November 27, 2017 (171127)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
In Zimbabwe, celebration at the departure of Robert Mugabe from office after 37 years
in power has been fervent and heartfelt. But almost all of those celebrating also
acknowledge the difficulties of the months and years to come. Hope is tempered by
recognition that the structures of kleptocratic and military rule remain in place.
The trend lines for searches for Zimbabwe and for Mugabe both rose dramatically in
the last two weeks (see http://tinyurl.com/ycnmc33s for a Google search graph).
Predictably, global attention has begun to decline. But the juxtaposition of hope and
pessimism has been a recurrent theme, with varying degrees of nuance and depth.
The two AfricaFocus Bulletins released today contain a selection of links and
excerpts from commentators who provide insights going beyond most news coverage,
both looking back and looking forward.
This first Bulletin, looking back, highlights highlights a Reuters special report on the events
leading to Mugabe's downfall, an article by Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika on
the best (fiction) books of the Mugabe years, a short personal essay by Petina
Gappah, one of the authors cited by Manyika, followed by excerpts from an extensive
historical review by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and from a passionate personal reflection by
Leon Jamie Mighti.
The second Bulletin, looking forward, includes a summary report from Harare from IRIN
News, additional links particularly on the economic challenges ahead, and excerpts
from an essay written after the inauguration of the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa
by commentator Alex T. Magaisa. http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zim1711b.php.
MacDonald Dzirutwe, Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, "Special Report: 'Treacherous shenanigans' - The inside story of Mugabe's downfall," Reuters, Nov. 26, 2017
Reuters has pieced together the events leading up to Mugabe’s removal, showing that the army’s action was the culmination of months of planning that stretched from Harare to Johannesburg to Beijing.
Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, but Zimbabwe's novelists have always shone
a light on the truths — both complex and contradictory — of this nation. Mugabe
himself embodies complexities and contradictions: He was a liberation hero and the
first president of Zimbabwe who presided over a country that initially thrived, but
at the same time there was a dark underbelly to his rule in the '80s and '90s. Then
came the period of the 2000s when he led a country that was clearly in decline. These
10 books trace this arc of the Mugabe era.
By the end of the academic year, I had studied constitutional law, and learned,
through case law on illegal detentions, that all the time I had been gulping down
books as a child in the library, a state of emergency had been in place in
Matabeleland, and that region had been the theatre of mass killings by the army's
By the time I came face to face with Mugabe at my own graduation four years later, I
was no longer a believer. Gone was the hero worship, but still left was deep and conflicted respect. As the
Dean read out my achievements and I knelt before him to be capped, I looked into the
face of my president. In that voice, the voice I had first heard in our township
house when Zimbabwe was just a dream, Mugabe said to me, "Congratulations, well
The last 17 years saw me count myself among his opponents as he waged another war,
this time against the country he had promised.
We could not count all the bodies after that terrible war of liberation, but those
that we could, we gave funeral rites and buried in places of honour. But how do you
count the bodies of those who died in the war Mugabe waged against his own people?
Zimbabwe's Political Watershed: A Tale of Failed Transitions
President Robert Mugabe, once the celebrated hero of Zimbabwe's protracted liberation
struggle who descended into an irascible octogenarian dictator, seems to have finally
met his rendezvous with history. On Wednesday, November 15, 2017 the army overthrew
him. He was placed under house arrest together with his much-reviled wife,
notoriously known as 'Gucci Grace' or 'DisGrace'. It has been an unusually slow
motion and sanitized coup, homage to the unpopularity of coups in an increasingly
democratic Africa. But it also underscores the fact that President Mugabe's ouster
arose out of an internecine struggle for power among the ruling elite. This suggests
the limits of fundamental change in the immediate post-Mugabe era for the longsuffering
masses of Zimbabwe.
The Mugabe era began with so much promise in 1980 after a bloody liberation struggle
that lasted almost two decades. It ended 37 years later in almost unimaginable
ignominy, leaving behind a trail of economic mismanagement, widespread
impoverishment, and millions of emigrants, not to mention the intangible but no less
palpable wounds of national trauma, humiliation, and disillusionment. Much of the
commentary in the African and international media has largely focused on the epic
failures of the president and the outrageous foibles of his avaricious and ambitious
wife. Specifically, they concentrate on the spectacular mistake President Mugabe made
in firing his once close and loyal confidant Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in an
apparent bid to prepare his wife as his successor.
