By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
He’s been in power since 1987, and if Robert Mugabe has his way, he’s not going anywhere soon.
The 93-year-old president of Zimbabwe got his walking papers from both his people and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF), but despite massive protest marches in the streets of Harare and threats by the Zimbabwean parliament to impeach him, the despotic leader refuses to step down.
In the last week, there have been a series of protracted negotiations between Mugabe and the military junta that seized power in a bloodless coup earlier this month, but, so far, the world’s oldest head of state has refused to budge.
And rather than accept the terms laid out for him by the ZANU-PF to make an opportune exit, Mugabe has dug in his heels and gone about his presidential business as usual, even issuing a televised speech on Sunday, Nov. 19, in which he made no mention of his impending resignation.
Now, Mugabe has declared he is going on a hunger strike to protest his house arrest by the military brass.
To date, the junta has shown restraint, biding its time and hoping that Mugabe will either eventually give in and resign or, (sorry to say it, but it’s true) croak.
There has been no military attempt to depose him.
But if the junta has been patient, the Zimbabwean people have not.
And neither has Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former VP and his most likely successor, who is growing antsier by the day.
Tensions are building daily, and it is only a matter of time that the military and political nudge that the Zimbabweans are currently giving their leader turns into a forceful shove.
Granted, there is no guarantee that Mnangagwa will be any less authoritarian than Mugabe, or any more willing to step down when his term is up.
But Mnangagwa is a much better bet for a transition to democratic processes than Mugabe’s choice for succession, his 53-year-old wife. Grace Mugabe, who has earned the wrath and disdain of the Zimbabweans for her extravagant spending habits and constant political meddling.
Mugabe has had his day and it is high time for him to leave gracefully, before he is removed by force.
His well-known propensity for corrupt and cronyism has no doubt left him with a cushy Swiss account to bankroll his retirement, be it in Zimbabwe (unlikely) or abroad.
The people of Zimbabwe have spoken and their message to Mugabe is: “Get out while the getting is still good.”
Otherwise he may be facing an invitation to leave from the business end of a military shotgun.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.