'The Crocodile' Will Replace World's Oldest Head of State

Zimbabwe's Mugabe resigns, recently fired VP Emmerson Mnangagwa will take his place
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 21, 2017 10:12 AM CST
Updated Nov 21, 2017 12:37 PM CST
Zimbabwe President Mugabe Resigns to Sound of Cheers
In this March 27, 2008, file photo Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace, right, react during a visit to a hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe.   (AP Photo, File)

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe says he is resigning immediately and voluntarily in order to have a "smooth transfer of power" after 37 years in charge. The news came via a letter that was read out to a cheering, dancing parliament, which had been pursuing impeachment of the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, reports the AP. How big a deal is this? CNN provides context: Zimbabwe got its independence from Britain in 1980, and Mugabe has been the only ruler the people have had that entire time; he had vowed to rule until his death. USA Today reports that citizens put photos of Mugabe in the street to be run over by cars. More:

  • Background: The resignation comes at the end of a week of extraordinary events that began with the military moving in last week, angered by Mugabe's firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of the unpopular first lady to succeed him. Impeachment allegations against Mugabe included that he "allowed his wife to usurp constitutional power" and that he is "of advanced age" and too incapacitated to rule. Mugabe also was accused of allowing first lady Grace Mugabe to threaten to kill the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other officials.

  • Taking over: The AP reports Mnangagwa will take over within two days. As for whether that's a good thing, NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says he's "no street angel. He is no savior. He's cut from the same cloth." The 71-year-old is known as "the crocodile," for his tendency to "[wait] quietly before sinking his jaws into his next victim, as the Economist puts it, and his relationship with Mugabe has been a tumultuous one. The BBC describes Mnangagwa's long-running aspirations to succeed Mugabe as an "open secret," and says Mugabe seems to have "toyed with his emotions," alternately promoting and demoting him.
  • In Mnangagwa's youth: The BBC reports Mnangagwa was in 1965 arrested for blowing up a train by the white-minority government that ruled what was then Rhodesia. He says he endured torture, including being hung upside down for extended periods, that caused hearing loss in one ear. "Horrible things happened to him when he was young," it quotes a friend as saying.
  • More recently: Mnangagwa is thought to have had a guiding hand in the violence against those who supported the opposition during the 2008 presidential election. Morgan Tsvangirai bested Mugabe in the first round; after the violence, he withdrew from the second round.
  • What's next for Zimbabwe: The Washington Post sees potential: For the moment, Mnangagwa has the backing of both opposition parties and activists, giving him a rare opportunity to build a transitional government made up of those united by a hatred of Mugabe."
  • On the economic front: Mnangagwa has voiced his support for the repeal of an "indigenization law" that stipulates black Zimbabweans or the state must be the majority owners of businesses. He is also in favor of a settlement for white farmers who have had their land taken from them, as a move toward rebuilding "what was one of Africa’s most productive agricultural economies," per the Economist. "Such a settlement might spur Western governments to start offering large-scale aid again."
  • Life in photos: "From liberation fighter to deposed leader" as the Guardian puts it. It offers a photo gallery of Mugabe that begins in the 1960s. View it here.
(More Robert Mugabe stories.)

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