November 27, 2017 (171127)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"While Zimbabweans understandably embraced military intervention because it led to
the ouster of Mugabe and prevented his wife Grace from succeeding him, they must also
embrace the fact that it comes with further, less palatable consequences. The episode
demonstrated once again that the military is a critical arm of the state which has
become the kingmaker in Zimbabwean politics." - Alex T. Magaisa
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.
While the consensus now seems to be that the transition primarily features continuing
control by ZANU-PF and the military rather than more far-reaching changes, new
President Emmerson Mnangagwa faces formidable challenges of economic crisis and high
public expectation for meaningful change. Key tests over the next months are likely
to be whether the new administration begins to address day-to-day economic issues and
whether it refrains from closing off the space newly opened for free expression by
the press, civil society, and ordinary Zimbabweans.
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 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.
Another Bulletin, looking back, 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. It is available on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zim1711a.php.
This statement from civil society groups expresses widely shared sentiments, but
implementation will be at best piecemeal. "Expectations of and Requests to the
Emerging Government of Zimbabwe From the Civil Society in Zimbabwe," Kubatana.net
(Harare), Nov. 23, 2017 http://allafrica.com/stories/201711240390.html
For a detailed news report on the economic situation facing Zimbabwe, see Felix Njini
and Michael Cohen,"Mnangagwa's Task: Rebuild Zimbabwe's Economy From the Ground Up,"
Bloomberg, Nov. 23, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y8wduxpr
Also including commentary and links on the economic options facing Zimbabwe is
Patrick Bond, "Zimbabwe witnessing an elite transition as economic meltdown looms,"
Pambazuka News, Nov. 23, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y8l2xy7x
President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Credit: IRIN file photo.
Harare - After a tumultuous two weeks of political brinkmanship, Emmerson Mnangagwa
was sworn in today as Zimbabwe's new president, replacing the ageing Robert Mugabe
who has led the country since independence.
In his inauguration at a packed national stadium, Mnangagwa delivered a positive
speech promising to "rebuild our great country", to crack down on corruption,
strengthen the "pillars of democracy", attract foreign investment, and to hold
elections as scheduled in 2018.
"He gave reassurances that he would re-engage international partners," said political
analyst Ibbo Mandaza. "That is all because the international community is insisting
on that because it's backing him."
But how much change is really on the cards and what are the major challenges ahead?
Mnangagwa, 75, will lead a deeply divided party, seemingly bankrupt of fresh ideas,
but with the weight of the country's hopes for better times on his shoulders.
Mnangagwa served Mugabe for four decades as his enforcer and heir apparent, but after
a spectacular falling out and dismissal as vice-president, he left for South Africa
until a palace coup cleared the way this week for his return.
He arrived in Harare on Tuesday to rock star status as jubilant crowds cheered
Mugabe's resignation but it was novel celebrity standing for a man more usually
feared as a former spy chief and ruling party hardliner.
Mnangagwa himself seemed swept up in the moment. He told supporters at ZANU-PF party
headquarters: "I appeal to all genuine, patriotic Zimbabweans to come together; we
work together. No one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans."
Despite trying to cultivate a new, kinder image, the lawyer and former guerrilla
leader repeated the same old revolutionary slogans at party headquarters, including
"Pasi nemandu!" or "Death to the enemy!"
"Mnangagwa has a lot to prove," said Kuda Hove, a Harare-based lawyer. "People are
already sceptical, because it's still ZANU-PF in form and deed."
Mugabe's exit "certainly represents the end of a painful era, but then it is also
possible that Mnangagwa's entry could usher in a new error", he added.
ZANU-PF looks set to govern alone. Mnangagwa has now spurned calls for the repeat of
a coalition with the Movement for Democratic Change that led to a period of economic
stability after deeply flawed elections in 2008.
The country's trade union movement and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a 115-member
civil society grouping, had both urged the creation of a broad-based transitional
administration until fresh elections.
"It is time to open a new page," said trade union secretary-general Japhet Moyo, and
condemned what he fears will be the retention of "career ministers" by Mnangagwa,
some of whom were well known "thieves and thugs".
Will next year's elections be free and fair?
