“Zimbabwe’s Future – the State of Governance after Military Intervention.”
Statement by Peter Godwin.
JUST before dawn on November 14th, General Sibusiso Moyo of the Zimbabwe National Army went onto state television to announce that Robert Mugabe, was under house arrest. His 37-year reign, Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence in 1980, was over. Zimbabweans soon poured out into the streets to celebrate.
Mugabe had been unseated by internal faction fighting within his ruling ZanuPF party. It wasn’t primarily ideological or ethnic, it was a family feud on steroids, it pitted old against young. His wife Grace made a bid to succeed him. Forty-one years his junior- she was too young to have fought in the liberation war, hitherto a sine qua non for leadership of southern African liberation parties. Her attempt to create a dynastic succession, a la Evita Peron, Imelda Marcos (with whom she shared a penchant for shoes, favoring Ferragamo because her feet were “too narrow for anything else”), or Madam Mao, proved premature, and it triggered her husband’s political demise.
Over those years Mugabe had hollowed out ZanuPF, reducing it to a personality cult by getting rid of anyone who challenged his authority, until he was attended only by fawning party punkah wallahs, fanning his ego, prancing around in ludicrous regalia bearing his image, as though he were a religion.
Ultimately Grace over-reached when she persuaded her increasingly enfeebled husband to fire vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, her main rival. This was too much for the military leadership who had close ties to Mnangagwa, as he held defense and intelligence portfolios for much of his ministerial career.
I think you can expect Mnangagwa to be strongly in hock to the military who, after all, elevated him to the presidency. In the end, this was a ‘continuity coup’, to protect the power of the party’s old guard.
General Sibusiso Moyo, who announced the coup, is the new foreign minister, the country’s official interlocutor with the world. Air Marshal Perrance Shiri is elevated to the cabinet too. He was the officer commanding 5th Brigade at the time of the Matabeleland massacres, in the early 1980s. And it’s speculated that General Constantino Chiwenga, head of the Zimbabwe National Army, and architect of the coup, may be named vice president. Even if not, he will continue to be the power behind the throne, the king-maker.
The veterans of the Liberation war for independence are once again ascendant too. Their leader, Chris Mutsvangwa, has been named as special advisor to the new president. Last time the war vets made their weight felt, Mugabe had to buy them off with ex gratia payments. Unbudgeted for, these payments cascaded through the economy resulting in the highest hyper-inflation the world has ever seen. By the end the Zimbabwe dollar was almost halving in value every 24 hours.
Continued next page