, Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov 21 – Zimbabwe was thrown into its worst political crisis since independence when strongman Robert Mugabe refused to resign despite a military takeover, mass street protests an impeachment bid.
Now he has gone — much to popular delight — his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa appears poised to replace him.
Here is a snapshot of the turmoil of the past two weeks:
– Vice president sacked –
November 6: Mugabe fires Mnangagwa in an apparent bid to clear the way for his wife Grace, 52, to take over as president.
But the move angers the military, which has close ties to Mnangagwa.
– Army takeover –
November 14: In the evening, tanks move towards Harare, with gunfire heard around Mugabe’s residence a day after a blunt warning from army chief General Constantino Chiwenga.
By the early hours, military vehicles are on the capital’s streets, but the army denies staging a coup, giving a televised address saying the 93-year-old leader is safe and that they are “only targeting criminals around him”.
November 15: South Africa says Mugabe has told its president, Jacob Zuma, by telephone that he is under house arrest but is “fine”.
The European Union and former colonial power Britain urge a peaceful resolution of the crisis while South Africa warns against any “unconstitutional changes” of government.
– Mugabe digs heels in –
November 16: Mugabe refuses to step down during talks with generals, a source close to the army leadership says, in a move which enrages many Zimbabweans who see it as a bid to “buy time” to negotiate a favourable end to his 37-year reign.
A day later he appears at a university graduation ceremony, acting as if nothing has happened.
Meanwhile, opposition is gathering pace within his own ranks, with eight out of the 10 branches of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF taking to state television to demand he stand down.
Zimbabwe’s influential war veterans association also demands he step down immediately, urging people to join huge street protests planned for the weekend.
– Mass protests –
November 18: Tens of thousands of people joyfully take to the streets across the country to demand Mugabe’s departure and celebrate his apparently imminent demise in scenes of public euphoria not seen since independence in 1980.
The display of open defiance would have been unthinkable just a week earlier.
– Ousted as party chief –
November 19: ZANU-PF sacks Mugabe as leader and demands he resign as head of state. It also expels his wife Grace and names ousted VP Mnangagwa as the new party chief.
Adding to its stunning reversal of allegiances, it threatens to impeach Mugabe if he does not resign by Monday midday.
Mugabe meets with the army chiefs before making a defiant televised address in which he shows no sign of leaving, frustrating widespread hopes he would resign.
– Endgame –
November 21: After Monday’s deadline passes without Mugabe resigning, ZANU-PF says it will start impeachment proceedings on Tuesday.
Adding to the pressure from parliament, Mnangagwa issues a statement saying citizens had an “insatiable desire” for Mugabe to go, and the influential war veterans call for immediate protests.
He summoned a cabinet meeting on Tuesday but most ministers stayed away, state media reported.
Parliament passes a motion to begin a debate on impeaching him. The parliament speaker interrupts proceedings to read a letter from Mugabe in which he resigns, ending 37 years of often brutal rule.
Massive celebrations erupt across the country and the international community expresses hope that Zimbabwe will change for the better.
– ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa to return –
November 22: As Zimbabwe wakes up to a future without Mugabe, state media reports that Mnangagwa, known as the “crocodile” for his ruthlessness, is poised to fly back into the country — and will be sworn in as president on Friday November 24.