There can be little doubt the president and his wife finally overreached and sealed
their fate by unleashing forces that they could no longer control. But the dramatic
moment we are witnessing in Zimbabwe is rooted in a longer and far more complex
history that transcends the fatal flaws of the president, his wife, and the country's
other leaders, however critical their respective roles maybe. It can be argued the
current conjuncture in Zimbabwe represents the confluence of three failed
transitions. The first was the problematic transition from the liberation struggle to
a developmental post-colonial state arising out of the country's decolonization in
the era of neo-liberalism. The second was the challenge of shifting from an
authoritarian to a pluralistic order when the winds of democratization, for the
'second independence', began blowing across the continent. The third concerns the
management of inter-generational contestations for power in anticipation of the postMugabe
But unlike many countries that got their independence in the 1950s and 1960s,
Zimbabwe attained its independence during a period characterised by global economic
crisis and the ascendancy of neo-liberalism. The first severely limited primary
commodity and export driven economic growth enjoyed by many of the newly independent
countries in the 1960s, while the second entailed the 'rolling back' of the state
that severely curtailed the developmentalist ambitions of the new government. To be
sure, in the early post-independence years Zimbabwe's record of achievement in the
provision of social services especially education and health care was very
impressive. But it was unsustainable following the imposition of structural
adjustment programs, which, as in much of Africa, took a heavy toll on the economy
particularly social services and formal and public sector employment. In fact, the
austerities of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) galvanized the increasingly
pauperised urban middle classes and the rural masses still awaiting their fruits of
Uhuru into the wave of protests and agitation that crystallized into struggles for
democratization, for the 'second independence.'
By the late 1990s the comrades in power could no longer fool their beloved masses in
the rural areas, the restive armies of unemployed educated youths in the cities, and
the workers flexing their industrial muscles and discovering a new political voice
through mushrooming civil society organizations and the MDC.
By the end of the 1990s both rural and urban discontent were growing. Indeed, the
rural areas bore the brunt of economic decline engendered by the draconian regime of
structural adjusment imposed with missionary zeal by the gendarmes of global
capitalism—the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This was compounded by
political terror as the increasingly besieged regime sought to shore up its dwindling
legitimacy and tattered revolutionary credentials by tightening its grip on the
peasantry, its symbolic and substantive basis of power. The costs of the economic
crisis, as manifested in food shortages and the politicization of food relief
efforts, finally broke the proverbial patient backs of the peasantry.
Connecting the two, the peasantry and the working classes, the rural and the urban
areas, and the country's other spatial and social divides, including the ethnicized
divisions between the old political geographies of Mashonaland and Matabeleland,
which the Mugabe regime had manipulated to weaken the opposition and maintain its
iron grip on power, was the draconian 'Operation Murambatsvina,' officially
translated as 'Operation Clean Up,' but literally translated as 'getting rid of the
filth,' through which the government sought to drain the cities including Harare, the
capital, of political opposition. The operation was launched in 2005 and affected
more than two million people. The bulk of the MDC's parliamentary seats from previous
elections were located in the cities.
This criminal evacuation program, which was widely condemned within Zimbabwe and
internationally including by the United Nations, led to the destruction of the
informal sector in the cities and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people
many of whom flocked to the increasingly destitute rural areas. This not only
exacerbated rural poverty, but also helped dissolve some of the social and political
boundaries, both real and imagined, between the rural and urban areas and dwellers,
which raised national consciousness and reinforced opposition to the former
liberation heroes turned into predators in power.
The violence and polarisation became even more evident in the election of March 2008.
Preliminary indications were that the MDC was poised for victory both in the
parliamentary and presidential elections. The government unleashed massive
intimidation against the opposition and their supporters and perpetrated voter fraud,
which provoked widespread condemnation at home and abroad. Both SADC and the United
Nations tried to intervene. It took more than a month before the final results were
declared after being doctored to prevent a run-off—the winner needed more than 50%
for outright victory. Finally, on May 2 the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced
that the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had received 47.9% of the vote, trailed by
President Mugabe who received 43.2%, and the rest went to minor candidates. For the
Parliamentary elections the MDC secured 100 seats and the breakaway MDC-Mutambara 10
seats, while the ruling ZANU-PF garnered 99 seats. In the Senate ZANU-PF claimed 57
seats, MDC 24, and MDC-Mutambara 12.
Despite international condemnation and interventions, violence and intimidation
against the opposition continued, which saw dozens of people killed. The MDC decided
to withdraw from the second round of presidential elections scheduled for June 27,
2008. President Mugabe won 85.51% of the vote in a much-reduced turnout placed at
42.37%. He was sworn in immediately after the results were announced. The regional
bloc and the African Union called for Government of National Unity (GNU) between
ZANU-PF and the MDC, which was eventually formed in early 2009 under which Morgan
Tsvangirai became Prime Minister. It was a bloated government with two deputy vicepresidents,
two deputy prime ministers, 31 ministers, 8 ministers of state, 20 deputy
ministers, and 9 provincial governors.
