Former Zimbabwe president Mugabe is finally gone. What does this means for Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe resigns
21 November 2017 - The President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe resigns. Photo: Sergsta, Bigstock

It’s a joyous day for many Zimbabweans as the former president Mugabe officially resigns from office. Many see this event as a significant turning point for Zimbabwe, ushering in a new trend of democratic governance in the African nation.

But what is the real likelihood of change for Zimbabwe? Emmerson Mnangagwa is now the new president and has come into power with a significant amount of pressure to reform the country.

Mnangagwa served as one of Mugabe’s enforcers for decades and his name is mired in the controversies of the former president’s rule. This new leader comes with a lot of political baggage that leaves plenty of room for pessimism regarding his governance.

Certainly the removal of Mugabe was not the result of a grass roots revolution but a decisive political move by the power players of Zimbabwe. Even with that said, the everyday Zimbabwean has more of a voice now then they have ever had in the last 40 years.

The opposition to authoritarian rule has been the most active it has ever been in the country’s history. Everyday people are openly demonstrating in the streets and making their pleas for change heard.

Despite the hungriness of the mobilised public for democratic change, analysts are not confident the new president will be the beacon of hope the country needs. Mnangagwa is seen as a headstrong leader whose ties to the Mugabe presidency could lead to a repeat of past atrocities.

There is no doubt that Mnangawa is not a democrat and is unlikely to personally lead the country into meaningful reform. He has robust experience in a variety of official roles from defence minister to parliament speaker, but these credentials were all earned under Mugabe’s iron fisted rule.

There is an opportunity now for Zimbabwe to reclaim some of what it has lost under Mugabe. Reforms can lead to a revitalisation of the nation’s industry and tourism, regaining Zimbabwe’s position as an economic leader in Africa.

It is still too early to judge Mnangagwa on his ability to facilitate the necessary reforms for Zimbabwe. It has yet to be seen whether he will take the country in a new direction or become bogged down in the corruption and authoritarianism of the past.

The resignation of Mugabe is by itself a positive change for Zimbabwe. What matters now is whether or not this means true reform for the country or simply a change of hats.