The major newspaper headlines of 2017 have been some of the most unexpected in recent memory. Beloved Hollywood icons have been convicted of sexual harassment; mass shootings in the USA are at an all-time high; forest fires have ravaged the Garden Route town of Knysna. But perhaps the most unexpected, and uplifting, are the headlines that have dominated front-pages for the past week. After 37 years as an entrenched dictator, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has resigned following a military coup that wasn’t really a military coup.
After a year of public protests over the unemployment rate and economic ruin of the country, the Zimbabwean military gathered around Harare on 14 November, taking control of the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation. They announced that the situation would only return to normal following the resignation of Mugabe. Zimbabwe, and the world, waited as Mugabe refused to relinquish control while under house arrest. Following a week of negotiations between First Lady Grace Mugabe, the ruling political party, and his axed deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe tendered his resignation. The 93 year-old will live out the rest of his days on his farming estate with his first lady and a security contingent. Not to mention, a more than generous severance package. The only question that remains is what will happen to Zimbabwe now that the dust has settled.
Zimbabweans have taken to the streets to rejoice over the end of Mugabe’s reign. However, they remain sceptical over his successor Mnangagwa. His recent dissolving of the Zimbabwean parliamentary cabinet and his issuing of an amnesty window for public funds that were illegally stashed away abroad to be returned suggest that change is in the works.
For better or worse, the process of democratisation has begun. Whatever happens, nothing can take away the natural beauty of Zimbabwe. The tourism industry has survived many upheavals, and continues to be a vital lifeline for the country. Thankfully, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has only grown stronger with the upgrading of the Victoria Falls International Airport. Jack Ridler, a spokesperson for Thompson Holidays, assured reporters that it is business as usual for suppliers in the country. Zimbabwe’s main tourist hubs of Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park continue to draw crowds and an improvement in infrastructure will only ensure a wider variety of destinations to visit. This, paired with the Zimbabwean people’s insatiable friendliness means that there is new hope for the bread basket of Africa. The Smoke that Thunders will continue to roar.