The oversize government was not matched by its efficacy, let alone were the political
divisions overcome. Indeed, as with most marriages of convenience, it was a fragile,
acrimonious, and temporary union that crumbled several years later. To be sure, under
the GNU, the economy recovered from the economic crisis of the 2000s that was
characterized by endemic shortages of goods, hyperinflation measured in the
trillions, the collapse of educational institutions and health facilities, massive
unemployment, and migrations of an estimated 3-5 million to South Africa and other
neighbouring countries as well as Europe and North America.
The political respite that came with the containment of the MDC proved short-lived.
Assured of its political dominance, ZANU-PF turned inward, and intra-party
contestations over the post-Mugabe era heated up. As in many other dictatorships in
post-colonial Africa, openly discussing the president's fraility and demise were
taboo. But everyone knew the old man was on his last legs as evidence mounted of his
growing physical and mental infirmity. Predictably, the struggle centered on the
position of the Vice-Presidency in which intra-Shona ethnic, generational, and gender
cleavages reared their ugly heads. Ideology had long ceased to be a factor
notwhitstanding invocations of tired socialist rhetoric and empty obeisance to
protecting and promoting the 'revolution.'
In recent years the intra-ZANU conflict has centered on the war veterans' and postlibration
generations coalesced around two key protagonists. On the one hand is the
75-year old Vice President, Mr. Mnangwaga, the cunning and ruthless 'Crocodile'
infamous for orchestrating the Matabeleland massacres of 1983. On the other is the
Generation 40 faction of post-liberation apparatchiks and looters beholden to the
President's wife, the combative 52 year old Ms. Grace Mugabe, who had since acquired
an insatiable hunger for power beyond her earlier shopping addiction. Both sought the
ouster of Ms. Joice Mujuru, a renowned war veteran in her own right, as Vice
President, which happened in December 2014. Soon after Ms. Mujuru was expelled from
ZANU-PF. Mr. Mnangwagwa and Ms. Mugabe fell into openly bitter jostling for power
within ZANU-PF and for the president's ear. The latter enjoyed the upper hand of
marital intimacy and the support of the G40, while the former had the support of the
war veterans and most crucially the military.
The reckoning came following the ouster of Mr. Mnangwagwa as Vice President on
November 8, 2017. For the military and political elite that had accumulated vast
wealth in an increasingly impoverished country and enjoyed political power for
decades the prospects of Ms. Mugabe and the G40 supplanting them was anathema. They
struck back on November 15. The hapless President quickly discovered that the weary
population was not on his side as it marched in the streets of Harare with ecstacy
not seen since independence. Even his party seemed more interested in protecting its
hold on power and economic interests than in protecting him. Party branches passed no
confidence votes in him and an emergency meeting was called to formally remove him as
party leader. As with many dictators power oozed out of the once beloved and longdreaded
President's hands like air out of a deflated balloon.
The immediate trigger of President Mugabe's fall came from the regime's failure to
manage the transition from the nation's octogenarian founder to a successor and new
political dispensation. The fratricidal conflict in ZANU-PF between the two
generations means that the struggle for Zimbabwe's future, the country of my birth
whose struggles for liberation I cherish and whose bright future I yearn for, means
the post-Mugabe era will be a troubled one. The vicious struggle between the two
factions is less about charting a more productive future for the country, and more
about safeguarding their ill-gotten wealth built on the carcasses of deepening
poverty for millions of workers and peasants, not to mention the immiseration of
significant sections of the middle classes. In short, both factions have profiteered
from President Mugabe's political repression and economic plunder.
Those who believe Robert Mugabe should be punished for crimes against humanity and
stand trial, I agree with you. If you believe that then you must believe the same for
the number one henchman, Emmerson Mnangagwa. We cannot have a fresh start without a
full account from Mugabe and Mnangagwa about what they did, who they did it with, and
why they did it.
Let me share my Zim story with you.
When my mother fell pregnant at the age of 19, the first thing she did was buy life
assurance. She didn't want her only son to suffer in case something happened to her.
So, she went to Old Mutual and got the best life assurance package they had. I
sometimes see those adverts in the morning and think of it. Pay such and such at 20
and get R3-million if something happens.
My mother never thought that she would only live to be 29. She passed away so
suddenly. There was a big fight for custody and perhaps even because of that life
assurance policy. When it was all over we were well into the post-2000 Zimbabwe. That
funeral policy ended up being worth less than the amount of taxi fare it cost to
travel to the bank.
My mother worked all those years for nothing. Think about that for a second if you
are a person who pays life assurance today. Politics can mess up your bank balance
and wipe away a lifetime of sweat and tears. That's how I was personally affected by
the Mugabe era.
