Regina lawyer feels 'cautious jubilation' about end of Robert Mugabe's rule

A sense of change and the potential for a better future in Zimbabwe is being felt as far away as Regina, following the resignation of Robert Mugabe.

Tavengwa Runyowa calls president's resignation 'a necessary step to get Zimbabwe moving'

Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigned in Harare, Zimbabwe on Tuesday. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

A sense of change and the potential for a better future in Zimbabwe is being felt as far away as Regina, following the resignation of Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwean president of 37 years stepped down on Tuesday after parliament began impeachment proceedings against him.

Crowds were cheering on the streets after news of his resignation spread in the country's capital, Harare.
Regina man Tavengwa Runyowa, who was born in Zimbabwe, hopes the resignation of Robert Mugabe opens the doors to a better future for the country. (Submitted by Tavengwa Runyowa )

Tavengwa Runyowa, a Regina-based lawyer who was born in Zimbabwe, said he felt a sense of "cautious jubilation" watching the celebrations in his country of birth.   

"Cautious because this is just the first step in what must be a long process. Jubilation because it's a necessary step to get Zimbabwe moving," Runyowa told CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.

"For quite some time the president, Robert Mugabe, as the head of state has been a blockage in the country's circulatory system, and now that the blockage has been removed it's a necessary prerequisite for progress going forward."

Runyowa said the question of what that progress will look like remains open.

A taste of freedom

He said there was a "sense of hesitancy" about the country's future the last time he was in Zimbabwe, in 2013.  

"There was always a sense that Robert Mugabe was always in play and once you start discussing what could happen after he was gone, it was a seditious move," he said.

Runyowa said the resignation opens the doors for politicians and citizens in Zimbabwe to start the types of discussions that had been held back by Mugabe's presence.

He believes the change will embolden people for whom Mugabe's resignation is a taste of freedom.

Robert Mugabe, pictured earlier this month. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

Mugabe's public image changed

Runyowa said Mugabe wasn't always viewed as a tyrant. In the past he was praised for his leadership on education and agriculture, which helped to strengthen the economy. 

But he said Mugabe's leadership and public image started to deteriorate around the turn of the century. 

"Just like with most people when they stay in power for too long, they start to conflate their own personas with the soul of the country," he said.

"And they start to fail to distinguish between when their presence is making a good difference and when it's actually harming the country."

Runyowa said the focus now should be on democratic reforms, improving government accountability and strengthening the economy.

He believes the role of the military in Zimbabwe's future will be top of mind for residents after the change.

"Of course everyone is jubilant that they played a pivotal role in getting rid of Robert Mugabe, but there's also the caution that they might be, so to speak, replacing the mask on the same creature and bringing it back on the stage for another performance," said Runyowa.

He added it's crucial that action is taken to create jobs to address the poverty that is causing people in Zimbabwe to starve and suffer.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition