Zimbabwe's next leader heads home after Mugabe exit

Zimbabwe's next leader heads home after Mugabe exit
Zimbabwe's ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as successor to Robert Mugabe at a ceremony on Friday, a day after the 93-year-old's resignation.
3 min read
22 November, 2017
Zimbabwe's former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa will return to the country on Wednesday to take power after Robert Mugabe's resignation brought a sudden end to 37 years of authoritarian rule.

Ahead of his arrival, state media said he would be sworn in as president at a ceremony on Friday.

Mugabe's iron grip ended in a shock announcement to parliament where MPs had convened to impeach the 93-year-old who dominated every aspect of Zimbabwean public life for decades.

On the streets, the news that his long and often brutal leadership was over sparked wild celebrations which lasted late into the night, with crowds dancing and cheering ecstatically amid a cacophony of car horns.

"Comrade Mnangagwa is coming back today," senior aide Larry Mavhima, told AFP, saying he was expected to brief the media after landing at a military airport outside Harare.

Mnangagwa, 75, was sacked by the president on November 6 in a move that pushed infuriated army chiefs to intervene, triggering a series of events which led to Mugabe's ouster.

A former key Mugabe ally, Mnangagwa fled the country after his dismissal, saying he would not return without guarantees of his safety.

His sacking was the result of an increasingly bitter succession battle with Mugabe's wife Grace, who had been pushing to take over from the ageing leader.

"My decision to resign is voluntary," Mugabe wrote in his resignation letter, expressing his "desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power".

Mnangagwa is a long-time party loyalist who has close ties with the military, with critics describing him as a ruthless hardliner responsible for years of state-sponsored violence.

Mugabe's resignation capped a week in which the military seized control and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets in an unprecedented show of dissent against him.

He had ruled Zimbabwe almost unopposed since independence in 1980, but his efforts to position his 52-year-old wife Grace as his successor prompted intervention from the military that underpinned his regime.

The monolithic grip of Mugabe - who was the world's oldest head of state - was shattered last week when armoured military vehicles took to the streets, blockaded parliament and soldiers placed him under house arrest.

Mugabe's fate, and that of his wife, remain unknown, but ZANU-PF has said he deserved to be treated with respect after leading the country for nearly four decades.

Last week's military takeover had all the hallmarks of a coup, but the generals stopped short of forcing Mugabe out.

As the crisis grew, the ZANU-PF party, an instrument of Mugabe's brutal reign, removed him as party leader and began parliamentary proceedings to have him impeached.

Most Zimbabweans have only known life under Mugabe, whose time in power was defined by violent suppression, economic collapse and international isolation.