What’s next after the “soft coup” in Zimbabwe?


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By Farai Chirimumimba and Byron Mutingwende

In an effort to justify the overthrow of the government one African officer is known to have claimed that a coup never constitutes a revolution in tropical Africa but rather a limited modification of existing arrangements. This analysis tends to border on naivety (Decalo 1976). A statement which holds true in Zimbabwe, after the military justified its involvement as a necessary step to weed out criminals surrounding President Mugabe. “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” said Major-General Subusiso Moyo.

However, last Tuesday soft coup or guardian coup or whatever name it may be given it still is a coup and marked a monumental turning point in Zimbabwe’s political history. Although what happened that night may never be known, the classic coup will go down in history as one of the biggest surprises in world modern politics.

The events on the ground from the evening of 14 November 2017 has set in motion a possible exit of the oldest leader in the world President Robert Mugabe (93) who has been at the helm for 37 years. What is obvious is that the country is ventured into uncharted territory. Social media has become the gossip ground for some of the “believable and yet some outrageous” rumours with messages supported by “sources” most of which turn out to be false. What has added to the confusion are the several “parody” accounts on Facebook and Twitter with so called juice information. This is what happens when people are stuffed of information. The military has proved that they are men of few words and don’t want to give out much. It is not clear what will happen now going forward.

Since Tuesday’s televised statement, the military has not issued another statement serve for details that were in the state owned Herald which on Friday reported that the military had said that it has made remarkable progress on the negotiation table with Mugabe. It further appealed to citizens not to listen to information from any other sources besides that which comes directly from them. But what are they negotiating? A Mugabe exit when they said he is still the president? Unconfirmed reports say that the military want Mugabe to reinstate the sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Yet some suggests that the military want to replace Mugabe with Mnangagwa.

Opposition parties including former Vice-President Joyce Mujuru National People’s Party (NPP) and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) held separate press conferences on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both parties agree and support the military stance and call on President Mugabe to step down.

Where are the citizens in all this?

The citizens have largely remained peaceful and attend to their normal daily chores. They have to work to put food on the table. Their celebratory mood at least for those who want Mugabe to go is painted all over social media. The most talked about issue apart from the soft coup is the extreme difficult period the country is experiencing with high unemployment, which some analysts put at over 80 percent. Rampant corruption has continued to cause lot of suffering to the general population. In addition the cash shortages which began last year have become commonplace. Annual audited reports of government institutions and parastatals by the Auditor-General reveal shocking details of corruption. However, all the reports have been ignored religiously over the years because of poor governance and leadership bankruptcy in the country.

The war veterans’ leadership led by National Chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa has also called for the ouster of President Mugabe during a press conference on Wednesday. On Saturday they organised a peaceful march in solidarity with the military stance at Zimbabwe grounds, Highfields South-West of central Harare. The general citizens open participation has been the missing link in the past few days and their involvement in solidarity peaceful march with the army will probably bring another dimension to the debacle. The opposition supporters have for long, been known to be violently dispersed by the police in some instances with the help of war veterans and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF youths in some of their demonstrations. Will this be their opportunity to have a demonstration of a lifetime for opposition supporters? What is surprising about the solidarity march is being called by war veterans the very people that helped crush opposition demonstrations against Mugabe in the past. The war veterans have said that the demonstration is not a political gathering and therefore no wearing of party regalia.

Who knows the citizen’s peaceful demonstration maybe the trigger button to the final demise of President Mugabe who is already feeling the heat despite on Friday attending a graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University in Harare. An envoy sent by South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday is not known whether he is still in the country or not. What is important is that the generals continue to handle the stand-off peacefully and expedite the negotiations they are having with Mugabe so that the country can move on from the suspense and anxiety currently in the air.

The next chapter of the country after all this tension is over is a long one. As mentioned above the fruits of corruption are glaring and have no doubt contributed to the comatose economy throwing people onto the streets to the dilapidated infrastructure all yearning for attention. However, what is important is that Zimbabwe start somewhere, start that needs to be to cross the finishing line.