When I, like millions of others, ran away to try to pursue my dreams elsewhere. I had
nothing. I struggled to pay for my fees at Wits. I was homeless for years and watched
my peers graduate and buy cars while I stood selling earphones on the university
I left Zim back then because I had nothing, I wanted to be somebody and have
something like the boys in my classes at CBC. I left Zim coz of the poverty I was
tired of breathing every day. I left Zim because I wanted to be a doctor so badly but
I didn't have a chance in Zim (my marks were good but not good enough) at the one
medical school that was present at the time. Only 200 could make it in and there was
no graduate entry programme.
When my father died he was a plumber for the national railway services, the NRZ. He
was a foreman and was damned good at what he did. One of my uncles (his cousin) loved
to mock him for being a handyman but he loved that job and the dignity it offered him
to provide for his family.
When he passed away he died a pauper. He was making less than R500 a month – when the
government chose to pay. ...
My father did his best to give me the best education; he gave me an education he
could never afford. I went to Marist Brothers in Dete, and I was always one of the
people who had to explain my fees situation. My trunk was never full, and Kudzai
Mucheriwa is my witness. But my Dad did the best he could. I even went to CBC in
Bulawayo and my stepmother hated it, she complained daily. I will never forget what
my father said to her, "If we have to eat amacimbi (mopane worms) daily till he
finishes school, we will eat amacimbi daily.”
He would do piece jobs for pennies in the many months that government did not pay. My
father died still walking to work coz he could not afford to catch a taxi. From
Northend to the NRZ close to the factories, in Bulawayo. If you know that area,
imagine a qualified technical graduate, top of his class, a man who once managed city
of Bulawayo water systems, a foreman for years. Walking to work.
Under Mugabe my father watched his dreams and efforts to create something of value
for his family melt away. He tried to get into another country like so many others
did to escape that suffocating poverty but it caught up with him...
I tell you those true personal stories to preface this next sentence.
I hate Robert Mugabe.
I haven't shared how one of my grandmothers told me horror stories about some of what
happened to her friends and family during Gugurahundi (the notorious massacres). She
used to cringe when she saw that mass murderer on TV speaking as if he was God's gift
to Africa and Zimbabwe.
I hate Robert Mugabe.
I hate him so much I have obsessed over him, studying him, studying his rise to power
and how he was able to destroy so many lives. How could one man do this. It was at
that point that I realised he was NEVER ACTING ALONE.
I know that he did not do what he did alone. He had some people co-starring with him
in this movie of Evil that we have all been watching since 1979. Joshua Nkomo warned
people back then not to vote for an Idi Amin. He meant Mugabe, he had seen enough to
make the conclusion; they say character is prologue.
So today I want to caution against dancing in the streets for the next Idi Amin whose
governmental and leadership CV is as horrific as that of Mugabe, the number one
disciple of Mugabe for 41 years. The co-star of the Robert Mugabe show.
Mr Emmerson (Crocodile by reputation) Mnangagwa.
If I hate Mugabe, I must also hate this man; there is no Mugabe without Mnangagwa.
Two sides of the proverbial coin.
So having said all of this we have to truly consider if this is a #Freshstart for
Those who believe Mugabe should be punished for crimes against humanity and stand
trial, I agree with you. If you believe that then you must believe the same for the
number one henchman Mnangagwa. We cannot have a fresh start without a full account
from Mugabe and Mnangagwa about what they did, who they did it with, why they did it.
Until those people in those "affected” areas are made whole. Until they receive
justice and closure. It was not a moment of madness as Mugabe and Mnangagwa have said
on record, it was an intentional, calculated mass execution on ethnic grounds of
innocent civilians. To put it in perspective, 30,000 lives were lost in the fight for
independence, and just three years after getting it more than 20,000 people never
lived to see it because Mugabe and Mnangagwa had to settle a tribal score with
Mzilikazi and Lobengula.
For those who believe that Mugabe must account for all the farms that ended up
belonging to his wife and not the people, Mnangagwa must account for the same
corruption, he owns many farms too, and so do many military generals. The economic
and social crimes that they see all of a sudden, both the Lacoste faction and the G40
faction committed those crimes against the dowry of Chimurenga that is not theirs to
self-appropriate. Mnangagwa must explain what happened to the 15-billion. Is this
what he used to pay the army for its loyalty? Those are blood diamonds, for sure.
For those who say Mugabe has been rigging elections, has been suppressing rights of
the people to movement, to free speech, to fair trial. To all those people I say you
are absolutely right. Mugabe did all those things, and he did them with Mnangagwa.
Who helped Mugabe arrest journalists and activists, where is Dzamara? Mnangagwa must
tell us where they buried him.
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