When it happened, it happened at lightning speed. One minute Robert Mugabe was trying to consolidate a dynastic succession by stabbing his old-time ally Emmanuel Mnangagwa in the back, by firing him from his post as Vice President, the next, his whole world had turned against him.
As we were going to press, thousands of Zimbabweans had poured into the streets and their joy was unconfined. They wanted Mugabe "gone yesterday!" Any anti-Mugabe protest a week earlier would have been met with tear-gas, baton charges and rubber bullets.
For almost 40 years Mugabe had ruled the country with an iron fist, like Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
But Caesar had fallen, cut down by the same people who had put him in power, and Mugabe now faced the same fate. His party, Zanu-PF had turned against him, unanimously calling for his expulsion under threat of impeachment; the veterans he had fought with generations ago wanted him out; his supporters had vanished in the night and the army, which he had called his iron fist in a velvet glove, had been the first to strike the blow.
But throughout the revolution--there is no other word for It--the army under Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, was mindful not to call it a coup lest it triggered considerable negative connotations, domestically as well as internationally. The aim had been to find a constitutional way to ease Mugabe out of power.
However, the unbridled joy of the people--"from today, we can live again, we can be Zimbabweans again, the tyrant is gone!" to quote one--and Zanu-PF shutting the door firmly in Mugabe's face, show that developments had accelerated. Mugabe's time was clearly over.
One cannot help reflecting on what all of Mugabe's scheming, and killings (the Matabeleland massacre); the intimidation and beatings of opposition figures; the cowing of the population; the destruction of one of Africa's most promising economies; the exodus of millions of Zimbabweans to foreign lands just to keep body and soul together; the unchecked looting of the national treasury; the pomp and arrogance while ordinary folk were scrambling around for food for their children; and the endless misery of being Zimbabwean, has amounted to?
What degree of ambition, narcissism and hubris is...