By Steven Martin Kensington
Zimbabwe got a new leader this Friday, 24th November, in the form of Emmerson Mnangagwa, ending the 38-year rule of Robert Mugabe since the country became independent from the United Kingdom in 1980. Mugabe, now 93-years-old, resigned and stepped down, and reportedly neither him nor his wife have been seen since Sunday. Mugabe was pressured into resigning, as the ruling party ZANU-PF said Mugabe would not be prosecuted if he stepped down. Mugabe has been accused of serious corruption, and the economic crisis Zimbabwe has had to deal with didn’t go in favor of the former leader.
Zimbabwe has become quite known for its history of hyperinflation. Their last recorded inflation rate is that of 2008 mid-November, where it was reported to have reached 79,600,000,000%. Staggering indeed. This meant practically that a US$1 would be equivalent to Z$2,621,984,228. It has been stated that a cause for this massive inflation was due to the Mugabe government printing money to finance involvement in the wars in the “Democratic” Republic of the Congo. The country is also known for its high levels of corruption. We can clearly see why many Zimbabweans are happy that he resigned.
But will Mnangagwa be different? He was the vice-president under the Mugabe government, and has been accused for being involved in the Matebeleland massacres in the 1980s, where the government responded to the ethnic tensions between the Shona and Ndebele with campaigns where North Korean-trained military officers in Zimbabwe killed tens of thousands of civilians. Robyn Curnow, CNN’s Southern Africa correspondent, observed: “Many Zimbabweans are still drunk with excitement that the nightmare years of Mugabe are over. And they are even more ecstatic that his wife Grace Mugabe is not the president.” He also wrote that the Zimbabwean people “are all too aware of Mnangagwa’s past and of what he is capable.”
At a speech he held after being inaugurated, he said: “I appeal to all genuine people of Zimbabwe to come together. We are all Zimbabweans … we need peace in our country and jobs, jobs, jobs.” It is therefore quite difficult to say exactly what route Zimbabwe will go in the next couple years, but one thing that is clear is that things will be different. Mnangagwa knows that he can’t repeat the errs of Mugabe, because he has put the burden upon himself to represent the people, not his own interests. He will now be serving Mugabe’s remaining term, which ends in their election next year. A commonly asked question now is whether he will accept the deadline and legitimacy of the election, or attempt to extend his reign by postponing the election. Only time will tell…