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Bye bye Mugabe welcome Chiwenga

Zimbabwean armed forces led by Constatino Chiwenga finally succeeded in staging a palace bloodless coup that saw the fall of Robert Gabriel Mugabe from grace. It was unexpected and dramatic.

I am in agreement with Professor Ibo Mandaza that a coup by any other name remains a coup.

What has happened in Zimbabwe is that a faction of ZANU-PF code-named Team Lacoste successfully overthrew the powerful Generation 40 (G40), a faction led by the former First Lady, Grace Mugabe in a protracted ZANU-PF succession battle. They did it with the support of the military and the masses across the whole spectrum of society.

What is unique about the situation in Zimbabwe is that the military and other security services are highly politicised. Heads of security services are members of the Politburo of ZANU-PF.

They are an appendage of the ruling party. Another feature of Zimbabwe is that veterans of the liberation struggle form a critical organ of ZANU-PF. All of these forces have a sense of entitlement.

In fact, if they were to choose between ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwean Constitution, they would choose the former. Heads of security forces pay allegiance to ZANU-PF, and not the Zimbabwean Constitution.

These forces within ZANU-PF behaved like they owned Zimbabwe and the people who live in it. Those who fought during the liberation struggle believe that Zimbabweans owe them for their sacrifices.

Under the current setup, being a veteran of the war qualifies one to a position of influence and access to national assets such as land.

When the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) won elections in 2008, these forces colluded to deny Morgan Tsvangirai the State House.

It was Chiwenga who declared publicly that he would not salute the winner because he did not go to war.

They had perfected methods of rigging elections that entailed torture and harassment of members of the opposition MDC.

The faction that is triumphant has benefited from the official corruption that characterised the Mugabe regime.

They have stolen land from the poor, engaged in illegal mining and they know where the bodies are buried. They are accomplices in a situation in which Zimbabweans find themselves today, of staggering unemployment and poverty levels. 

Team Lacoste contributed in no small measure to reducing Zimbabwe from a breadbasket to a basket case.  The once powerful Zimbabwean dollar became worthless only to be replaced by foreign currencies.

Zimbabwe had become a colony again. As a result, the plight of Zimbabweans is felt beyond its borders, especially in South Africa and Botswana.

The influence of the military has grown over the last 10 years with Mugabe as a mere instrument used to protect their interest. One can safely conclude that Zimbabwe has been under some form of military dictatorship for some time.

The future of Zimbabwe remains uncertain in part because of the replacement of Mugabe by vVice

President, Emmerson Mnangagwa who is indebted to Chiwenga and the military. The issue is that Mnangagwa is very much a product and architect of the system.

He shared the same vision with Mugabe until Grace Mugabe developed the ambition of ascending to the highest office of the land.  The cosmetic change that has happened in Zimbabwe was met with euphoria and jubilation. For Zimbabweans who were eager for change, a post-Mugabe era provides a glimmer of hope.

They are hoping that the new leaders will understand that any attempt to revert to the old ways of doing things will be met with resistance from restless masses.

There are lessons from the Zimbabwean situation. The first is that security services must never be politicised to the extent of being part of factional wars within a ruling party. Oversight institutions must be strong and independent to safeguard good governance.

No amount of tight control of the State media and harassment of independent journalists can save any leader or ruling party from defeat when the time comes. The days of strongmen or women are over.

When a country fails to adhere to free and fair elections on account of massive vote rigging, democracy fails to bring upon change.

When that happens, the military performs the functional equivalence of an election by taking over power for self –preservation under the pretext of saving the country.

It is important that when a country emerges from a painful past like Zimbabwe it must go through transitional justice to deal with past atrocities committed by agents of the State. 

The process would allow Zimbabweans to heal but not to forget what happened to them and their loved ones. The butchers of Matebeleland must be brought to justice.

Mysterious deaths of prominent politicians, political disappearances and suspicious accidents must be fully investigated. A mix of retributive justice, punishment and amnesty may be the way to go. 

Zimbabwe can draw lessons from the South African model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The shortcomings of the TRC such as the failure to deal with structural underlying causes of the problem are well documented.

Rwanda presents another model that dealt with suspects who committed atrocities through the International Criminal Tribunal based in Tanzania.

In addition, Rwanda opted for mass trials through 12,000 Gacaca Community Courts that dealt with 400 000 cases in 10 years. 

Never again should strong men hold Zimbabwe for ransom. Mnangagwa has the opportunity to redeem himself.

His biggest challenge is to free himself from Chiwenga and the military. He must bite the bullet to be a true servant of the people of Zimbabwe.

*Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD) is the BCP deputy leader

Opinion & Analysis



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