LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And now to some breaking news out of Zimbabwe, where a long presidency looks as if it's coming to an end. Robert Mugabe has been given an ultimatum to step down or face impeachment. He's scheduled to make an address very soon. And while we wait for that, let's turn to NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who is watching developments in Zimbabwe. Hey. Hello?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Mugabe is 93, the world's oldest head of state. He's led Zimbabwe for 37 years since the end of colonial rule there. What - he looked like he had a solid hold on power, but that evaporated very quickly. What happened?
QUIST-ARCTON: Extraordinarily quickly. And that is because his governing party, ZANU-PF, was - is totally divided, and there has been infighting. So when President Mugabe sacked one of his vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa - at the behest, we're told, of his politically ambitious and much younger wife - the military said no. Mnangagwa is also a war vet. We are not going to stand for it. And suddenly, everything unraveled. But let me just give you a little bit of context here. This is a country, Zimbabwe, that used to be the grain basket of southern Africa but now is in an economic mess. And it is Robert Mugabe who is held responsible for not having kept Zimbabwe prosperous.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What happens if indeed he is forced to step down? Who takes control of Zimbabwe?
QUIST-ARCTON: The very man he sacked only two weeks ago, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been a Mugabe ally - his enforcer people called him his sidekick - in a way his henchman. They're cut from the same cloth. So if Zimbabweans are wanting change and reform and economic development, many say Emmerson Mnangagwa is not the man. But he's the governing ZANU-PF's man and apparently the military's man, so they may have to put up with him. He is now the interim leader of the party. And if President Mugabe goes ahead and resigns tonight, Sunday, then we could see that Mnangagwa takes over as president of the nation.
Not everybody is for that, but they have very little choice. But now that we've seen people power - people on the streets of Zimbabwe, people on the streets of the capital, Harare, no longer afraid, no longer fearful of the military - there has been a seat change in this country over 10 days.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does it mean for the region and the continent, really, for there to be this kind of leadership change in Zimbabwe? Is it going to be business as usual? Because indeed, as you mentioned, this is Robert Mugabe's man who might take over.
QUIST-ARCTON: Very clear message to the continent - do not overstay your welcome. Thirty-seven years in power. As you said, Lulu, the world's oldest leader. But you must do good for your nation, especially when you had everything at the beginning. You said that you were going to live well with the whites in Zimbabwe, and it didn't happen. And when you realized people were against you, you, Mugabe, are the one who ruined your country. And that will be the legacy that you'll have to live with.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. She joins us now. Thank you so much.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.
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