Zimbabwe Watch

Zimbabwe creates a second chance for democracy

Mnangagwa to mend his ways?
Emmerson Mnangagwa.jpg

The dramatic events of the last week in Zimbabwe once again showed that in politics a week can be a very long time and change the fortunes of people and individuals forever.

Like most we were surprised by the drastic response of the military in Zimbabwe to recent political developments.

Last week we referred to the lack of immediate response by the military to the dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa by President Mugabe and wrote, “To date nothing has come from the many claims that Mnangagwa has the support of the security establishment and that they might intervene, even carry out a coup, if Mugabe should act against him.  Such a turn of events looks very unlikely at this stage.” 

We were wrong.


In a brazen move that caught most by surprise the military did respond last week Wednesday when a bloodless coup was carried out and President Mugabe was placed under house arrest.

Although much has been said about the coup, two facts remain irrefutable. Firstly, the coup is unconstitutional and none of the motivations given can chance it. Secondly, most Zimbabwean will however argue that it was the “right thing to do” as was illustrated by the massive public support for the military’s action during last Saturday’s protest march in Harare and the unanimous call for President Mugabe to step down.

The way Zimbabweans rallied at the first opportunity given them after years of suppression and persecution is reminiscent of 1989 when the people in Romania revolted against Mugabe’s great friend and former ally Nicolae Ceaușescu.

The military’s never intended to overthrow the Zanu-PF led government. It was a “palace coup” aimed at terminating the paralyzing friction and factionalism in Zanu-PF and takes charge of the succession dilemma which president Mugabe turned upside down when he dumped Mnangagwa as vice-president.

There is also a less altruistic reason.

For the senior officials in the security sector to hold onto the riches they have accumulated over the years for services rendered during the liberation struggle and for keeping Mugabe and Zanu-PF in power, it is imperative for them that one of their own, preferably Mnangagwa, becomes the next leader of the party and president of Zimbabwe. Their privileges will be in serious danger should the Grace Mugabe and G-40 faction win the succession battle.     

Serious concern

The question on everyone’s lips is if Zimbabwe will be better off with Mnangagwa or one of his proxies in charge.

Looking at his past track record, most analysts are doubtful. The veteran journalist Peter Fabricius is one of them, expressing the view that, “What happened on Wednesday (when the military took control), was the transition from a one-man state to a one-party state. Democracy will have to wait” and he warned.

“So, it is probably safe to assume that if Mnangagwa leads Zanu-PF into next year’s elections, the military will once again be deployed secretly to ensure that neither the MDC nor any other political party without liberation war credentials has a chance of victory”.

Another analyst wrote in Business Day,”… what Zimbabweans really want and need is a fresh pair of hands, not recycled leaders of the liberation struggle. That is probably a way off.”

This generally held view of Mnangagwa is based on his profile of not being a democrat, but a hard-nosed autocrat. Many observers consider him to be corrupt and abusive.

 Already in 2003, he was sanctioned by the United States as one of several Zimbabwean officials “who undermine democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe.”

 Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record, and was Mugabe’s enforcer-in-chief – the man assigned to do the dirty work while Mugabe played the respectable statesman in public.

He was instrumental in the bloody purge in the 1980’s, the Gukurahundi massacre, of more than 20 000 Ndebeles perpetrated by a brigade trained by North Koreans.  It was to Mnangagwa that Mugabe always turned to intimidate and beat the opposition into submission during recurrent rigged elections to give Zanu-PF the victory.

Elections, the world and Africa knew, were rigged but did nothing about.

Being part of the ruling elite in Zimbabwe for decades has been very lucrative for Mnangagwa, reputedly one of Zimbabwe’s richest individuals.

Although Mnangagwa has made positive noises in recent times to address the woeful economy, caused by Mugabe’s lunatic policies, and reportedly invited White farmers to return, there is little indication that he will embrace democracy.

But, Mnangagwa and his troops have an opportunity to redeem themselves as Zimbabwe gets a second chance.

Second chance

Mnangagwa, should he emerge as Zimbabwe’s next president, has the chance to unite the country and put Zimbabwe back on track by exploiting the rich potential locked up in Zimbabwe’s natural resources and its people.

To make Zimbabwe “great again” Mnangagwa should step up to the plate to promote the idea of a Government of National Unity (GNU) which is gaining much support despite the negative experience of an earlier attempt in 2009 when Zimbabwe experimented with the idea. Notwithstanding some successes, particularly in improving the decimated economy, the GNU was abandoned in 2013 on orders from a vindictive Mugabe.

By lending his support to the idea of a GNU and extending an invitation to other political parties, interest groups, and civil society organisations to become part of the reconstruction of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa will send out a message of goodwill and belonging which is crucial for a positive start to the post-Mugabe era.

It could eventually become the most important decision Mnangagwa has ever made.

The challenges facing the new leadership in Zimbabwe are multi-faced and immense. It includes: the restoration of the constitutional order, heal a divided party and nation, create an environment that will bring back the country to a free democracy, mend international relations especially with the West, and uppermost in the minds of most people, fix the economy.

The new leadership in Zimbabwe will need all the support and assistance they can get.

Spare a thought     

One must dig deep to find any sympathy for Robert Mugabe – a president who divided a nation and destroyed a country causing hardship for the people and torment for its neighbours.

Defiant till the end Mugabe made the same mistake many other dictators did before him – he refused to accept his time was up and had to suffer the humiliation to be rejected by his own party and stripped of all his power.

Mugabe’s role in liberating Zimbabwe from colonialism and minority rule will always be revered but, his 37 years in power which started with much promise and hope but ended in disaster leaving it to others to raise a broken country from the ashes will remain his biggest legacy.

To tell us what you think, click HERE

by Gart Cilliers

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