Mmegi Blogs :: Lessons from Zimbabwe ‘coup’
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Friday 08 December 2017, 17:25 pm.
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Lessons from Zimbabwe ‘coup’

For the past few days, the southern African sub-continent got a shock of its life when news started filtering in from all media houses that the Zimbabwean Defence Force (ZDF) has moved into strategic areas of Harare with the aim of changing the power structure in the country.
By Solly Rakgomo Thu 23 Nov 2017, 17:12 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Lessons from Zimbabwe ‘coup’








People started talking of a coup by the military to topple President Robert Mugabe who have been at the helm for close to forty years. From my own analytical point of view this so called “coup” looks very unique. I say unique in the sense that it was mainly aimed at removing some powerful political figures within the ruling Zanu-PF. The powerful military commanders led by General Constantine Chiwenga view the purged as close Chimurenga veterans or liberation era political figureheads from the party, who are enemies of the new generation politicians led by President Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe.

This “coup” comes barely after Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked from his position and expelled from the party. Mnangagwa is a one of the veterans of the liberation struggle and a close associate of the military. The sacking and expulsion was thus viewed with a lot of disdain by the powerful commanders within the military who felt that the move was solely crafted to pave way for Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband, Robert Mugabe. This ended up with the military putting Robert Mugabe under “house arrest” and rounded up other influential figures from G40, Grace Mugabe’s faction. Even though this cannot be described as a coup in the conventional sense of the word, I am of a strong view that some lessons can be learnt from this fiasco by the leadership within the southern African sub-continent. The involvement of the military in the internal political affairs can have a disastrous consequence for the incumbents in the long run. No one has to be reminded that the ZDF has always enjoyed intervening in the internal political affairs of Zimbabwe. The Operation Gukurahundi of the 1980s which resulted in the killing of thousands of Zimbabweans mostly from Matebeleland was carried out by a ruthless military machine that is the ZDF with all the blessings of President Mugabe and his Chimurenga compatriot, Mnangagwa.  Gukurandi was a grisly act meant to purge and squelch any dissent from political opponents of Mugabe, real or imagined. Furthermore, the ZDF  in collaboration with other security organs like the police and intelligence organ (Central Intelligence Organisation), has in the past  been involved in the intimidation, harassment, arresting and killing of political opponents of the Mugabe regime especially the opposition (Movement For Democratic Change). This has always been done deliberately to thwart any effort by the opposition to attain any state power.  For example during the 2008 elections campaign, the ZDF commanders has stated categorically that no one without any liberation struggle credentials shall ever rule Zimbabwe. So in short, the

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“coup” Mugabe is facing today is carried out by the product of his making. The difference this time around is that tables have turned against him. Internal party differences are now involving the military which in any democratic state should be confined to the barracks where their main role is supposed to be ensuring national security of all Zimbabwean regardless of any partisan affiliation.  In other words, Robert Mugabe would not be facing this challenge if he could have adopted a policy of democratic civilian control of the armed forces. This is an ethic of civil military relations where the armed forces are accountable to the democratically elected civilian government  whose sole mandate is national security (based on non partisan allegiance). It is upon this that southern African countries and their leadership should use the Mugabe nightmare as a lesson that allowing security forces to dabble in internal political affairs of a state can in the long run yield some disastrous political consequences if the security forces feel that their interests are threatened by a shift in the internal political spaces of those ruling parties they have enjoyed patronage for years. The  success of this “coup” if at all it happens might also send a wrong message to some politically disgruntled  military  generals  within some southern African states who might  be motivated to do the same in their own countries to tilt the scales of power in their favour.  This is because the region has some fare share of fragile states like Lesotho where the military has always been involved in politics in a destabilising way. Finally, southern African political leadership should from the Zimbabwean “coup” learn that politics of nepotism where succession plans are tailored along family members such as wives have no future in modern day politics. Mind you, the military generals in Zimbabwe and to a large extent the general populace have made it clear that they will never allow politically “ignorant, insensitive and irresponsible” Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband. To show the seriousness of why I say successions should be handled with a lot of political sophistication, in neighboring South Africa, some sections of the Cyril Ramaphosa faction of ANC are now comparing the Zimbabwe succession chaos with that of ANC leader, Jacob Zuma, who is campaigning from the same corner with his ex-wife Nkosazana Zuma. The latter aspires to become the next South African President. The propaganda smear campaign may seriously dent Nkosazana Zuma’s bid for the top ANC leadership role which is a stepping ladder to the ultimate prize, the presidency of South Africa.

 

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