"The military has helped steal elections before and there is no reason to suspect
that it will not help [to do so] in future elections, whenever they are held," noted
Opposition MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said political reforms are urgently needed to
remove the "pillars of repression and oppression" put in place by Mugabe, but added
that he was "cautiously optimistic" that this could be achieved.
University of Zimbabwe political science researcher Eldred Masunungure told IRIN that
any changes, especially to the working of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, would
need time to be "internalised and institutionalised".
He said he feared Mnangagwa might "put big and heavy spanners in the reform works".
Elections next year could not come at a worse time for the MDC. Veteran leader Morgan
Tsvangirai is gravely ill, and the succession issue within his party is far from
he biggest challenge for Mnangagwa is the state of the economy. Zimbabwe has been in
crisis for close to two decades. Unemployment is sky-high (90 percent is the oftencited
figure, although the data is disputed), and there are biting cash shortages and
crumbling social services.
Between 2000 and 2008 Zimbabwe's GDP nearly halved, the sharpest contraction of its
kind in a peacetime economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. As a
consequence, one in five Zimbabweans lives in "extreme poverty".
Mnangagwa recognises the challenge. "We want jobs, jobs, jobs!" he told the crowd at
ZANU-PF headquarters. "We need also the cooperation of our neighbours in [the
regional development bloc] SADC, the cooperation of the continent of Africa; we need
the cooperation of our friends outside the continent."
The problem is that the structural reforms needed to attract foreign support will be
The World Bank has called for a sharp reining in of public spending, including cuts
to public sector salaries and moves to tackle Zimbabwe's debt. The country owes $9
billion to foreign lenders and has been in default for nearly 20 years.
"It looks like workers' woes might persist," said Tafadzwa Choto, who heads the
Zimbabwe Labour Centre, a pro-workers NGO. "There is need to reconfigure parastatals
(state-linked companies) and remove cronyism and nepotism, but this will not be easy
for [Mnangagwa] because he has too many people to accommodate in the new
Zimbabweans are expecting free and improved social services. Years of neglect
have starved a once-proud health service, and left power and sanitation systems
unable to cope with demand.
Rudo Gaidzanwa, a sociology professor, has a list of what she considers "essentials"
for the government to spend its money on, and it's long from better transport to
"The new government must also be able to provide free medical care and schooling up
to secondary school, in addition to [better] housing and other infrastructure," she
Such high public spending would be diametrically opposed to the cost-cutting regimen
the IMF and the World Bank has in mind.
The people of Matabeleland are a constituency Mnangagwa will struggle to win over. As
minister of state security, he was responsible along with Mugabe and current Defence
Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, for the killing of an estimated 20,000 Ndebele people
between 1983 and 1987.
The campaign, known as Operation Gukurahundi (the rains that wash the chaff), was
carried out by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade made up of mainly Shonaspeaking
Whole villages were purged with incredible brutality for the merest suspicion of
supporting a small dissident armed group backed by apartheid South Africa.
It still remains an emotive issue in Zimbabwe between the Shona and the minority
Ndebele, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population.
"It is very important for the administration to acknowledge and address the issue of
the Gukurahundi massacres as we have never felt a part of the nation since the
genocide," explained civil society campaigner Dumisani Nkomo.
If Mnangagwa is to make headway with this long list of challenges, he is going to the
need political support. But ZANU-PF is badly divided. The succession issue pitted
Grace Mugabe and her so-called Generation 40 supporters against Mnangagwa's Team
Lacoste. Key G40 members were on the military's arrest list when they rolled their
armoured vehicles onto the streets.
The split within the ZANU-PF is also along regional lines. It was Mnangagwa's
Masvingo and Midlands Karanga powerbase that challenged the continued rule of
Mugabe's Zezuru Mashonaland-based clan. The Karanga are the largest Shona clan.
There are also concerns that the military's decision to step in to support Mnangagwa
despite their insistence (with one eye on the region and the other on Western
donors) that it was not a coup has reinforced its already influential position.
The hard truth emerging for many Zimbabweans is that they're already seeing strong
similarities between the Mnangagwa era ahead and the Mugabe era that just ended, or
as Mandaza put it: "The securocrats will remain in charge of state systems and
processes, and the politicians will serve at their pleasure, as has been the case for
a long time."
