South Africa: African Leaders Must Smell the Coffee - Mbete On Mugabe's Resignation

Thousands of Zimbabweans march through Harare (file photo).
22 November 2017

Speaker and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete says she is relieved that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe chose to resign, rather than face the humiliation of being impeached.

Mbete was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the launch of a report on Tuesday evening from a panel, led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, that assessed the efficacy of South African legislation. The report was handed to Mbete.

"I am glad he decided to resign, that is what many of us who would like to remain respecting his legacy, respecting the role he played wanted," Mbete said.

When Mbete was asked about the lessons for South Africa, she said: "Lessons for all of Africa is that, when the coffee is brewing, you need to smell it. That is all I want to say."

Mbete has been accused of blocking attempts to impeach President Jacob Zuma.

The Economic Freedom Fighters launched a Constitutional Court application against Mbete for not allowing Parliament to impeach Zuma, following a ruling by the same court in 2016 that Zuma had failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution.

Judgment in the case, supported by other opposition parties, has been reserved after arguments were heard in September.

Mugabe's downfall has been hailed by his comrades in the ruling ZANU-PF and ordinary Zimbabweans, who poured out into the streets jubilantly.

Mugabe, who has been at the helm since independence in 1980, tendered his surprise resignation as Zimbabwe's parliament started the impeachment process against him on Tuesday.

It followed a decision by his party to recall him as leader.

'Right thing to do'

The Southern African country that was once regarded as the food basket of Africa is facing an economic free fall that has forced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans to eke out a living in neighbouring countries and in the west.

Motlanthe said Mugabe's resignation was the "right thing to do".

"Running government at that age was quite taxing, for his own health and he had to give the country an opportunity to come under leadership that still has the energy ... .so it was the right thing to do," he said.

Earlier, when he started his address to the audience on the findings of the panel of experts report, he described the day as a special one "because of the earth-shattering events taking place next door, north of the Limpopo".

He said there were no direct lessons for South Africa as its president was elected by Parliament, while Zimbabweans directly elected their president.

The army's unexpected move to detain Mugabe was seen as an attempt to block his wife Grace from taking over the as president ahead of ZANU-PF's elective conference in December.

She pushed for the firing of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa after leading a sustained public attack and insults against him.

Mbete praised the military, saying they were smart and responsible forcing Mugabe to see reason to step down.

"The problem being faced there was not easy, because among the major challenges was that they were dealing with his wife. So they couldn't be as rough as may have been required or the way she would have been," Mbete said.

She said she was glad he saw reason and stepped down, she said.

Mnangagwa is expected to take over.


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