Zimbabwe’s President-To-Be Returns Home After Brief Exile

November 22, 2017

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president of Zimbabwe who is poised to take the helm of the country, was met with cheers in the capital city Harare when he returned to the country on Wednesday.

Mnangagwa fled the country earlier this month, citing fears for his life after Zimbabwe’s authoritarian president Robert Mugabe fired him. That firing helped trigger a massive political upheaval.

Now Mugabe — the only leader Zimbabwe has ever known — has resigned under immense pressure, and Mnangagwa is set to be sworn in as president on Friday.

His return to Zimbabwe was met with joy, NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Harare.

“You can hear the atmosphere here at the party headquarters,” she says. “Thousands, thousands and thousands of supporters have turned out to welcome home Emmerson Mnangagwa, the new leader of the party and the man who is going to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday.

“All the banners say things like, ‘Welcome back our hero,’ ‘Welcome back our president,’ ” she says.

Mugabe, 93, resigned after Zimbabwe’s military seized control of the country, an act the military refused to call a coup but instead described as a “bloodless correction.”

NPR’s Bill Chappell provides some background on the split between Mugabe, the country’s strongman leader, and his deputy Mnangagwa:

“A public schism had formed between Mugabe and Mnangagwa at least as early as the summer of 2016, when veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation withdrew their support for Mugabe. In a letter explaining that move, the veterans cited widespread corruption and mismanagement in the government, stating, ‘This rot needs to be uprooted, and right now.’

“The schism resulted in two camps forming — one loyal to Mnangagwa and another loyal to Mugabe’s wife, Grace,” NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported.

“Many saw Mnangagwa’s removal ‘as a prelude to Mugabe promoting the politically ambitious but controversial first lady to one of two vice presidential posts,’ ” NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton and Scott Neuman reported.

When Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, the military warned it would take action if revolutionary fighters continued to be purged from the government.

It’s not clear how much of a change in policy Mnangagwa will implement, as we wrote yesterday.

“He’s no savior,” Ofeibea reported last week. “He’s cut from the same cloth [as Mugabe], the cloth that has seen Zimbabwe’s economy tumble. This was the breadbasket of southern Africa. He’s also seen as having been absolutely brutal in the ’80s in Matabeleland when there was a massacre. So people shouldn’t think of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who may come back and head an interim government, as being a savior for Zimbabwe — certainly not.”

“Zimbabweans I know — I’m Zimbabwean — we’re ululating all around the world and we are celebrating,” journalist Michelle Faul told Weekend All Things Considered, “but we need to be cautious. This is not a revolution to bring reform. This is about an internal ZANU-PF coup to ensure that ZANU continues its one-party rule of Zimbabwe.”

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