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Zimbabwe’s Coup and the End of an Era

Max+Steiker+%2718%2C+Editorial+columnist.
Max Steiker '18, Editorial columnist.

Max Steiker '18, Editorial columnist.

Pietro Topa

Pietro Topa

Max Steiker '18, Editorial columnist.

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On Tuesday November 21, Robert Mugabe stepped down as the president of the Nation of Zimbabwe, after thirty-seven years of rule marked by corruption with the seizure of Rhodesian Corporations, prejudice and genocide Ndebele people, and severe inflation during a nationwide 2006 recession. Robert Mugabe had been notorious for being politically ruthless, purging dozens of ministers and clergy members over his tenure as president. After leading the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF for short), he became the leader of the nation of Zimbabwe at the end of the Rhodesian Bush War.

Only three years into his reign, Mugabe demonstrated his prowess at eliminating threats to his power, and revealed his intention to rule unopposed. Mugabe ordered the massacre of upwards of twenty thousand native Ndebele people in a targeted genocide in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe. His motive for the massacre, known as the Gukurahundi, was to eliminate his political opposition, which was comprised of the Ndebele.

Mugabe then spent decades implementing failed socialist policies that bankrupted the country. In 2000, Mugabe forcefully reappropriated white-owned farms to political allies, destroying Zimbabwe’s last functioning industry. By 2006, the debt created by Mugabe’s failed initiatives caused runaway hyperinflation, leading to an 85 billion percent devaluation in the Zimbabwean currency. Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe went from being the second richest country in Africa to one of the poorest in the world.

Robert Mugabe is now ninety-three years old, and on November 8, he purged his cabinet of members who were opposed to his wife, Grace, who he hoped would take power after his retirement. The firing of his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on November 6 sparked a military coup that led to Mugabe’s forced resignation on November 21. With Mugabe gone, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has stepped up as Zimbabwe’s second President in thirty-seven years of existence. Zachary Lee ‘18, an avid follower of geopolitics, describes Mnangagwa’s prospective reign as leader somewhat pessimistic. “Despite my continued optimism for the southern African region as a whole, I remain dubious of the new resident’s ability to lead Zimbabwe into a new era. Many members of the current administration remain in power from Mugabe’s era and Emmerson Mnangagwa himself had a long standing relationship with the dictator.”

“Despite my continued optimism for the southern African region as a whole, I remain dubious of the new resident’s ability to lead Zimbabwe into a new era. Many members of the current administration remain in power from Mugabe’s era and Emmerson Mnangagwa himself had a long standing relationship with the dictator.” -Zachary Lee ‘18

With Mugabe deposed, an era of socialist dictators in Africa is over. Mugabe represented corruption, genocide, nationwide hunger and poverty- while also showing the potential longevity of such regimes. Mugabe was the oldest living head of state, and had been in power since his country’s independence from Rhodesia in 1980. It is unknown how the platform of the expected president, Mnangagwa, will be received by the Zimbabwean people, or how he will handle Zimbabwe’s crippled economy. Mugabe’s wife Grace – whose embezzlement of the Zimbabwean people’s money to buy ostentatious luxury goods earned her the nickname “Gucci Grace” – is expected to go into self-imposed exile from Zimbabwe with her husband, as remaining in the country would make them vulnerable to criminal charges. The fall of Mugabe marks the end of one era, and the start of a new one. This is a turning point for the continent as a whole.

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Zimbabwe’s Coup and the End of an Era