Robert Mugabe’s demise is the full stop that ends an African era of soaring dreams and dashed hopes.
He was the last member of that original generation of ‘Big Men’ dedicated to the liberation of the continent from colonial rule still in office.
So it seems for Mugabe, ushered out of power as life went on, more or less normally, around the country he created.
How unpredictable too. Even a week ago, only the very brave would bet on a move against the man styled by his own regime, an African Icon.
“Only God can unseat me” he said repeatedly. No one dared contradict him.
But as Zimbabwe’s economy crumbled and his ruling ZANU-PF party was consumed by in-fighting, so his support hollowed out. In the end no one would or could die on a ditch to save him.
At 93, and increasingly feeble, his fabled political skills abandoned him.
It was a colossal and fatal misjudgement to make his deeply unpopular wife Grace heir apparent by removing his long time ally and fixer, Emmerson Mnangagwa, from the vice presidency.
Mnangagwa had been at Mugabe’s side since more or less the beginning. He has powerful links to the army and to the veterans of the liberation war.
Those allies also saw their position, their power and wealth, threatened by the rise of Grace and through her children the foundation of a Mugabe family dynasty.
So what next? Mnangagwa’s people tell me he genuinely wants to reach out to a broad range of Zimbabwe society; opposition and church groups, even the dwindling number of white farmers.
The country desperately needs financial help from overseas. The new rulers desperately need legitimacy.
Outside ZANU-PF, Mnangagwa has little popular appeal but the opposition is weak and divided and in no position to win elections.
The task of rebuilding Zimbabwe, shattered by decades of greed, corruption and misrule, is colossal.
That task will fall to a man who was until recently Mugabe’s most trusted lieutenant.