Had Robert Mugabe bought into the philosophy of Muhammadu Buhari regarding the place of the spouse of a serving political leader, he probably would have held on to his job until God decides to remove him, Were the place of Grace Mugabe to have been in the kitchen and the other room, just as that of Aisha Buhari is in Nigeria, those desperate to succeed Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe might have tarried a little bit. But because ambitious Grace Mugabe was all along eyeing the position of her husband, those who resented such an affront have conspired to bring an end to the 37-year rule of 93-year old Robert Mugabe. Mr. Mugabe, described as “brilliant, intelligent and nasty” by a British commentator, became leader of Zimbabwe after successfully leading a revolt against the regime of Ian Smith in 1980. His emergence from the trenches to lead his people received the enthusiasm and endorsement of fair-minded people who believed it was absurd for the minority white population to be ruling the majority black population as the case was in former Rhodesia. Mugabe was received warmly wherever he went, hailed by all and sundry as a war hero.
Mugabe soon began a consolidation of his leadership in Zimbabwe, and this meant that meaningful opposition was suppressed. Being of the Shona ethnic group, his main opposition came from the rival Ndebele tribe. Thousands of people from that tribe were reportedly murdered by troops loyal to Mugabe as he consolidated a semi-democratic state where the voice of only one political party could be heard. With patronages to top military leaders and influential party members, Robert Mugabe kept on winning election after election and led himself into believing that only God, and not Zimbabwean voters, could decide the end of his tenure. It is believed he was plotting to stand re-election in 2018.
Mugabe inherited a prosperous economy when he grabbed state power. It should be noted that the British Conservative government led by Prime Minister John Major recommended him for honorary knighthood, and was duly knighted by the Queen in 1994. The British had sought to flatter him into becoming a profitable economic partner. However, the atrocities of Mr. Mugabe became glaring and unacceptable when he embarked on land redistribution reforms which saw white Zimbabweans at the receiving end. He was stripped of his knighthood in 2008 and the name Mugabe became odious to the British.
The reform of Mugabe might have been welcome by nationalist black Zimbabweans, but it was the beginning of the economic downfall of their country. The white farmers fled, and a nation that fed neighbouring nations was no longer able to feed itself. The dire economic situation also meant that challenges to the authoritarian leadership of Mugabe had become more attractive than it once was. Many Zimbabweans fled into Europe and America as political and economic refugees and might have received the news of the demise of Mugabe with mixed feelings. Nothing has really changed, as political power remains with the old guard.
The demise of Mugabe can hardly be explained without the intervening hands of an over-ambitious wife. As Mugabe ages and his end was just a matter of time, the race to succeed him as President fell into the calculations of Grace Mugabe and Mr. Emmerson Nnangagwa, erstwhile Vice-President celebrated for his ruthlessness in advancing the cause of their political party and the leadership of Mugabe. Mugabe sided with his wife and his sacking of the Vice-President was a clear indication of where his political loyalty lied as far as leadership succession was concerned. Not a few resented the prospect of Grace Mugabe succeeding her husband, not least the conservative and corrupt army generals that have sustained Mugabe and the party leadership, of which Mr. Nnangagwa was a revered member. The end of the road came for Mugabe much quicker than he had anticipated.