Zimbabwe celebrates a rebirth as Mugabe gives in to resignation pressure
How did the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe shape Zimbabwe? From early high hopes to current economic turmoil, Judy Woodruff discusses the evolution of the country under his leadership -- and what comes next -- with former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Johnnie Carson and Blessing Zulu of Voice of America.
We return to our lead story, the resignation of Robert Mugabe.
For a closer look at what his 37-year rule left behind and where Zimbabwe's people hope to go now, I'm joined by Blessing Zulu, a reporter for the Voice of America and previously a reporter in Zimbabwe. And Ambassador Johnnie Carson, he was assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Obama, and ambassador to Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe over the course of his decades of foreign service. He's now a senior adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.
Ambassador Carson, I'm going to start with you.
Thirty-seven-year career, that means you were just beginning as Robert Mugabe was first taking power.
What do you make of this big news today, his stepping down?
This is an important occasion for Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe is regarded as the George Washington of his nation, the country's first black African president. There was so much hope in the early days of his presidency that he would lead his country forward.
Instead, over the last 20 years, we have seen a tremendous regression, both politically and economically, in Zimbabwe. The country is, economically, on its back.
Blessing Zulu, what has he meant? How do you sum up 37 years? What has he meant for Zimbabwe? What shape is the country in right now?
Over the past few years, the economic ambassador has correctly pointed out he's been — his biggest letdown.
Many Zimbabweans were hopeful. The country has got all the resources that you can think of, land, all the minerals. But, unfortunately the economic problems just worsened. And it was clear that Mr. Mugabe could not stay long.
There is a universal agreement, isn't there, Ambassador Carson, that the country is much worse off now under his leadership?
The economic situation is absolutely deplorable. Unemployment in the country runs at approximately 80 percent. The currency is virtually worthless. Fuel supplies are hard to get, and it is a country deeply in debt to the international financial institutions and also to private companies.
It is over a billion dollars in arrears to the Bretton Woods institutions. Inflation is on the rise, and some 10 percent of its population, mostly professionals, teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, have fled the country over the last decade-and-a-half, and are now resident in places like South Africa and Botswana.
And, Blessing Zulu, there have been health crises as well practically everywhere you look in the country. Tell us something about the man who is expected to replace him, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
I talked to the speaker of parliament shortly before I came in, and he was saying that he's likely to be sworn in tomorrow or the day after, because he is still outside the country.
Many believe that he is in South Africa. And after 37 years, many Zimbabweans are hoping that maybe it will change. But some are a bit cautious. Mr. Mnangagwa, it may be a problem, because he's been in the same government since 1980.
Many regard him as Mr. Mugabe's enforcer. And political analysts are saying there might not be much to celebrate.
So, Ambassador Carson, things could be exactly the same under Mnangagwa?
That is really possible.
Zimbabwe has thrown out a dictator, but it's uncertain whether the country is moving towards the political and economic reforms that so many Zimbabweans want.
Emmerson Mnangagwa is virtually a younger version of Robert Mugabe. In many ways, he is a clone of President Robert Mugabe. He, like Mugabe, spent many years in prison and was tortured while he was there. He came out a very bitter and hard man.
He is, like Robert Mugabe, very articulate. He's very resilient. He's very disciplined. He, however, has served as the enforcer, as Blessing has said, serving initially as the country's intelligence chief for nearly a decade, and responsible for some of the country's worst human rights violations in 1980 and again in 2008 and '09, when Robert Mugabe stole an election.
So, Blessing Zulu, if that's the case, what is there to hope for, for the people of Zimbabwe?
Many are just hoping that maybe this military intervention might indicate that Zimbabweans are simply tired, because, as you see the military is coming in to remove Mugabe, these are his comrades from the liberation or (INAUDIBLE) who led this rebellion, but for Zimbabweans, those that I was talking to, the situation is not looking that good unless the international community comes in to ensure that they institute reforms.
Just quickly, Ambassador Carson, there is really nobody else on the horizon, is there, who they can look to for help?
Well, the opposition has been weak, but it does exist. There are individuals who are part of the movement for democratic change, Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, individuals like that, who are committed to democracy, economic reform, and political reform.
And there are other individuals who were part of ZANU-PF who were thrown out.
The ruling party.
The ruling party, who were thrown out some time ago, Joice Mujuru.
So there are voices who can be incorporated into a government who reflect the kinds of reforms politically and economically that people want. It is important, though, that there be an effort to ensure that these people are a part of the government, and are not marginalized by the new leadership.
Well, there is much yet to unfold in Zimbabwe. We will be watching in the days to come. Maybe we will have a new leader known for sure by tomorrow.
Blessing Zulu, we thank you for coming in, Voice of America.
Thank you so much.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
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