The old adage that “a week is a long time in politics” rang true for President Robert Mugabe and his over-ambitious wife yesterday as euphoric crowds took to the streets demanding an end to the dictator’s ruinous rule.
Only a week ago, Mugabe and the first lady, Grace were firing their rivals as well and organising choreographed votes of no confidence against former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
However, the tables have been turned and all of a sudden Zimbabwe is on the cusp of a historic transition.
Mugabe — the oldest president in the world and Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence 37 years ago — edged towards an inglorious exit yesterday when thousands of people across the country’s urban areas flooded the streets to demand his resignation.
The 93-year-old has been under house arrest since last Wednesday when the army took control of government as the fight over the control of Zanu PF sucked in the security forces.
Mugabe has been refusing to step down voluntarily since the dramatic events and is said to be citing the constitution as the reason he does not want to vacate the presidency before his term is up.
But the crowds that gathered at the iconic Zimbabwe Grounds and at Freedom Square in the capital was the most emphatic message yet that the time is up for a man who once boasted that only God would remove him from power.
In other parts of the country, Zimbabweans marched in jubilation as it became clear that the end was nigh for the Mugabe dynasty.
Grace was determined to succeed her husband and in the end it proved her husband’s downfall. Grace’s unpopularity made the army’s efforts to win over Zimbabweans’ hearts a very easy task.
The army was fighting on the side of the ordinary people and pictures of Harare residents being escorted by tankers as they marched against Mugabe charmed the world, but in this euphoria, we must never forget where we are coming from.
Mugabe survived this long because he had the backing of the military even at a time when he lost an election in 2008 against Morgan Tsvangirai. They army only intervened this time around because he was now persecuting his war-time allies and throwing them out of the gravy train.
Zimbabweans need to start asking themselves hard questions before the momentum is stolen from them. We need to be vigilant to ensure that Mugabe is not replaced by another strongman who will curtail our freedoms.
That can only be achieved by ensuring that the generals keep to their word that they will facilitate a transition to a democratic dispensation where Zimbabweans will be allowed to choose a leader of their choice.
The excitement that comes with the imminent ousting of a dictator must not blind us to the reality that a leopard does not change its spots.
Zanu PF protagonists wanted to settle their scores and they needed the people on their side, but will they keep their promise to return us to a democratic dispensation?
If we do nothing to protect the gains made in the removal of Mugabe, we will only have ourselves to blame.