Even if Mugabe has gone, Zimbabweans won’t be dancing in the streets

Wilf Mbanga writes: Should Zimbabweans be rejoicing today? Robert Mugabe, 93, has ruled them with an iron fist since 1980. He is the only president an entire generation aged under 40 have ever known. Admittedly, the fist was not so iron in the early years – but to millions of Zimbabweans it has become increasingly oppressive since the mid-1990s.

Thousands of people from the Ndebele ethnic group were slaughtered in the Gukurahundi purge of the early 1980s, and in the intervening decades many thousands more have paid with their lives. Women and children dying in childbirth at a faster rate than anywhere else in Africa; opposition activists beaten and tortured to death; journalists kidnapped and never seen again: it is a long and bloody list.

So surely Zimbabweans should be rejoicing at the news that Mugabe is now under house arrest, reported to have done a deal with the military in which he will resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country for himself, his wife, Grace, and his family.

But there is no dancing in the streets. The millions of Zimbabweans in self-imposed exile (estimated at 25% of the population) are glued to their screens, swinging between hope and despair at every tweet, every morsel of news, every rumour. Those back home, who have borne the brunt of Mugabe’s jackboot for the past decades, are huddled in their houses, hoping their phone batteries won’t die before the erratic power supply is restored. A desperate few ventured out to stand yet again in the endless bank queues, to draw their daily allowance, worth under 20 US dollars.

So why no dancing? The man believed to be their next president – the former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa – is every bit as iron-fisted as the man he is replacing. [Continue reading…]

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