April 18, 1960 was a momentous occasion for Zimbabwe, which saw Robert Mugabe roar onto the world stage as the newly elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe, after lengthy negotiations with the British, in what has now become known as the Lancaster Agreement.
But the jubilation was soon usurped by violence in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions, ignited by allegations of an uprising, which was quelled by another settlement between Zanu-PF and PF Zapu, known as the Unity Accord in 1987, which paved the way for Mugabe to become president and Joshua Nkomo his deputy.
Thirty-six years on and eight-presidential elections later - some heavily contested, particularly 2008 which forced a negotiated five-year power sharing government between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change with Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minster – President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, still reign after defeating Tsvangirai in the 2013 elections.
President Mugabe has declared repeatedly that he will never cede power to the British, or imperialists, as he has often labelled the MDC.
“There will never be a regime change here” said President Mugabe. “There will always be the people of Zimbabwe in control.”
President Mugabe has repeatedly accused the West – U.S., Britain and other European countries - of plotting regime change against his government, and also strangling the country’s economy through targeted sanctions, which he has called a false pretext of human rights violations and electoral fraud, for forcing white farmers off the land.
“The reforms we are undertaking, including measures to attract investments, will materialize if the unjustified sanctions Zimbabwe has been subjected to for the past 15 years are removed.”
Despite initiatives like the economic blue print, ZIMASSET, Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled to improve, due to dependency on multiple-currencies after abandoning the Zimbabwe dollar, investor fear due to indigenization, and massive company closures that have forced many into the streets as vendors.
Government and Zanu-PF assurances that the country is making progress, in such sectors as mining, farming and manufacturing, or that President Mugabe is still the best leader for the country, at 92, have failed to calm nerves, in light of mishaps like his repeat of the State of the Nation Address at the opening of Parliament, and the revelation of the disappearance of $15 billion in diamond revenue.
Mugabe’s grip of his Zanu-PF party is also under question, fueled by factionalism as groups allegedly backing his wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, tussle to succeed him, in the absence of a known successor or him stepping down.
President Mugabe has appeared at pains in trying to contain the divisions in his party, which many have described as unprecedented.
“Shut up and let us not hear, any divisive voices from you. The G-40s, or what you call Lacoste, whatever, shut up,” Mr. Mugabe has ordered on many occasions.
Those who revered him, including some war veterans, and even former Vice President Joyce Mujuru, who was also ousted from the party on allegations of factionalism and plotting to overthrow Mr. Mugabe, no longer defend him as they used to. Mujuru has since formed her own party, called People First, and is planning to challenge President Mugabe in the 2018 elections.
“I really don’t know where the family, or the president and his wife want to take the country to,“ said Mujuru. “But the end result they are actually destroying Zanu-PF, they are destroying the revolution.”
In light of the economic downturn, social frustration and also increased human rights violations, personified by the public disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara, opposition political parties are calling for Mr. President Mugabe’s resignation, including MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, who recently led a street march through the capital.
“We are demanding a dignified exit for a tired Mugabe,” declared Tsvangirai.
That President Mugabe still has strong support within Zimbabwean citizens, is unquestionable, and even more is the support among African leaders, who last year overwhelmingly voted for him to serve as chair of both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union. A dilemma, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican representing the state of New Jersey, acknowledged in a recent hearing.
“As a hero of Independence Day movement however, has endured the support of many other African leaders who have considered him an honored elder and generally declined in international efforts to sanction his government,” said Smith. “This has placed the united states in an awkward position.”
With the 2018 elections approaching, amid so much uncertainty, at 36, many want to know What’s the Way Forward for Zimbabwe?