COMMENT

It's a new independence day for Zimbabwe.

After 37 years of one man's rule, the people who shouldered the weight of that misrule are celebrating.

But after despot Robert Mugabe, the country doesn't need another.

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Even the joy today can't mask the fact that the signs aren't great.

The expected new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is steeped in the blood and corruption of the Mugabe regime as a longtime insider with strong links to the security forces.

The military engineered this coup to beat out one faction in favour of its own interests, which include the country's diamond wealth.

The basic power structures remain with the ruling Zanu-PF party rejecting the idea of a Mugabe dynasty in favour of a man who was a Mugabe crony up until he was fired.

And yet, there's still - potentially - a shift from an implacable wall of power under Mugabe to one more porous, adaptable and responsive.

That is still significant. Before today it seemed like an impossible dream.

As Garry Kasparov tweeted a few days ago: "You cannot guarantee good outcomes from toppling a dictator. You can only promise hope where none existed, and that is worth the risk."

Mnangagwa could be more pragmatic than his dogmatic predecessor.

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The country has avoided the Graceberg of the first lady and her sons.

The military did not bring down Mugabe on its own. It worked in combination with public opposition and the ruling party. It used some diplomacy.

Other countries will need to encourage the infant regime on a path where more democracy and inclusion means more trade and aid and a better standing in the world.

It is just a chink but still a chink of light.


- Nicola Lamb is the Foreign Editor of the NZ Herald