Mugabe’s prolonged term of office has come to an end abruptly through a well executed coup hatched at the highest level of the Zimbabwe Defence Force. That would not have been an outcome of an overnight meeting. The underlying factors suggest that the plan to dislodge the longest serving President in the world has been in the pipeline for some time. A high-risk plan is a closely guarded operation that requires maximum discipline and secrecy.
Those involved know very well the consequences of breaching the hard and fast rule. Plans of that nature are a product of a thoroughly done ground work informed by meticulous risk assessment on all fronts. The firing of the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, affectionately known as the “Crocodile”, was used opportunistically and strategically to activate a complex strategic plan. The architects of the project to seize power were on high alert, waiting for an opportune time to deliver the blow.
It is my considered opinion that the military are not baying for Mugabe’s blood. Some may have personal grudges against him as a result of purges. Some may have been disturbed by him but still have some level of allegiance to him through historical and patronage factors. The fact of the matter is Mugabe’s tenure has contributed to their material gains. All of them have benefited from his clumsy patronage network.
Grace’s extraordinary ambitions for the highest office compounded elite politics in that land. The big guys found themselves in a serious political predicament, with the growing influence of another faction perceived to be backing Grace’s ambition to step into the shoes of her husband complicated the political space.
Combined, the axing of the “Crocodile” and the Grace factor created a climate conducive for activating the plan to dislodge the other faction and bring in the axed Vice President to take over the reigns of state power as a transitional leader.
Would he be able to rescue Zimbabwe from the ashes, taking into account his role in the past?
It is alleged that military henchmen once said they would never serve under a person with no liberation struggle credentials. The outcome of elections may deliver a person with no such credentials.
Would they accept such an outcome?
A person cannot always be judged in terms of historical factors. People change and grow through self reflection. One thing for certain is that the outcome of elections in Zimbabwe would have to have an element guaranteeing the interests of the militarists with struggle credentials.
In their situation, an idea of a government of national unity seems inevitable. Whether it would operate effectively or not, time will tell. All of us have to support Zimbabweans to find a peaceful political resolution to their internal problems. They are the best judges of their own situation.
The military overthrow of Mugabe was not an option, due to factors beyond the control of the militarists. These include that the UN has taken a firm stand against military coups – once fashionable on the African continent; military juntas are not internationally recognised as legitimate governments; the AU discourages military coups; and only democratically elected governments are universally recognised.
Military juntas are short-lived and unsustainable. The architects of military coups are ultimately brought to book and punished accordingly.
Former Presidents of Angola and Namibia, Eduardo Dos Santos and Sam Nujoma, have close historical relationships with Mugabe.
An open military takeover of Zimbabwe would have isolated the militarists. The country’s economy has been ruined and would take time to recover, and this would worsen the fragile political situation.
Zimbabwe enjoys relatively cordial political and trade relations with China, and the latter would not have supported such a move. South Africa would also not support military intervention. A military coup would contribute to human crisis and famine. Zimbabwe is a cash-strapped country and would not be able sustain a prolonged military stalemate. It could exhaust military resources and backfire on the leaders, as well as making Zimbabwe more vulnerable to extraneous factors.
For this reason, the only option available to the militarists was a soft approach to the coup so as to gain sympathy from Zimbabweans across the world. The statement read out by top military officer should be read within this context. They realise that their situation requires a political solution and Mugabe has a major role to play in finding a solution. Although confined to house arrest, he is still an elected President.
For how long are they going to have a president under house arrest?
To legitimise the situation, they must find a negotiated solution in order for Mugabe to step down and pave the way for a peaceful transition for the installation of a democratically elected civilian government.
Soldiers do not govern; theirs is to protect the country against external aggression and other forms of threats.
In the post-colonial era, liberation movements tend take their eyes off the ball and become embroiled in factional fights that have got nothing to do with the objectives of the liberation. This results in state resources being used to advance factional interests at the expense of the populace. State resources are vulnerable to family enrichment projects. Politics on the African continent in particular are characterised by this phenomenon.
The situation varies from one country to the other depending on the peculiar circumstances of a specific area. The scramble for state resources depletes state coffers and contributes to human crisis and famine.
When resources get thinner, people fight over positions, clinging to power at all costs. When time runs out, individuals become despotic using instruments of state to fight political battles.
Leaders on the continent must understand that this approach is unsustainable and self-injuring. Africa is resourceful, not poor, and can feed its population. The State’s role is to create opportunities for its citizens in order to be self reliant.
Work on social justice and the proper management of resources is the best vehicle to advance human development and dignity. When democracy is attacked, the institutions created to protect it are compromised. The hiring of information peddlers has become a lucrative business in order to counter opinion makers of substance.
The Zimbabwean situation should be used as a case study in order not to repeat it in other contexts.