23 November 2017
Years ago, if anyone had told Zimbabweans that this week, they would wake up to a new reality; one where Robert Mugabe was no longer their president, it would have been mere words.
Today, it is not.
Zimbabwe’s story read like other countries ruled by dictators except it went on for far too long.
When it gained its independence from Britain in 1980, Robert Mugabe was seen as the leader who had ignited a revolution. Years later, Mugabe would move from Prime Minister, to President and then decide that the position was his and his alone.
His 37-year rule was plagued by the suppression of political critics, human rights abuse and a mutilation of the economy.
In 2015, for example, Zimbabwe’s 100-trillion-dollar note was only worth 40 U.S. cents.
Imagine a country where the simplest question was “Who is the president of Zimbabwe?” Picture a country where children grew into the belief that power was reserved for a select group; a country where citizens had no true sense of national identity. Picture a country with no understanding of the word continuity; a country with no national currency but several active foreign currencies. In many ways, Zimbabwe was one man’s pet.
However, this week, Zimbabwe’s military intervention climaxed in Mugabe’s resignation, and a country was freed from one man’s obsession with power. Everything is bright and good.
But is it really?
We have seen this before; with Libya. Years after Gaddafi’s death and Libya is still being ripped apart by several factions and militant groups.
It is a simple tale of the post-revolution euphoria fading and the citizens realizing that what united them – a common enemy – no longer exists. In that moment, the differences, previously considered unimportant, become clouds blocking out the chance for unity.
It is safe to say that Zimbabwe is a toddling country right now. It is also safe to wonder what it will do with its freedom.
Predictably, the west and the east will offer to step in and help this country grow, and while it might be reckless to assume that manipulation might be an agenda, it is a plausible conclusion.
What is worrying – perhaps, a bit prematurely – is the fact that directionless revolutions are exactly that: revolutions; from one prison to another, and this is what no one wants for Zimbabwe.
Some already think that the decision to make Emmerson Mnangagwa the president tomorrow is merely recycling the past. They remember his loyalty to Mugabe and are uncertain of where he might take the country.
If Zimbabwe wants to flourish, it must realize that in many ways, this is another independence, and like its first, many factors can render this freedom pointless.
The burden of guidance also falls on other African countries. Some are the big brothers; holding enough experience to show Zimbabwe the many delights adulthood can bring. Others are a cautionary tale. Do not be like us, their stories scream.
Yet, we must give credit where it is due. Zimbabwe’s seizure of power from Mugabe was a strange experience, defined by its lack of bloodshed and violence. It seemed like less of a seizure and more of a polite eviction.
If that was possible, then anything is possible for the country.