Mugabe has resigned, but …

In a historic moment, Zimbabwe’s parliament erupted in cheers as its speaker read out a letter from former President Robert Mugabe, announcing his resignation. But as Zimbabweans celebrate, there have been reactions around the world that say yes, Bob has resigned, but many of Zimbabwe’s problems still remain.

The new leader or interim president of the country has yet to be announced. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man tipped to take over the reins, said earlier today that he would only return to Zimbabwe once his safety had been guaranteed

But many have looked at Mnangagwa’s rise to popularity with scepticism. He was after all Mugabe’s right-hand man in many of the atrocities of massacres and abductions that traumatised Zimbabweans and made it clear that their president had become a dictator.

On Twitter, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: “Zimbabwe’s dictator finally resigns. Now don’t replace him with another”.

And Mnangagwa isn’t the only but. There are others too. It goes like this: Mugabe has resigned but …

  • The Zim economy is still depleted
  • There has been no free and fair election
  • Zanu-PF will likely remain in power

Zimbabweans in Harare are singing, hooting their car horns, or in tears. Those in the diaspora are also celebrating what they have claimed as a monumental victory against 37 years of repression. In a Facebook live video, leader of the #ThisFlag movement Pastor Evan Mawarire – who was been arrested after his movement gained momentum – reacted to the news.

“I’m waiting for confirmation, but I’m hearing that it’s over,” Mawarire said as he sat in front of his camera, wiping tears from his face.

“I didn’t… No-one thought this would be possible. Finally, we’ve done it,” he said.

It is a reality many Zimbabweans have witnessed with disbelief. Especially after Sunday night, when Mugabe resolutely read from a speech, army generals at his side, refusing to step down.

But everything has now changed.

Patson Dzamara, the outspoken brother of missing anti-Mugabe activist Itai Dzamara, reacted on Twitter, saying: “A better Zim is coming”.

Itai was abducted more than two years ago from an Harare barbershop by unknown assailants. He was known as a lone protester who stood in Harare’s Africa Uity Square to demand Mugabe step down. Now, in this moment of history, he is still missing. Patson, who has also been active in denouncing Mugabe, thanked his brother for “sowing the seeds”.

Trevor Ncube, an influential Zimbabwean businessperson (Ncube is also the owner of the Mail & Guardian), described Mugabe’s resignation on Twitter as a “stepping stone” towards what Zimbabweans have long desired.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), said that Mugabe’s resignation had hopefully led to opportunities for Zimbabwe.

“One would definitely hope that it opens a new trajectory for the country rather than the perpetuation of the same Mugabe culture,” he told BBC.

Tsvangirai said that he, Mnanagagwa and “others” would “need to sit down and redefine a new chapter”.

The African Union has stated it will not accept a coup in Zimbabwe, but the Zimbabwean Defence Force has consistently denied that it is staging a coup. Some say the ZDF has denied a coup has taken place to legitimise the military takeover in the country. The Southern African Development Community earlier today said that its chairperson President Jacob Zuma would go to Harare.

While these logistics might still have to play out, it remains unclear how the country’s leadership will take shape and who will be in it, many Zimbabweans have made it clear that in this moment they will celebrate. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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