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The End of Mugabe?

The nationwide celebrations on the 21st November demonstrated hope for a prosperous future. But how will Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president, commonly referred to as ‘the crocodile’, reconstruct the nation after a rule marred by corruption and violence?

At 93 years old, Mugabe’s support was waning along with his vigor, as corruption increased to astounding levels, with his wife planning to take the presidency. This power play by Grace ‘the first shopper’ who was reportedly behind the sacking of vice president, Mnangagwa in a bid to take over, left formally loyal armed forces seeking new leadership. The resulting coup d’etat eventually led to Mugabe’s house arrest on the 15th November. However, the coup d’état was not a direct result of Mnangagwa’s dismissal. The imminent threat of impeachment coupled with political divisions within his Zanu-PF party and protest over the sacking of vice president Mnangagwa, in November 2017, left his rule no longer indestructible.

Despite Mugabe’s presidency synonymous with one-party rule and corruption, his emergence as a nationalist leader after 11 years in exile under the British, was seemingly a step forward. With many world leaders viewing his appointment as a sign of progress with nationwide support, winning by a landslide in February 1980 before forming an inclusive government as prime minister, going on to create one of the best education systems on the continent, with an adult literacy rate of over 90%. However, after 1987 and his appointment as president, the progressive changes began to be replaced by repression and corruption, leading to catastrophic economic decline, with 90% unemployment in the informal sector, among numerous human rights violations including the land grabs in the 1980s which forcibly removed white farmers from settlements. The question remains, will Mnangagwa provide the change and renewal which Mugabe promised to the people of Zimbabwe in 1980, or repeat the mistakes of the past?

The prospect of a new future for Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa is calling for a closer inspection over his record in government, as doubts over his past decisions are surfacing. His involvement in the violent suppression of opposition in the 2008 elections as Mugabe’s right-hand man is calling question on his time in office. As well as his involvement in brutal killings of more than 20,000 civilians in the 1980s. More recently, the protests have caused many to be detained by the military and his inauguration speech contained no sentiment of progressive change, changing the ubiquity of censorship human right violations. Is the celebration of his appointment cause for celebration or simply a change of face?


1) Burke, J and Graham-Harrison, E (2017) ‘Emmerson Mnangagwa hails ‘new democracy’ in Zimbabwe’. The Guardian. [Online] Available at:

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