On the swearing-in ceremony of Zimbabwe’s second President, Emmerson Mnangagwa following the military-aided collapse of the 37-year Robert Mugabe rule, which ended this week Tuesday with his forced resignation, Mmegi Staff Writer, RYDER GABATHUSE & Correspondent, SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS look at what Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the international community did not do to help a desperate member, Zimbabwe. They further point out that Mnangagwa, the former Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy has a challenge to prove that he is a Biblical Saul-turned-Paul
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has hitherto been Africa’s beacon of hope, peace and tranquility.
Military coups were unknown. Only Lesotho appeared to be the sick man of southern Africa. Zimbabwe has been on the news for all the wrong reasons for a very long time, but there was every indication the country will resolve its political troubles through the ballot box.
But the Zimbabwean army stunned the whole world when it literally forced former Zimbabwe President Mugabe out of power. For the first time, it would appear the international community and SADC condoned military seizure of power.
Instead of condemning the involvement of the military in politics, the British could only ask for calm and restraint. It seems the world is making a distinction between a soft and a hard coup.
Whereas the former is tolerable, the latter is repugnant and unacceptable. Yes, Mugabe was a pariah; there is no doubt about it. He ruled by the sword and it seems perfectly in order in the eyes of the international community to remove him through the ‘barrel’ of the gun. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZF) army general,Constantine Chiwenga is regarded as a hero locally and abroad, “because there has not been condemnation of his actions“.
The Zimbabwean experience has set a very bad precedent, which might spell doom for democracy and the rule of law in southern Africa.
The ‘men and women of the uniform’ became self-appointed Messiahs who did not only allocate themselves the power to unseat Mugabe, but also to anoint his successor, Mnangagwa.
The army also usurped the powers of the judiciary when it embarked on a witch-hunting of the so-called criminals who allegedly held Mugabe at ransom. It is shocking that the world remained silent when the army turned itself into a ‘Kangaroo Court’ and trampled upon the principles of natural justice.
If the initial intervention to interrupt Mugabe’s 37-year rule was considered legitimate and acceptable, the same cannot be said about the army’s decision to impose Mnangagwa on the Zimbabweans. Here a line was crossed and SADC and the world could have restrained the army. It is apparent that Mnangagwa fuelled the coup to further his presidential ambitions. While on his self-imposed exile, he says that he was, “regularly in touch with the army”.
The deals and political transactions that he possibly entered into with the army remain a dark secret and may not be revealed to the suffering Zimbabwean masses. Mnangagwa owes his miraculous political resurrection to the army and will remain indebted to the army. He is torn between two masters - the army and the Zimbabwean people. He will have to walk the tight rope.
Back to SADC. The role of SADC in the unfolding Zimbabwean saga is somewhat confusing. Initially, they called on Zimbabweans, “to resolve the political impasse in line with the Zimbabwe Constitution,” but, do not seem to condemn obvious deviations from the law.
When a sitting President resigns, by law his deputy should take charge. At a time of Mugabe’s resignation, Mnangagwa was outside government, having been stripped of his position as first Vice President (VP) and second secretary of the country. With Mnangagwa out of the scene, the next senior in the party was second VP, Phekezela Mphoko who unfortunately, had fled the country to seek exile reportedly in Botswana. Mphoko was sidelined in favour of Mnangagwa.
Pictures of South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC chairperson posing for a picture with Mnangagwa Wednesday this week, before he (Mnangagwa) returned home in Zimbabwe make a confusing statement. The logical conclusion was that even Zuma embraced Mnangagwa, which is hypocrisy at its highest order. All in all, the world allowed its hatred or dislike of Mugabe to cloud its judgement of the bigger picture. Turning a blind eye to violations of democracy by the so-called liberators of Zimbabwe cannot be justifiable.
The fate of Zimbabweans might for a very long time remain in the hands of the army. The army sees itself as a game-changer and might find it difficult to avoid poking its long nose in political matters. It is not clear whether selfish motives or national interests motivated the army’s intervention. The same army had propped up Mugabe’s regime for 37 years. It was until Grace Mugabe, the ousted President’s wife, started meddling in politics that the army felt unsafe and insecure.
Mnangagwa could be seen as the custodian of the interests of the army and war veterans whilst the deal between the army and Mnangagwa might hold very little for Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa, or the Crocodile as he is affectionately known to hordes of his supporters, too is a very controversial figure. A very close ally and confidante of the fallen Mugabe. He is believed to have committed atrocities and human rights violations in the name of Mugabe.
The fall of one dictator should not pave the way for the rise of another. It should not be a case of replacing Lenin with Stalin. Revolutions engineered from the top are suspicious. The army’s interventions could be a ZANU-PF’s self-preservation strategy designed with the intention of reviving the fortunes of a dwindling ZANU-PF.
Otherwise, Mnangagwa has a challenge to prove that he is a Biblical Saul-turned-Paul. Mugabe’s ascendancy to power was also greeted with the same euphoria presently attributed to Mnangagwa’s rise to power. Zimbabweans should remain vigilant and not to drop their guard..