In Zimbabwe, November is known as Mbudzi, the month of the goat. Traditionally, it is
a sacred month. No rituals can be performed during the month of Mbudzi. No matter how
big the event, tradition prescribes that the month of Mbudzi must be avoided. However
urgent it might be, it has to wait. It is ironic that the most dramatic political
transition in a generation chose the sacred month as one mighty figure fell by the
wayside, while another rose to take the throne.
Emmerson Mnangagwa became Zimbabwe's new leader at a grand ceremony in Harare on 24th
November 2017. The event completed a dramatic series of events that began three weeks
earlier when he was sacked as Vice President by his then boss, Robert Mugabe when he
was President of the country. Mugabe stayed away from his protégé's crowning moment.
The veteran politician's world collapsed on Tuesday 21st November when circumstances
left him with no choice but to resign. After 37 years in power, his own party had
commenced proceedings to remove him from office. It was a dishonourable end to a long
and controversial career.
Mugabe's resignation followed an extraordinary military intervention on 15th
November. There were mass protests on Saturday 18th November in Harare and Bulawayo,
calling for Mugabe's resignation. On Sunday, Mugabe stunned the world when, against
all odds, he refused to resign. This prompted an ultimatum from his party to resign
or face impeachment. The party also sacked him from his position as leader. Unable to
hold the tide, Mugabe was eventually forced to jump, his letter arriving midway
through the joint parliamentary seating which was considering his removal.
Mnangagwa, who had taken temporary exile following his sacking, returned home on
Wednesday 22nd November. Two days later, he was sworn into office as president. It
completed a dramatic power struggle in the ruling party, ZANU PF, which revolved
around Mugabe's succession. On the one side was G40, a faction which backed President
Mugabe's wife, Grace and on the other, there was Lacoste, which favoured Mnangagwa.
For a while, it seemed G40 had won the political battle, with Lacoste seemingly
buried after Mnangagwa's sacking. Lacoste then made a stunning comeback when it
invoked the force of the gun as the military intervened. In the end, the gun led the
While Zimbabweans understandably embraced military intervention because it led to the
ouster of Mugabe and prevented his wife Grace from succeeding him, they must also
embrace the fact that it comes with further, less palatable consequences. The episode
demonstrated once again that the military is a critical arm of the state which has
become the kingmaker in Zimbabwean politics. While the drama that accompanied the
latest intervention surprised many people, it was by no means the first time that the
military had played a decisive role in Zimbabwean politics. In 2008, the military
intervened after Mugabe was defeated by his nemesis, Morgan Tsvangirai. The
intervention ensured that Mugabe retained his position as president, but it also
meant he would forever be indebted to the military. Despite the charade of elections,
Mugabe's source of power was no longer the people but the military, who refer to
themselves as "stockholders".
However, Mugabe seems to have forgotten this and when he saw the huge crowds that
attended his rallies, he thought it was out of love and respect. He did not realise
the majority of these people attended out of fear or coercion. He forgot that the
power he was renting had landlords who could evict him at any time. They had stopped
Tsvangirai in 2008 and now they evicted him and installed their own choice at a time
when Mugabe wanted to promote his wife. ...
Futility of elections?
More importantly, the events of the past three weeks are a grim reminder of the
reality that the military will step in to determine the course of politics, including
the outcome of the next election. After taking such drastic measures to protect
Mnangagwa, stretching and in some ways, breaking the boundaries of the law, it is
impossible to imagine the military standing by and watching their preferred candidate
lose an election and power. Not after taking such risks. Their intervention in 2008
was critical and without their intervention last week, Mnangagwa would not have taken
the oath of office yesterday. The difference is that the 2008 intervention was widely
condemned while the 2017 intervention was generally accepted and celebrated. Should
it become necessary to intervene again if their preferred candidate lose in 2018,
there will be nothing to stop them.
