The ‘Grand old man of African politics’ Robert Mugabe, who is 93, has finally been shown the door by Zimbabwe’s military, after he enjoyed untrammelled power for 37 long years, following the country’s independence in 1980. Mugabe’s last ditch battle to cling on to power till the elections next year and to then seek to foist his 52-year-old second wife Grace is most likely to come a-cropper.
The military is determined to keep him out and will, though it wants to avoid a direct confrontation. The army’s takeover signalled the collapse of the security, intelligence and patronage network that sustained Mugabe through his long political sway. Once the former dictator’s resignation is secured, his vice-president Mnangagwa is slated to succeed him with an interim unity government that will seek to stabilize the imploding economy.
Now, the question on everyone’s lips is whether Mugabe’s exit would be smooth and graceful or whether he would leave after bitterness and acrimony. While Mugabe commands the respect of African leaders per se, his wife Grace dubbed ‘Disgrace’ evokes contempt and revulsion among many. Grace was a former government typist who began an affair with Mugabe in the early 1990s while his first wife Sally was dying of kidney failure and took control of the dictator’s political affairs. When Mugabe removed Mnangagwa as vice-president recently, it was seen as a move to pave the way for Grace to succeed him.
It is quite on the cards that Mugabe would try to extract as much mileage as he can for Grace in a hard bargain that he hopes to drive with the army. Indeed, Mugabe’s exit will remove from the scene an African leader who can be deemed to be the last of the old generation; he transformed from a guerrilla spearhead into a leader of the masses. Whether Zimbabwe would break out of the stagnation that has characterized it over the last few years only time will tell but on the face of it a unity government appears to be the right solution to the coup.