Zimbabwe’s ruling party fired President Robert Mugabe as its leader, a move that will effectively bring an end to his 37-year rule over the southern African nation.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s central committee in the capital, Harare, on Sunday. Emmerson Mnangagwa was named the party’s new leader, making him the frontrunner to succeed the 93-year-old Mugabe as president.
Mugabe, who could be impeached should he refuse to step down, triggered his own demise by firing Mnangagwa as his vice president earlier this month, a move that prompted the military to intervene and place him under house arrest. Seeing the likelihood of his removal, joyous crowds turned out in Harare and Bulawayo — Zimbabwe’s second-largest city — on Saturday to celebrate.
On Mugabe’s watch, Zimbabwe has become steadily more impoverished. The economy has halved in size since 2000, there are chronic shortages of cash and food and the country’s main labor-union organization estimates that 95 percent of the workforce are unemployed.
Mugabe’s decision to fire his long-time ally Mnangagwa could have paved the way for his 52-year-old wife Grace and her supporters from a ruling-party faction known as the G-40 to gain control of the nation. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she said on Nov. 5 that she would be prepared to succeed her husband. The party has now resolved that she should be expelled from its ranks.