In Stratfor's 2017 Annual Forecast, we wrote that President Robert Mugabe would not voluntarily step down but that if the president left office against his will, whether by force or by natural death, Zimbabwe's political leadership would replace him with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe recently removed from his post. The removal of Mnangagwa, who has the support of the country's powerful security forces, prompted Zimbabwe's political and military establishments to rise up against Mugabe, leaving him no choice but to resign, though he denies that it was obligatory.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has released his hold on power by resigning as the country's ruler after nearly four decades in office. On Nov. 21, the 93-year-old Mugabe made the announcement after Zimbabwe's Parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against him. Reports stated that both the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party and the political opposition had voiced their support for the proceedings, making the impeachment vote — which required two-thirds of the body — an almost guarantee.
Mugabe stirred controversy Nov. 8 when he fired his most likely successor Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has the support of the country's powerful security services. Mnangagwa's removal precipitated further purges of the vice president's allies. The military and ruling party leaders quickly aligned to force Mugabe to step down in a manner that would not provoke the African Union — which is steadfastly against coups — or key partners such as South Africa and China.
Looking ahead, it is almost certain that ruling party elites will install Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe's next president, ending Mugabe's 37-year reign. The new president will need to balance reforming Zimbabwe's utterly broken economic system with maintaining the patronage system that will underpin his rule. Mugabe's fate is uncertain, but it is unlikely that Zimbabwe's new leadership will force Mugabe into exile. More likely, Mugabe will be allowed to stay in the country to live out his final days in one of his various palatial residences.