For millions in Zimbabwe born since liberation, the ZANU-PF government led by 93-year-old Robert Mugabe is the only government they have known. So the removal of President Mugabe from power by the military this month has been a watershed moment. With long-time government insider Emmerson Mnangagwa now the new President, Zimbabwe is wondering if the country will continue the trajectory it has held under ZANU-PF, or if the country will chart a new positive course.
While more than a dozen Tutu Fellows are Zimbabweans - including the AFLI CEO, Dr Jackie Chimhanzi - the Fellowship as a whole has contributed towards the narrative in Zimbabwe as it has been unfolding.
2014 Fellow Sello Hatang, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, summed it up this way:
It is with a sense of jubilation and trepidation that I watch unfolding developments in our neighbouring country, Zimbabwe. After four decades of authoritarian rule and centuries of violent settler colonialism, the shoots of freedom are beginning to sprout. This shows us how quickly the unimaginable can become possible when people have had enough.
The events of the past few weeks have enabled me to reflect on the nature of leadership, democracy and history. Just under a decade ago, in 2008, Madiba spoke of “the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe”.
For Hatang, the most obvious difference in the respective leadership track records of Mugabe and Mandela was that Mandela sought to make democracy stick during his short term in office, while Mugabe continued to entrench his power at the expense of the people and democracy. He sums up the challenge Zimbabwe is facing by saying that post-Mugabe, the test is not only about fixing what is broken. Instead, new leadership needs to make the constitutional changes that are necessary to ensure that leaders cannot entrench themselves. Just as important, policymakers need to be open to new ideas in a rapidly changing world. His full opinion piece is on News 24.
The international media has also paid attention to the developments in Zimbabwe.
2017 Fellow Natalie Jabangwe was interviewed by CNBC Africa on what had happened and changes that were likely to be needed to rebuild Zimbabwe. She also discussed options around liquidity across the border, as her company, EcoCash, is active in the area of remittances. She said that the government under President Mnangagwa needed to be committed to economic reform and to attracting foreign direct investment. Government support for technological innovation to deliver services to people was one area in which an impact could be made.
2011 Fellow Rachel Adams, who runs her own leadership development company, was interviewed by Al Jazeera. She was asked about the changes in leadership needed and her thoughts on the country moving forward. She also hosted a show on self-care during stressful transitions on Capital KFM where she is a regular contributor. She said that many people she had spoken to during the transition in Zimbabwe were feeling overwhelmed, anxious and restless as a result of the uncertainty. You can view the interview of her on Al Jazeera on her Facebook page.
2017 Fellow Rori Tshabalala - along with his co-presenter Andrew Levy - interviewed Zimbabwean television journalist Hopewell Rugoho-Chin'ono on the day after the announcement of Mugabe's resignation. Hopewell is an award-winning journalist and a 2008 Tutu Fellow. The piece covers what the future looks like for Zimbabwe. With almost a quarter of the Zimbabwean population having gone to South Africa as economic refugees, local media in South Africa has had no shortage of interest. One of the issues discussed was the role that Mnangagwa played in jailing journalists during Mugabe's rule to prevent reporting on unfair elections and suppression of opposition in the country in which almost 20,000 people died in Matabeleland. Hopewell said that he hoped that Mnangagwa would learn from Mugabe's determination to hold onto power at any cost and would offer a break from the past.
And in the streets, Fellows showed their solidarity with people out celebrating the change.
Dr Ed Mabaya, a 2007 Tutu Fellow, likened the fall of Robert Mugabe to the Zimbabwean folktale of the story of the horned owl that ruled all the other birds. In an opinion piece on National Public Radio in the United States, he recounted the Shona folktale of the Owl and Drongo. In the folktale, the owl summoned all the birds of the forest he declared that since he was the only bird with horns, he should rule over the birds. For years this arrangement continued, with the birds bringing a tribute of worms each day. The small, sceptical fork-tailed drongo wasn't convinced. The songbird, which is known for imitating the calls of other birds to steal their food, decided that it was tired of slaving for the owl. It decided to test the power of the owl's horns. Diving from the sky, it pecked a horn and all the birds saw it break up in a tuft of tiny feathers. The birds cheered, but were uncertain of what would happen next. Since then, the owl could come out only at night.
Mabaya said that he saw parallels with what was happening in Zimbabwe. Shock that the greatest power of dictators hold is their sense of invicibility. Excitement that Zimbabwe might once again have the opportunity to once again become the breadbasket of Southern Africa. And anxiety that once again their hopes might again be dashed. With a twist of ironic humour, Mabaya said that his country needed to ensure that it did not replace one owl with another - and then observed that the man who replaced Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is known as the crocodile.