As an elder statesman, Mugabe can be protected from prosecution, the South Africa spokesman for Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party told DW. He had no comment on whether Mugabe's wife Grace would face charges.
Zimbabwe's former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, flew home to cheers on Wednesday to lead Zimbabwe as interim president. It marks the end of an era after Robert Mugabe stepped down as president, putting an end to his 37-year rule. The ruling ZANU-PF party said Mnangagwa will be sworn in at an inauguration ceremony on Friday.
DW's Jan-Philipp Scholz spoke to Morelife Mapeture, ZANU-PF's spokesperson in South Africa.
DW: President Robert Mugabe has resigned. What are your feelings right now?
Morelife Mapeture: We are so happy. All Zimbabweans are celebrating, we are so excited. It's the second new beginning because we had a new beginning in 1980 [when Zimbabwe became independent from white minority rule]. But now we've got another beginning so we are really excited.
Did you expect this to happen?
We've been expecting it. But our timelines were about three months because the impeachment process [against Mugabe that we started on Monday] was going to take almost about three to five months to finish. But thank God, we really give thumbs up to our Zimbabwe defense forces [who took power of Zimbabwe in a coup last week] because they kept on giving Mugabe pressure until he had to throw in the towel. We're really excited as Zimbabweans.
What about Mr Mugabe and his wife, Grace? What will happen to them now?
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, our former president, is a great man. He fought for the liberation of our country. He did lots of great things for us. We've got 97 percent literacy rate in Africa, which is a major achievement. We lead building universities in Zimbabwe. We really appreciate what he did. Of course, it's very unfortunate that we had to send him home in this way. We didn't want it to happen but unfortunately, there's nothing we can do. We really have to give him a good-bye and we hope he will be in Zimbabwe. We still want to him. We'll protect him. He's still an elder statesman for Zimbabwe.
So you will protect him, he will probably receive immunity?
Yes, yes, yes, of course.
But what about his wife, Grace? Will she have immunity, too?
For Robert Mugabe, we can easily say he can be given immunity because he's a former head of state but for Mrs. Grace Marufu Mugabe, I'm not well qualified to speak on her behalf or what the government is going to do. I don't know as for now. But for our president, we can be in the streets for him to be protected. For Mrs. Mugabe, I don't have anything to say.
But do you think that people might want to see her facing justice?
Yes. People want to but thank God, Zimbabweans are very forgiving, they are a wonderful lot.
What about the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa? Do you think he will be a true democrat? Will he also cooperate with the opposition now?
He's a man that I have supported for some time now, I think he's going to be very democratic. But you never know with a human being, he may change — like Robert Mugabe. The same way people are celebrating in [the capital] Harare now, they celebrated in 1980. And look at where Mugabe pushed us to. The same thing can happen with Mnangagwa but I'm so sure that ZANU-PF members have learned a lesson. We are going to make it a point to put our leaders in check so that they won't overstay and they don't abuse the power we have invested in them.
Such a peaceful transformation doesn't happen from one day to the next. Preparations had been going on for this for a long time, right?
Yes. There are some things we're pinpointing along the way like the issue of putting someone's head on our regalia. Those are some of the things that we're going to negotiate at next extraordinary ZANU-PF congress on the 25th of December. The new dispensation will be very democratic, free and fair. No one should be ruled with fear or with threatening someone. We must be a very free country whereby we do things freely.
But what what I'm getting at is, the new president, Mnangagwa, is a very intelligent man. Together with friends, he has been working for this moment for a while.
Yes, yes, yes. We've got a lot of people we've been moving with the agenda. So it is something that has been happening for some time.
Can you be more specific?
Let's forget about history, let's focus on rebuilding Zimbabwe. What I can say is – people were eager to see change and they've been working tirelessly to see things happening the way they have happened now. Now, our focus is to put Emmerson Mnangagwa on check so that he is not going to behave like Robert Mugabe. That's what we are focusing on at the moment: re-establishing our economy, putting the right democratic systems in place, and seeing to it that the Zimbabweans are back in Zimbabwe and building their country one more time again.
Zimbabwe has had a lot of support from other nations, such as South Africa and China.
There are a number of nations that are ready to assist in Zimbabwe. I'm not yet qualified to say if we are going to rejoin the Commonwealth [that Zimbabwe quit permanently in 2003 following the country's suspension from the Commonwealth in 2002 over reports of vote rigging and human rights abuses] or whether America and its allies are going to uplift the sanctions [first imposed in 2002]. But we are not alone, … we are in a global community, so we really have to renegotiate our relationships with other countries. Definitely, that's something on top of the agenda.
What about you, is the way forward for yourself now? Celebrating with the others?
Celebrating with others and putting our issues on the table for the extraordinary congress - things that are very important. Let's not focus on silly things; let's focus on rebuilding the economy for Zimbabweans to enjoy their lives in their motherland. That's the thing that we are focusing on at the moment.
Interview: Jan-Philipp Scholz