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Zimbabwe is free of Robert Mugabe, should the world celebrate? | The Economist

Zimbabwe may be free of Robert Mugabe, who has been deposed in an apparent military coup, but the celebrations occurring in the country’s capital will be short-lived. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who may end up in charge, is every bit as nasty as his ex-boss, and the economic turmoil that the country is in will not be easily fixed.

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President Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. At first he was lionised as the man who ended white minority rule. Then he sent his special forces to slaughter the Ndebele, an ethnic group that didn’t support him.

His 37-year reign has been marred by economic free fall, land seizures and violence against anyone who spoke up against the regime.

But the military has staged a coup and forced him from power. These were the scenes in Harare the day the tanks rolled in. Zimbabweans hope that with the tyrant gone, their lives will improve. But will they?

The coup comes after months of political unrest, sparked by speculation that Mr Mugabe was planning to hand the presidency to his young wife, Grace, like a family heirloom.

Grace Mugabe, who once allegedly spent £1 million in Harrods in a single visit, earning her nickname Gucci Grace, has maneuvered to succeed her husband in recent years.

At her behest, the 93-year-old president sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa, his vice-president and presumed successor. Mr Mnangagwa fled the country, but now he’s back, with the army behind him.

Known as ‘the crocodile’, because he bides his time before biting, he was Mr Mugabe’s henchman when Grace was still a child, and is every bit as ruthless. He has helped to rig elections to keep Mr Mugabe in power. He also encouraged the violent takeovers of white-owned farms, destroying the country’s largest industry. This caused economic chaos. The government printed money to pay its bills, leading to hyperinflation.

Silvanos Mudzvova is an activist whose one-man plays depict the corruption that has blighted the country.

Mr Mudzova managed to escape the country, but that night is the last time he saw his wife and children. He is now in exile in Britain and paints a bleak picture of what living in Zimbabwe is like.

The Mugabes have been sidelined. But the ruling party, Zanu PF, who are just as much to blame for Zimbabwe’s plight, remain firmly in charge.

Zimbabwe could thrive if it were well-governed. Its best hope is for donors to insist on free and fair elections. Unfortunately, the opposition are disorganised. And the ruling party has never played fair. The danger is that the coup will just replace one tyrant with another.

The country is stuck in a deep ditch, into which Robert Mugabe drove it. Getting out will not be easy.

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