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What's next for Mugabe and his vast personal fortune?

Military leaders have reportedly been prepared to cut the Mugabes a deal that would grant them full immunity, and allow them to keep at least some of their huge portfolio of assets.

by Tim Hume
Nov 21 2017, 8:57am

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man expected to replace Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s next president, called on the embattled longtime leader to step aside Tuesday as parliament prepared for impeachment.

“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call… to resign so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,” Mnangagwa, whose sacking as Vice President set in motion last week’s coup, said in a statement.

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, which sacked Mugabe as its leader Sunday, is set to begin impeachment proceedings against the 93-year-old leader in parliament Tuesday after he failed to meet a Monday deadline to stand down after 37 years in power.

According to reports, ZANU-PF has drafted an impeachment motion accusing Mugabe of being a source of instability, leading the country into economic ruin, flouting the law, and abusing his power by showing favor to his wife.

Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, has so far refused to step aside, despite the military takeover that led to him being sacked as his party’s leader, held under house arrest, and told to quit.

Officials have been attempting to persuade Mugabe to go quietly, but he has so far refused to budge.

But on Monday night, Zimbabwe’s military chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga said a “roadmap” had been agreed with Mugabe, suggesting his departure is a done deal.

What happens next?

Whether an impeachment will be necessary, or Mugabe finally will finally agree to fall on his sword, remains unclear.

If impeachment goes ahead, the process will begin with a motion laying out the allegations against Mugabe and his wife in parliament. If the motion is approved by more than half the lawmakers in a joint sitting of the national assembly and senate, then a committee will investigate the charges.

If the committee finds there’s substance to the charges, Mugabe will be removed if two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses vote for him to go. Zimbabwean MPs have expressed differing views on how long they expect the process to take.

The question of how Mugabe and his family will be treated after his ejection from office is also murky. But Chris Vandome, research analyst at London’s Chatham House think tank, said the indications were that the coup-makers were prepared to offer Mugabe a soft landing.

“The rhetoric so far from the military has not been personalized around Mugabe,” he said, “as part of their efforts to sell this as a ‘military-managed transition’ rather than a coup.”

“They’re still talking about him as ‘His Excellency, the President’. I think they’ll continue managing this in a respectful way, despite their frustrations with the length of time it’s taken to remove him.”

Military leaders have reportedly been prepared to cut the Mugabes a deal that would grant them full immunity, and allow them to keep at least some of their huge portfolio of assets. Vandome said he expected the Mugabes would be allowed to live comfortably outside the country, rather than prosecuted – a solution that would also help remove them from interference in the country’s politics in the future.

Also at stake is the immense fortune Mugabe has amassed in his 37 years in charge. The Mugabes have enriched themselves to become the wealthiest Zimbabweans in their country’s history; while the exact size of their fortune is unknown, a U.S. diplomatic cable published in 2011 and written a decade earlier said their portfolio was rumored to be worth more than $1 billion, with the majority invested offshore in secret holdings.

While regaining some of the Mugabes’ plundered wealth is a concern for the coup-makers, Vandome said the country’s post-Mugabe leaders would be focused chiefly on getting the basket-case economy back on track, “rather than chasing after money that they don’t know where it is.”

He said he expected that Mnangagwa – a former freedom fighter, spymaster and long-term Mugabe ally before their falling out – would lead the interim national unity administration that would focus on rebuilding the shattered economy and restoring Zimbabwe’s standing in the international community. He said it was likely that elections would be necessary before long to legitimize the new administration.