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Zimbabwe’s political transition (part 1): chronicle of the end of an era

Posted By on November 22, 2017 @ 14:58

Last Wednesday, Zimbabweans woke up to the news that the army had been forced to act to defuse a political crisis created by the unconstitutional sacking of the vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and others within the ruling Zanu-PF party. President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, were confined to their residence and the homes of prominent ministers known to be part of the Grace Mugabe–aligned group, the ‘G40’ faction, were raided.

The army’s major points of disagreement with Mugabe were the unrestrained actions of the abrasive first lady and her close ministers and aides, and the abrupt firing of Mnangagwa and other key ministers and party supporters. The generals spoke of ‘the absence of leadership and coherence towards responding to the severe economic hardships faced by ordinary Zimbabweans over the last five years’.

Those arrested were the G40-supportive Youth League leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, Finance Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo, Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. Moyo and Kasukuwere were apprehended after they were found hiding at the ‘Blue Roof’, Mugabe’s private residence in Borrowdale. Arrest warrants were also issued for Patrick Zhuwao (a nephew of Mugabe’s and the indigenisation minister, who is hiding in South Africa), Walter Mzembi (foreign affairs minister, who was in Zambia at the time and fled to South Africa) and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.

As Martin Rupiya, executive director of the African Public Policy and Research Institute summed it up:
If they had cared to engage fellow Zimbabweans at home or in the ‘forced diaspora’ during the last two decades or more, they would have been readily informed how people have struggled to make ends meet: pensioners wilting in pointless queues outside banks and the Post Office for worthless paper bonds that are unavailable; a leadership that is insensitive, capricious, ostentatious, self-centred, corrupt and naïve in guiding one of the most industrious people who have since been reduced to humiliation and penury simply by the adoption and pursuance of bad policies.

From the outset, the generals emphasised that their intervention wasn’t a coup and staged a picture of normalcy. Zimbabweans saw Mugabe ‘officiating’ at a graduation ceremony the next day and returning to his office. The SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the AU (African Union) were slow in reminding Zimbabwe’s generals that they wouldn’t countenance the overthrow of a ‘legitimately’ elected leader and decided to meet in Angola on 21 November and discuss the Zimbabwe crisis.

Meanwhile, the generals moved swiftly to give credence to their insistence that the military takeover was not a coup by moving swiftly to ‘hand over’ the revolution to the people of Zimbabwe and the ruling Zanu-PF party. Yet they are fully in charge. On Saturday, Zimbabweans from all walks of life thronged the streets of Harare demanding that Mugabe step down. Zimbabweans kissed and polished the boots of soldiers, thanking them for removing Mugabe.

By Sunday, Zanu-PF had moved swiftly to convene an extraordinary central committee meeting in Harare with representatives from all 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. They voted unanimously to dismiss Mugabe as first secretary of the party and appoint Emmerson Munangagwa into that position with immediate effect. They also resolved to recall Mugabe as head of state. Other resolutions passed were the summary dismissal from Zanu-PF of the G40 ministers and the provincial leaders who supported them. That included firing Mphoko from the Patriotic Front wing of Zanu-PF, which paves the way for Munangagwa to be appointed interim president when the time arose. Those resolutions would be ratified at the Zanu-PF Congress scheduled for 12–17 December 2017.

On Sunday evening, the nation and the international community waited with bated breath for Mugabe’s televised address to the nation, confident that he would finally announce his resignation. But to the mortification of all who watched, when Mugabe’s address finally went to air at 9 pm the president remained defiant.

What was quite clear on ZBC (and perhaps this was the main reason for this farcical exercise by the generals) was that this was a very old man, barely able to read, obviously senile, with little understanding of the situation, and clearly in deep denial.

On Monday, with no resignation letter forthcoming from Mugabe, the new Zanu-PF leadership ordered the parliamentary chief whip to start the process of impeachment with a vote of no confidence. Yesterday morning, Zimbabweans heard that Mugabe had called a cabinet meeting for 9 am. Just five cabinet ministers attended, with at least 17 opting instead to attend impeachment proceedings at party headquarters and later at parliament. At the same time, crowds gathered outside the parliament, demanding Mugabe's removal from power.

Just hours later, as lawmakers gathered at a special joint parliamentary session convened to debate Mugabe’s impeachment, speaker Jacob Mudenda read out a letter from the President. ‘I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation … with immediate effect’. After 37 years in power, the Mugabe era had ended.

Zimbabwe is in the depths of a deep political, social and economic crisis and the country’s structural problems cannot be addressed without a return of confidence and re-engagement with the international community. Economic growth fell from 1.4% in 2015 to 0.7% last year and per capita income continues to decline. The gross national debt is now more than 200% of GDP and can’t be serviced. The treasury bills held by commercial banks exceed their capital by a wide margin and the state is unable to either service the interest or to redeem them at face value.

On the political front, what’s evident is that the military is simply changing guard in government and nothing is going to change. A Zanu-PF government made up of individuals drawn from the party simply cannot meet the challenge of reform. Isolation and economic decline are likely to continue.

Zimbabwe doesn’t need an unreformed Zanu-PF regime that has beaten and killed opposition MDC members for 17 years, stolen elections and failed to implement the reforms needed for free and fair elections. The MDC has every right to demand change and right now Zanu-PF can’t get out of its conundrum without the MDC. Countries such as Australia must demand that any post-Mugabe government include all stakeholders.

What is very clear is that the military intervention has been a consolidation of power for Munangagwa and the army with Zanu-PF. It is designed to make the actions of the military constitutional. It does not address the wishes of the throngs of people who marched alongside the army over the past week.

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/zimbabwes-political-transition-chronicle-of-the-end-of-an-era-part-1/

[1] ‘G40’ faction: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-zimbabwe-politics-g40-factbox/factbox-key-figures-in-zimbabwe-first-lady-grace-mugabes-g40-faction-idUSKBN1DF1DX

[2] summed it up: https://mg.co.za/article/2017-11-15-what-we-know-so-far-of-the-events-of-the-military-take-over-in-zimbabwe