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The principal architect of his own political demise

Hoist by his own petard: Mugabe
Southern African Development Community (SADC) is apparently engaged in a conspiracy of silence while a loyal member, Zimbabwe has reached a boiling point. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE & SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS appreciate the SADC Troikaĺs meeting in Gaborone yesterday but insist that it is time that SADC proves its mettle in conflict resolution including the case of Zimbabwe, which directly needs its intervention. As for Robert Mugabe, he simply has himself to blame for holding onto power for far too long

It is a bloodless military coup. Zimbabwe is now under a military junta. The army claims that what it has done does not amount to a coup and they have chosen to play a semantics game and branded their action  ‘bloodless correction.’

But actions on the ground clearly prove that the army is being economical with the truth possibly to escape the wrath and condemnation of the world. Unfortunately for the army to have taken action of this nature, the route is just one: It is a coup de tat, bloody or bloodless. The army had boastfully paraded its toys of war in the streets of Harare and around the state house and kept Mugabe and his family including some members of his ruling elite closest to him, under house arrest. This amounts to a coup when the normal operations of a democratically elected government are taken over by the military. Military coups are not common in the SADC region except for the military mutinees common in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

For Mugabe, one of Zimbabwe’s remaining liberation struggle heroes, it is only painful for him to be removed from power by the very army that stood by his side through thick and thin from 1980 when he ascended to power. This is the very army that ensured that Mugabe remained in power by all means possible. Under Mugabe there was a very thin line between the military and politics.

Effective Wednesday, November 14, 2017 the Zimbabwean military left the barracks with one mission in mind, to relegate to the background  a legitimate and democratically elected government of Mugabe.  That objective has been accomplished.  Zimbabwe’s political future remains uncertain and only the army, not Mugabe,  knows what is next.    The current political impasse is a culmination of a long, protracted and bitter succession battle.

Mugabe, the hero of the liberation struggle against British imperialism, came to power in 1980 and has been at the helm of Zimbabwe for a period spanning 37 years. Considered to be a revolutionary and visionary leader, Mugabe’s ascendancy to power was deemed to be the best thing to ever happen to Zimbabwe.  

Zimbabwe had every indication of becoming one of the few African success stories. Indeed Mugabe started on a high note and there was a stage where the country was the bread basket of southern Africa.  However, the hero turned villain, when it became apparent that Mugabe was presiding over the demise of Zimbabwe. The country literally became a ‘charity case’ in the aftermath of the controversial land reforms of the 1990’s.

The land reforms, predicated upon a desire to return the land to its ‘rightful’ indigenous owners, took the form of expropriations of white owned farms without compensation. Right under Mugabe’s nose a group of unruly youth and old men claiming to be war veterans raided farms owned by whites and looted them forcifully removing the owners and leaving them literally desperate. The land reforms earned Mugabe the wrath of the West and this set the country on a path to economic ruin. The failing economy saw Zimbabwean economic refugees streaming into neighbouring South Africa and Botswana to revive their fortunes. 

The world mounted pressure on Mugabe to abandon the land reforms but he stubbornly stuck to his guns. Targeted economic sanctions imposed against members of the ZANU-PF ruling elite did not cause a change of heart on the part of Mugabe.  A cat-and-mouse existence ensued between Mugabe and the West. Since the fallout, Mugabe never missed an opportunity at the UN and other international forums  to condemn the British and Americans not only for, “undermining the sovereignty and integrity of Zimbabwe but also for imposing unjust economic sanctions”.

There is only one President in the whole of SADC who started off very well and had the audacity

to constructively criticise Mugabe and his government for the many wrongs that the 93-year-old politician is prone to committing, President Ian Khama. Botswana’s President often took Mugabe and his government head on, becoming a lone voice in the whole 15-member states. Although Khama’s voice would later sink into oblivion, he had a penchant of taking Mugabe head on, for instance, in the case of the disputed election results in 2008, Botswana pleaded with Zimbabwe to hear Morgan Tsvangirai and even went to the extent of hosting him at the state guesthouse when he had claimed his life was in danger.

Khama cared less even when Mugabe lashed out at him calling him a ‘small boy’as he (Mugabe) had worked closely with the late Sir Seretse Khama, the current President’s father. The rest of SADC preferred to watch everything from a distance as Mugabe plotted his downfall. SADC’s silent diplomacy is destroying the whole of the SADC region and until and unless the region raises another Khama, it will continue to raise dictators of Mugabe’s calibre. With the worsening economic situation, many called on Mugabe, the world’s oldest President to surrender power. However, he tightened his grip on power and started purging real or imagined rivals within the ZANU-PF. The party’s biggest source of concern was the apparent ‘capture’ of the President by first lady Grace Mugabe and her so-called the G40 generation. The G40 generation was accused of orchestrating the removal of unwanted comrades who were accused of eyeing Mugabe’s seat.   Anybody harbouring presidential ambitions was considered an enemy. One of the first big casualties was former vice president Joyce Mujuru who later formed her own party. The recent sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Mnangagwa is a veteran of the liberation struggle and commands a lot of respect in the army and party.  It is not much of a surprise that the Mnangagwa sacking attracted swift reaction from the army.

The world does not support unconstitutional change of government and it goes without saying that the military coup in Zimbabwe will not have the blessing of the world.

However, condemnation of the behaviour of the army is not necessarily an endorsement of Mugabe.  Mugabe has made too many enemies and the sympathy of the world lies with the Zimbabwean people not with him. Many will say he had opportunities to exit the political stage voluntarily and honourably but chose to hang on for far too long. Mugabe had committed a lot of political blunders which render him unworthy of the presidency. Mugabe has been in power for far too long and therefore overstayed his welcome. Leaders come and go in a democracy but over the years it seems there was some manipulation of Zimbabwean version of democracy to ensure continuous and uninterrupted rule of only one man. The situation was compounded by the failure of the ZANU-PF to create a clear succession plan. To avert political uncertainty emanating from succession battles, Sir Ketumile Masire introduced automatic succession in 1998 to facilitate a smooth transfer of power upon the retirement of a sitting President. The system has since served the country well. Another country which is showing signs of failure to manage succession is South Africa. With Jacob Zuma‘s term coming to an end, South African presidential race is a crowded affair causing a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the process. Perhaps, SADC can take a leaf from Botswana. SADC is guilty of a conspiracy of silence on Zimbabwe; it has for a very long time followed the ineffective and inefficient policy of appeasement towards Mugabe. SADC can only pride itself in responding swiftly to restore political normalcy in small countries like Lesotho but has failed to restrain Mugabe.




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