When the news broke that Robert Gabriel Mugabe had resigned I broke down. I cried not because I would miss him but because under his rule our hope and dreams were viciously crushed.
I could not stand. I could not walk. I tried to sit but I could not. In between communicating with my daughter in South Africa and my son in Australia, I could not help but think of how my children had been forced to find a home for their dreams to bloom in other countries.
It was early hours of the morning in Australia but my son responded to my message which only said; “He’s gone.” He too was speechless. Freedom from tyranny had been a long time coming. What next was the question that remained unsaid but I was thinking it and so were my children.
Since the army rolled onto the streets of Harare on the 14th of November none of us had slept very well. We slept very lightly because we were anxious and did not want to miss the news of Mugabe resigning or whatever was going to happen.
In a week that saw our emotions on a roller coaster of expectancy one minute and uncertainty the next, we kept the faith. I worked as a journalist years ago and the Mugabe I knew was a man who fancied himself better than his subordinates. He is a man who is strong-willed and he is a man always ready to do mind battles. In political Zimbabwe, it has always been his way or no way at all. He was recalcitrant and knew best. I wondered how it would play out. I did not want a coup but I also wanted Mugabe gone. The opposition had failed to remove him through the ballot.
That it took the army, massive demonstrations and near impeachment for him to go speaks volumes of his obduracy and belief in himself. Mugabe had a God complex. He believed he was more superior than all Zimbabweans and that he was the only one fit to lead Zimbabwe. He was convinced that he was the answer to his “people’s” problems. He believed that he was invincible, and indeed, it did look that way for 37 years and seven months. Those who had deified him had stocked his ego so much that his eyes had glazed over and his ears developed selective hearing.
But after a statement by the army chief, Constantino Chiwenga, that the military might be forced to step in if the purging in Zanu PF and government did not stop and a counter statement by Zanu PF youths denouncing and challenging the soldiers, things went south pretty fast.
By the afternoon of 14 November, the military was heading for the seat of government, Harare. The following day – a cloudy, cold and windy day change was no longer in the wind, it had descended. At 4 am on November 15, Major General, Sibusiso Sibanda, the man who would become the face of the new revolution announced on the State television that the military had come in to restore order.
I had not slept on the night of 14 November because it was clear from the military movement that something was afoot. Around 2 am still sitting and news channel hopping, I heard the sounds of guns or something like a blast. I walked around the lounge, all alone wondering what the morning would bring. It brought news of what became known as a #Coupnotacoup – for the soldiers right from the get-go were keen to assure the world and all Zimbabweans that this was not a coup but a move to “Get rid of the criminals around President Mugabe and restore order in the country.”
We hoped and prayed that there would be no bloodshed. The army pushed and cajoled Mugabe to resign but he was unmoved. Catholic Jesuit Priest Fidelis Mukonori was called in to help mediate but still he remained steadfast – he argued that he was an elected president and he was going nowhere. He sought solace from the same Constitution he had abused and trashed at will.
Even on 18 November as thousands attended rallies at Zimbabwe grounds and Freedom Square and then marched on the streets of the capital towards Mugabe’s official residence number 1 Chancellor Avenue, we knew deep down that he would view that as something that would pass. And pass it did but prayer vigils at Africa Unity Square opposite parliament buildings continued unabated.
When it finally dawned on the military and the veterans of the 1970s, liberation war that Mugabe would not go it was time to throw the Constitution at him and start impeachment proceedings. His war comrades had given him until mid-day Monday to resign or be impeached.
As defiant as ever Mugabe called a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (21/11/2017). His defence forces generals still saluted and spoke to him with respect so he was convinced his ministers would turn up.
Three ministers and the attorney-general showing up must have been the first sign to Mugabe that things had changed. That marked the beginning of a very dark day for him. By afternoon Zanu PF’s Senator Monica Mutsvangwa had moved the motion for impeachment which was seconded by MDC-T Member of Parliament, James Maridadi. Outside parliament prayers continued and University of Zimbabwe students had stormed out of examinations to demand that the state president resign. For once the country was united in their goal to rid the country of an autocratic ruler.
Meanwhile, Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, had dispatched 93-year-old former President Kenneth Kaunda to try and knock some sense into an unyielding Mugabe. In the region, Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC) leaders were wringing their hands over a situation that was fast developing into an enigma for them.
That the end was nigh was suddenly writ large even for Mugabe who hastily wrote a resignation letter that halted the impeachment proceedings. The rest, as they say, is history.
I was happy when the news sunk in. I woke up today happy but wary of what the new beginning means to our sick democracy. That the man set to takeover was Mugabe’s right-hand man is not lost on me or other Zimbabweans. Mugabe presided over a regime that abducted tortured, maimed, killed and wilfully trampled on human rights. He had entrenched a patronage system that kept him in control. All this happened on the watch of the very same people who are set to govern.
Despite my misgivings, I am painfully aware of the fact that we need to give peace and the potential room for reconstruction a chance. But, we must never let our guard down. It took tears, the blood of thousands in the early 1980s, 2000 -2008, violence, forced migration and separation of families to win back our voice and a window of opportunity to move our country forward. Mugabe’s departure from the seat of power is something I for one never in my wildest dreams imagined would happen in my lifetime. It has, but I remain cautious for now that the army is firmly in control who knows what tomorrow holds.