zimbabwe is a profound lesson to the world in decency, civility and humanity. Let us never forget that, as a hurtful, often hateful, leader of 37 years is overthrown, not a shot is fired, not a drop of blood is spilled, not a sheet of glass is broken, not a rock is thrown. Instead of wishing that their oppressive leader hang, or that he spend the rest of his life stripped of his freedom, dignity and safety, the people of Zimbabwe wish he rest. Their leader, their father, is tired. Let him rest.
The courage shown by the people of Zimbabwe in their willingness to openly, visibly and audibly, have their identities and demands revealed, all in a place where one would fear death if exposed, is incredible. The honour with which the transition took place – peacefully, collectively, decently, is exemplary. The people of Zimbabwe deserve the world’s respect and salute.
Is now a time for the world to watch closely the new leadership, new hope, and new possibilities in Zimbabwe? Absolutely.
And it is also the time for the world to pause, in prayer and praise, for the people of Zimbabwe. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017