Nevertheless, the military might not even need to intervene in 2018 if Mnangagwa
plays his cards right and does not squander the opportunities between now and the
next election in less than 10 months. For someone who has come to power through a
tenuous legal path, Mnangagwa is enjoying a huge amount of goodwill both among
Zimbabweans and the international community. After years of suffering under Mugabe's
rule, there are many Zimbabweans who are willing him to succeed because his success
would translate into material benefits for them. They are tired of the politics and
want to get on with their lives. Nations within the international community are also
trying to place themselves strategically in relation to the country. Thus, there is
promise of re-engagement between Zimbabwe and the West after years of a toxic
relationship. China, Zimbabwe's all-weather friend is also hoping to maximise on its
Opposition's new challenge
In addition, the irony of what has happened in the last three weeks is that it is now
ZANU PF that has undergone radical renewal while the opposition is now stuck with the
negative label of failing to embrace change. With Mugabe now off the stage, the
"Mugabe Must Go" slogan is gone too. With the 93-year old gone, the argument that
ZANU PF is led by an old man has also lost traction. ZANU PF is experiencing a new
verve that it last enjoyed in the eighties, after a victorious liberation war. It is
the opposition that is now lumbered with accusations of failing to renew and embrace
change. The fact that ZANU PF has undergone leadership change is now placing enormous
pressure upon the opposition to also consider a similar path.
Indeed, if Mnangagwa walks the talk and manages to create a picture of a country that
respects the rule of law, property rights and civil liberties, he will begin to
appear like a born again democrat in some eyes. In particular, if Mnangagwa delivers
on the economic and social front, he could well win the next election without having
to rig or rely on the gun. But rest assured, the gun will always be there in reserve,
should it become necessary to prevent the loss of power. This belief that he can turn
things around and the might of the gun behind him have given Mnangagwa the confidence
to declare that elections will be held as scheduled less than 10 months after
assuming a long-awaited office. It's the conduct of a man who knows the momentum is
with him. The opposition must now reorganise itself because this election will be a
lot harder against Mnangagwa and the new ZANU PF that it would have been against
Mugabe and decaying and disaffected ZANU PF.
One of the most conspicuous features of these dramatic three weeks has been the
persistent struggle that the authors of Mugabe's ouster have had over the legality of
their actions. Right from the beginning, they have endeavoured to create a veneer of
legality even where the boundaries of the law have been straddled. Hence, when took
over the television station and announced their intervention, they included a
disclaimer that it was not a coup. Even as Mugabe told South African President Jacob
Zuma that he was under house arrest, the military still maintained a façade of
civilian control. They allowed him to participate in the rituals of his office,
including officiating at a graduation ceremony and even calling a Cabinet meeting
when it was an exercise in futility. This performance was designed to demonstrate
that the President was still in charge and that there had been no unlawful change of
government, notwithstanding the fact that the military was the de facto authority.
However, efforts to create the veneer of legality continued even on the day that
Mnangawa was inaugurated. Over at the courts, the Judge President, Justice George
Chiweshe issued two court orders which can be summed up collectively as a legal
oddity. The represent a desperate effort to present a façade of legality over the
events of the past three weeks.
[detailed explanation in full article at http://tinyurl.com/yctybnrw. The two court
orders refer to nullification of the sacking of Mnangagwa by Mugabe on 6 November and
to another court judgement that "effectively endorses an interpretation given by the
military generals to section 212 of the constitution that it permits military
intervention in the affairs of the executive in order to defend the constitution."]
All in all, if they are allowed to stand, both judgments may come to haunt
Mnangagwa's government. The second order is more sinister because it gives an odd
interpretation to the constitution and upsets the constitutional order by effectively
legalising military intervention in the affairs of government. It says the military
can take over governmental functions that would still be constitutional and legal. In
the extreme form it is tantamount to legalising a coup. This is a dangerous precedent
which upsets and undermines the command structure as provided for under the
constitution. It is hard to imagine why any president would want a command structure
that is upside down, where he must always look behind his back to check what the boys
in uniform are doing.
It is prudent for the new government and any other rights groups to defend the
constitution by referring this matter to the Constitutional Court, which is the
highest court in the land, for a definitive and wiser interpretation. Otherwise, in a
misguided effort to legalise the new government and sanitise the military
intervention, this judgment actually creates a dangerous concoction which could
poison the government from the very beginning.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted
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