A drawn-out coup in Zimbabwe has now culminated in the resignation of Robert Mugabe and the elevation of his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has already been named ruling party chief and the party’s 2018 presidential nominee. Mnangagwa’s rise to the nation’s highest office is not surprising, for all of its bizarre behind-the-scenes orchestration. But it isn’t particularly promising for those who care about democratic progress, either.
Despite Mnangagwa’s track record of employing all forms of state power over the past 37 years to enforce the will of the ruling party—often by brutal means—his checkered past is not eliciting much serious criticism. That may be because alongside human rights abuses, Mnanagagwa has shown a willingness to leverage his international connections for economic growth at home—promising, it now seems, to put the onetime “breadbasket of Africa” back on track after decades of neglect under Mugabe.