Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s only ruler since it became a democracy in 1980, and one of Africa’s longest serving rulers (37 years in power) finally bowed to pressure and resigned this week as President of the Republic. It was a fitting climax to a series of events which began last week when the military rolled out tanks unto the streets and effectively placed Mugabe under house arrest. It also marked the end of a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF party between the G-40 made up of Mugabe’s wife, Grace and her allies, and the Lacoste faction which is made up of Former Vice President and current President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, General Constantino Chiwenga (representing the military) and the war veterans of Zimbabwe’s struggle for liberation. The struggle for power in Zanu-PF actually began in 2014 when the two factions united to oust Former Vice President, Dr Joyce Mujuru from power. They later turned against each other in a bid to produce Mugabe’s successor as the 93 year old leader grew increasingly weak and frail. However, things got to a head when Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa as Vice President citing disloyalty which triggered a chain of events that eventually culminated in his outing from power. But how did Zimbabwe get to this point?
Circa 1980, Mugabe came to power as a hero beloved not only by Zimbabweans but by the whole of Africa. He was regarded as a hero, liberator, emancipator and an African statesman. He transmuted from Prime Minister to President and everything went on smoothly for him and the country until Britain repudiated the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement which was signed in 1980. The Lancaster House Agreement stipulated that Britain would pay a certain amount of money to Zimbabwe annually as compensation to enable Zimbabwe redress the inequitable distribution of land in the country. The money would then be given to Black Farmers to buy back land from the White Settler Farmers;land which originally belonged to their ancestors. Everything went on as planned with Britain making the payments annually and Mugabe even receiving a Knighthood from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II until Tony Blair came to power as Prime Minister in 1997 and put an abrupt end to the payments citing lack of finances even when Britain was not known to be experiencing any recession of any sort at that time. Three years later, under pressure from the war veterans, Mugabe ordered the forced seizure of lands from White Settler Farmers and the redistribution of such lands to the blacks most especially to the war veterans. This attracted sanctions from not only Britain but also from her allies-America and other European countries, which effectively crippled Zimbabwe’s economy turning the once bread basket of Africa into a basket case-apologies to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Every effort by the West to remove Mugabe from power failed as he enjoyed maximum support from the triad of the party, the military, and the war veterans. But that was until 2014 when his wife Grace who had hitherto remained incognito became increasingly active in public life. Her vaunting ambition to succeed Mugabe as President when he dies is at the heart of the political crisis that has engulfed Zimbabwe since 2014. As a matter of fact, it will not be wrong to posit that Mugabe’s fall from grace was due to his wife Grace as her active involvement in public life including her incendiary statements alienated Mugabe from his power base. A similar situation in the 18th century led to the downfall of a French king and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. We have also had two similar cases in Nigeria, one more recently which led to the downfall of two Nigerian Presidents.Indeed, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes.