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On Wednesday, November 15, the oldest among the longest ruling national leaders, Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old president of Zimbabwe who has ruled the country for 37 years, was taken into custody by the country’s military. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is demanding that President Mugabe resign, despite the president’s refusal to step down ahead of next year's presidential elections.

  • According to press reporting, the military action was in response to Mugabe firing his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 6, which positioned first lady Grace Mugabe for the vice-presidency and, eventually, succession of her husband if he were to die while in office.
  • According to army leaders, however, it is not a military takeover but an attempt to force a reckoning of the president's team for the country’s economic crisis.

The question then is whether the economic and social conditions in Zimbabwe have deteriorated under his leadership and, if so, whether military intervention will improve current conditions. The economy is undoubtedly struggling: economic growth is weak and per-capita national income is still 30 percent lower than in it was 1996 despite a gradual recovery.

  • During Mugabe's rule private investment has fallen, the trade balance deteriorated, and the country’s natural-resource dependency deepened.
  • The population has also experienced a deterioration in political rights, growing hunger, and worsening access to water and sanitation.
  • Mugabe’s tenure also brought some improvements, primarily in the social sphere, including a reduction in child mortality, growing literacy and education attainment rates, and improved economic freedom and international tourism, as well as a decrease in military expenditures.
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