Robert Mugabe Resigns As Zimbabwe's President
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Robert Mugabe, the man who has been leader of Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, has formally resigned. That's according to the speaker of Parliament, who read what he said was a letter from Mugabe. And that news caused some people to celebrate on the streets.
INSKEEP: Hearing some of the cheering there, and now let's go to journalist Jeffrey Barbee who is in the Zimbabwean capital. Welcome back to the program.
JEFFREY BARBEE: Thanks for having me, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's it like to be there now?
BARBEE: It's absolute total mayhem and hysteria. I mean, there's cheering soldiers, there's people hugging each other, there's - just everybody came out crying. There's praises, there's prayers, there's spontaneous total - it's absolute mayhem.
INSKEEP: And I want to understand what that is about. Is it relief that this crisis seems to be ending or is it happiness that Mugabe, specifically, is gone?
BARBEE: I think you're right that it's probably a bit of both. The fact of the matter is, is that everyone needed this man to leave. We were just speaking with the former Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, who was the minister of finance under the unity government that ruled here and tried to bring Zimbabwe back to some sense of normalcy. And he also said, you know, what we need right now is Mugabe to go. And that was about half an hour before we got this news, which was, again, about half an hour ago.
INSKEEP: Now let me just probe this a little bit because the speaker of the Parliament read this letter. Nobody, I guess, has seen Mugabe, right? Is there any doubt that he in fact wrote the letter?
BARBEE: I think that there's absolutely no doubt. It's understood from some sources that I have that she was - excuse me, that he was actually holding the letter for some time and was - there was a question about whether or not it would be read.
Now, this was a special assembly of Parliament that was put together of both houses just like we have in the U.S. So it was like a similar Senate and the House of Representatives coming together to impeach him. So this was his impeachment proceedings, and they were getting on with it.
And at that moment, when she read - excuse me, when he read the letter, the whole place just erupted in total mayhem. And then they closed down the session. And now, there is a big question about who is in charge here.
INSKEEP: Thank you for asking the next question, who is likely to be the next president of Zimbabwe?
BARBEE: Well I think, Steve, that's interesting because there is a second vice president who is in line for this succession. Now, that vice president is not the one who was sort of the person who was the driver behind this coup...
INSKEEP: The other vice president who was fired, right, yeah.
BARBEE: That's correct. So about two weeks ago, Mr. Mnangagwa was fired and he is now - even today, we understand - still outside the country. Now in the next 24 hours, we're going to have a really interesting sort of unfolding of events as we start to see how this transfer of power is going to go through and whether or not it's going to follow the sort of procedural norms of this constitutional democracy.
INSKEEP: Well, that raises another question, which maybe is hard to answer now, but give it your best shot. We know that the military effectively pushed Mugabe out or pushed him to resign. You mentioned that the Parliament has been in session. Who is actually going to get to decide who the next president is?
BARBEE: That's a very good question. There is going to be elections in 2018, and there is talk - and today we spoke to one of those people, the former finance minister, Tendai Biti, who is known as a great Democrat. And he was telling us that they are looking at forming a unity government. How that government comes to be, we're going to be following that process very closely.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Barbee, thanks very much, really appreciate it.
BARBEE: Well, thank you all for having me. And yeah, it's a great day in Zimbabwe here.
INSKEEP: Wow. Jeffrey Barbee is a journalist. He's in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, where the speaker of Parliament has read a letter said to be from President Robert Mugabe saying that he is stepping down at the age of 93 after being in charge of the country - the leader of the country since 1980. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.